The Father Factor

On June 15, 2017, in The Pass It On Podcast, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
The “Real” Scott Westerman will be 92 on July 10th. I’m the third in a line that started with his dad back in 1895. I’ve always felt richly blessed to have been born into a family with a pair of extraordinary parents. And since Sunday is Father’s Day, decided to look back over a conversation I had with dad a couple of years back about what lessons he learned from his father. I present them here, not necessarily as recommendations, but solely for your consideration.

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Kindness & Respect

On February 26, 2017, in Monday Motivator, The Pass It On Podcast, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
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I believe that we could mitigate our most challenging problems if we could inculcate two magic words into everything we do: Kindness and Respect

My good friend, Mark Hollis and I have offices that are vastly different. His is filled with mementos of magic moments he has helped create in the history of athletics at Michigan State. My walls are white boards, filled with a continual flow of ideas that I get from my colleagues, alumni and my own ADD brain. But both Mark and I have the words “Kindness and Respect” prominently displayed where everyone who enters our domain can see them.

Kindness and respect are two of our most important Spartan virtues. They can be powerful tools for positive change. In their absence, distrust, hate and violence can emerge from unhappy hearts and drag us all into darkness.

Ours is a world where self interest too often supplants the greater good, where slights, real or imagined engender anger and a desire for revenge, where too many children are taught that entitlement without effort can be an expectation, where those who would control us for their own benefit use fear, uncertainty and doubt as weapons of mass destruction.

We live in a world desperately in need of more kindness and respect.

“Kindness,” wrote Mark Twain, “is a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

“Constant kindness,” said the famed physician Albert Schweitzer, “can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.”

With regard to respect, theologian Thomas S. Monson notes that “When we treat people merely as they are, they will remain as they are. When we treat them as if they were what they should be, they will become what they should be.”

Respect is a behavior that must first be practiced before it can expected in return. It’s hard to earn and easy to lose. It’s especially hard to model when it’s absent in others.

Admiration is not a prerequisite for respect. But respect is definitely a prerequisite for admiration. While the great Jackie Robinson was breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball, he said, “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”

Singer Taylor Swift adds, “We don’t need to share the same opinions as others, but we need to be respectful.”

Everyone we meet is fighting their own inner battles. Behind outward behavior may lie some invisible pain we know nothing about. Only through kindness and respect can we begin to heal ourselves and one another.

This does not mean that we roll over and accept disrespect or tolerate unkindness. It’s possible to demand these things in a firm, respectful way. Those who have learned this art often get what they expect even in the most uncomfortable situations.

If we want to engender an atmosphere of kindness and respect, it must begin with us.

Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, even those who don’t reciprocate, not because of who they are, but because of who you are.

Paraphrasing some long forgotten sage, “If we all understood that everyone has their own battles to fight, insecurities to face, loves to contend and goals to attain, the world would be a gentler place.”

Why not be that change catalyst by putting more kindness and respect into your daily interactions? Try it for a week and watch what happens.


On Leadership

On February 18, 2017, in Scott's Speeches, Spartanology, The Pass It On Podcast, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
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Why choose leadership? That was the question I spoke about this weekend to a conference of student leaders at Michigan State.

I decided early on to aspire to lead for one reason: I prefer to influence the course of my own destiny. “Build your own dreams,” writes the young Chicago born entrepreneur, Farrah Gray, “or someone else will hire you to build theirs.”

Life, after all, is simply a series of decisions we make. We can’t change the cards we are dealt. We can’t pick our parents, our gene pool, where we were born or the financial resources with which we start this great game. But every move we make from then on is up to us. “I am not a product of my circumstances,” asserts Stephen Covey. “I am a product of my decisions.”

Decide to lead or learn to exist under the limitations imposed by others.

And what is the essence of leadership? Making a positive contribution toward solving the problems that face us. Every journey begins with the power of one. And oh how powerful one person can become. Mother Teresa gives us the secret. “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.”

It’s our duty as human beings to create ripples that open new vistas of understanding, build bridges of inclusiveness, create more compassionate hearts and inspire others to do the same.

What stops us from becoming the leaders we were born to be?

“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears,” says motivational guru Les Brown.

Fear, or it’s unreasonable brother, what Seth Godin calls, “resistance” will always try to talk us out of taking risks. Fear of losing friends and making enemies, fear of the unknown, fear of failure. All of these things try to distract us from taking on the mantle of leadership.

When you understand that failures are the required stepping stones to success you can learn to fail forward. To refocus your trajectory, to build the outer skills and the inner strength you need to press on.

Jimmy Dean was a country singer who became one of the most successful sausage salesmen in the world. “I can’t change the direction of the wind,” he said, “but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”

The hardest part is getting started. “The most difficult thing,” wrote the famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart, “is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.”

Our world needs your active participation. We desperately need men and women with hearts for selfless service who are willing to lead. If the good people don’t step up, the self serving will. Time and again, history has shown that demagogues emerge when rational people give up their power.

My friends who chose not to vote in the last election asked me, “what difference will it really make?”

They typify Alice Walker’s statement that, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

A decision to do nothing is still a decision, with consequences.

So decide to lead. Learn the skills and attitudes of the world’s greatest leaders. Practice them until they become your own. Decide where you stand on the issues that are most important to you and speak up. And let no one deter you. Plug Ayn Rand’s mindset into your own. “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”

Leaders are nothing more than individuals who decide to serve others. And the first step to leading others is modeling the behaviors of selfless service in your own life. We are responsible for contributing to an environment where the less fortunate can reach new heights, where there can be conversation in the midst of controversy, where personal accountability becomes a universal expectation.

All that is good, or bad in our world begins at our own doorstep. “What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality,” wrote the greek biographer, Plutarch.

In the end, leadership is far more preferable than the alternative. Former General Electric CEO, Jack Welch leaves us with this final timeless bit of wisdom. “Control your destiny, or someone else will.”

Q&A from today’s participants:

Q: How do I separate my private life from my public life?

A: A great question that deserves a blog post all it’s own. I point to the wisdom of the Buddha who warns that “attachment is the root of all suffering.” Our jobs often become intertwined with our self image. In truth, we are temporarily aligning our brand with the brand of the organization we work for. If you can learn to step outside of your body and view your professional existence as would a trusted friend you can develop the ability to assess your professional challenges without the pain of personal attachment. It’s a skill that requires effort to learn, but has many benefits if you can perfect it.

Q: It always feels like I am the leader reaching out to other groups with opportunities to collaborate and, quite frankly, it gets a bit exhausting. How do I build an environment where others become interested in working together on mutually beneficial projects?

A: I always advise beginning every conversation with the “What’s keeping you up at night?” question. People will be more interested in working with you when they realize that you’re goal is to help them get their own problems solved. Try coming at it from that perspective and watch the magic happen!

Feedback always welcome to


Life Lessons From the Red Cedar

On February 11, 2017, in Monday Motivator, Spartanology, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
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Of all the natural wonders that caress our beautiful campus, the Red Cedar River is, perhaps, most symbolic.

Its waters  flow inexorably toward the west, reminding us that we must continuously expand our own horizons of thought and explore new vistas beyond our comfort zones. It is a combination of gently undulating currents and explosive rapids, much like the course of our own adventures, which inevitably reveal both calm and calamity.

The Red Cedar, in its time, has been both abused and renewed. Past pollution is still evident; even as we can once again safely probe its depths for fish and dangle our toes in its often-icy embrace.

It sometimes presses beyond its boundaries. Those of us who are “seasoned Spartans” remember how it flooded parts of campus, reminding us that paradigms surrounding ourselves create limitations that are meant to be broken.

The Red Cedar is beautiful in every season, reflecting the deep greens of summer, the fiery colors of fall and the dancing diamonds of a noontime sun. Its sights and sounds attract us in moments when our souls need refreshment. It gives us constant comfort that it will always be at the center of our campus existence, a spiritual place to be studied and admired with a mindfulness that defines every true Spartan’s being.

And what is the fundamental component that makes our beloved Red Cedar the magical thing that it is? Water. A simple combination of two biological elements that are essential to our very existence.

Whenever I have the privilege of considering the Red Cedar, I think about the water that is its essence. From the beginning, water has been a central point of study at Michigan State. We’ve never forgotten its importance. We try to treat it with endless fascination and deep respect. And we work very hard to make certain that there is enough of it for all on the planet who need it.

And so it is with all the elements that make up this ever evolving experiment that is higher education. Transformational knowledge; life-changing experiences; celebrations of our rich diversity of culture, ideas and opportunity; and the promotion of universal understanding and peace.

Now as ever, we recommit ourselves to work toward the day when there are enough of these things for everyone. And like the relentless Red Cedar, we will never give up—until we succeed.


MSUAA’s Top Resources for Job Seekers

On February 6, 2017, in Spartanology, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
Sooner or later, we’re all thrust into the job market. Whether you’re about to graduate or are considering a change, here are some of The MSU Alumni Association‘s most requested resources for job seekers.

First and foremost, you don’t have to undertake the journey alone. Hire a career coach. We seek out coaches to help us become stronger and healthier. Why not engage a resource to help you maximize the effectiveness of your personal brand? MSUAA’s Spartans Helping Spartans website has a great list of career coaches who are ready to help you right now.

MSUAA also has a rich library of webinars and live streams where extraordinary alumni share their secrets. Here are a few of the best that touch on careers.

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We’re all in this together

On January 29, 2017, in The Pass It On Podcast, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman

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So many challenges compete for our attention these days that it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling that something is not a real problem.. until it affects us personally.

Some call this “privilege”. Others argue we have only so much capacity to process, only so much time, talent and treasure to distribute. So we feel we must prioritize that which is close to us.

The danger lies in minimizing painful life experiences we are lucky enough not to have to endure.

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Be The Change

On January 20, 2017, in Spartanology, The Pass It On Podcast, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
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This morning, I was talking with our amazing student team about the history that was made today. Most are deeply troubled about the state of our nation, although I suspect a couple may quietly be ok with what’s happening. I told them about my own memory of this date 46 years ago.

I was about their age and Richard Nixon had just been elected, to the horror of many of us in my progressive home town of Ann Arbor. While we all know how that story ended (and how long it took us to get there), my point was that it was at on that day that I realized that I had to become the change I wanted to see in my world.

Yup, I smelled my share of tear gas, marched, protested, wrote letters and met with my elected representatives. But there was a deeper change that ultimately forged an iron resolve to take responsibility for causing my own effects in life.

That moment made me the person I am today.

May the events of this past year be a reminder that each of us can be relentless, positive change agents. It’s within our power to alleviate the suffering of others. And we CAN change history, if we are willing to commit to doing the hard, often painful, necessary work to make it so.. and to convince others to follow in our footsteps.

Looking around that room at the smart young people I’ve come to know and admire, I have great hope for our future. I also have high expectations that we’ll all do our share of the heavy lifting to make good things happen and work to inspire those who cross our path to join us in the journey.

Change won’t happen any other way.


What I Learned on the Farm

On January 15, 2017, in Monday Motivator, The Pass It On Podcast, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
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“When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of human civilization.” Daniel Webster

My first radio job involved reading commodity prices on our local radio station. I was just 14 and did not yet have a driver’s license. So every morning as the sun rose over Washtenaw County, I rode my green Schwinn 10 speed down the long expanse of Liberty street to the studios of WPAG in downtown Ann Arbor. I was the first one in the building, fired up the transmitter and dialed up our Farm Director, a legend named Howard Heath.

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You’re Always On Probation

On January 8, 2017, in Monday Motivator, The Pass It On Podcast, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman

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“Excellence is not a skill. It’s an attitude” ~Ralph Marston

On January 1, I began my 8th year as Head Servant for the MSU Alumni Association. One of my radio buddies quipped that, after all that time, “you must be off of probation.”

Anything but. I’m always on probation.

It’s been a mindset that has driven my work ethic from the time I got my first gig as a dishwasher at Ann Arbor’s Lurie Terrace at age 13. My radio years certainly reinforced the fact that job security is a myth and adding value on the extra mile is the best career insurance policy.

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The Best Revenge

On December 18, 2016, in Monday Motivator, The Pass It On Podcast, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman

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“Never does the human soul appear so strong as when it foregoes revenge and dares to forgive an injury.” ~Edwin Hubbel Chapin

In the course of human events, we are all destined to endure times when things don’t go our way. How we react to it will tell the world much about our character.

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