One Green Blood's State of Mind

The Ultimate Success Metric

By Scott Westerman
Each of us keeps a personal scorecard, with which we judge ourselves and those around us. We measure everything from financial wealth to educational attainment, from athletic achievement to career progression. If I had to pick just one metric to define a life well lived, it would be this:

The most important indicator of a successful human existence is the extent to which we are able to positively impact the lives of others.

Hold this standard against the exploits, good and bad, that are chronicled in our newscasts. How many of them qualify?

How many of the actions of the politicians we have elected to represent us pass the test?

Of much of the time and energy you have invested during this past week was directed toward this ideal? If positively impacting the lives of others was a daily test, how often would you pass, or fail?

Ralph Waldo Emerson takes issue with my Chasing Happiness directive. “The purpose of life is not to be happy,” he wrote. “It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

William Arthur Ward wrote some of the 20th century’s most quoted maxims. He puts it this way: “Do more than belong: participate. Do more than care: help. Do more than believe: practice. Do more than be fair: be kind. Do more than dream: work.”

Not everyone is capable of goodness. Evil exists in our world. Neutralizing evil liberates those whom it afflicts. For this reason, we are grateful for the men and women who willingly put their lives on the line to protect us. “You attack to protect, not to avenge. writs Tiana Dalichov in her forthcoming novel Agenda 46. “You strike to end suffering, not cause it.”

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It clearly articulates both the “what” and the “how” of the Ultimate Success Metric.

“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”

There is only one tool you need to bring to this task: Model the behaviors you expect, everyday, everywhere. We may not do it well in the beginning. Some days may feel like you’ve taken one step forward and two steps backward. But like all skills, we will improve, with practice.

So dedicate your life to positively impacting the lives of others. In the end, this is the only score that really matters. There is no greater need and no higher calling.

 

How to get the job you want

By Scott Westerman
“Companies don’t hire employees. They invest in solutions.”

“America loves a winner.” General George S. Patton is credited with that statement. And it’s true. We marvel at people who rise to the top. We often wish we could enjoy their success. But what does it take to earn it?

Here are some ideas to ponder, whether your goal is to lead the field, or simply get in the door.

What is your goal – Winners have goals. I frequently ask the “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question. It’s amazing how few people actually have seriously thought about it. If you can’t see the destination, you won’t find the road to take you there.

Who is doing the things you want to do well? – Learn from the best. Who is the best in the world in your current profession, or the job you hope to have? If you have a sense for where you think you want your career to go, who are the people that have succeeded? What are their success habits? How do they dress? How do they spend their time? What additional experience and/or education do they have? Schedule a series of informational interviews with people at the top of your game to learn how they got where they are.

Insider’s Tip #1: One of the most effective door openers is: “I think I want to grow up to be just like you. Can I spend 20 minutes with you to learn some of the secrets of your success?”

How can you act now as would the person you hope to become? – Fake it until you make it. We are all works in progress. What winning behaviors and habits can you incorporate into who you are now to help you evolve into the person you hope to become? At the front of that list is gratitude, followed closely by adding value. After each informational interview, send a handwritten thank-you note. In that note, add some value. Everybody has a need. Figure out how to serve that need and you may soon be on the payroll.

Insider’s Tip #2: Follow-up is crucial to building good relationships. Track your potential mentor’s social media activity. Share the good stuff with a little of your own added wisdom and praise taked on.

What’s standing in your way? – Obstacles are designed to make you stronger. Only the weak avoid them. Many of our obstacles are self created. We assume we don’t have the background, the resume, the relationships or the degree to get what we seek. If any of these things are valid, the good news is that we can do something about it. But think carefully about what’s real and what’s imagined. Our imagination can create what Seth Godin calls “resistance”. Resistance looks and feels just like fear. Fear is a reasonable reaction to danger. Resistance creates those same emotions in an attempt to maintain our status quo, no matter how bad that current reality may truly be.

Insider’s Tip #3: One of the most daunting obstacles in this time of digital interaction is on-line application process that many companies now use. When you make friends who work where you want to work and do what you want to do, they can often help you make sure your credentials navigate the maze and get to the hiring managers.

When will you take some action? – Nothing happens until we decide to make it happen. If you have invested some time in goal setting, studied the habits of people who are successful at what you hope to become, and if you’ve made an honest assessment of what real hurdles stand between you and your objective. Then it’s time to do something about it. The reason that most people are stuck in unhappy situations is because they refuse to take any steps in the direction of changing them.

Insider’s Tip #4: Develop your own system for keeping track of your goals and the activities you will do to achieve them. Give yourself at least one task each day to move your game plan forward. There are a number of cool smart-phone applications that can help keep these at the front of your mind.

How will you handle failure? – Nothing worth doing is simple. This is life’s way of forcing us to become smarter, stronger and more resilient. Failure will try to bat you down time and again. In fact, those who have been uber successful have failed many, many times along the way. The only real difference between winners and losers is this: When winners fail, they are able to get back on their feet more often. They “fail forward”, making the motto, “I never lose, I win or I learn,” their mantra.

Insider Tip #5: In most job interviews, you will inevitably be asked about one time when you failed. How you answer that question will say a lot about who you are.

Wherever you may be right now. Spend some time imagining the things you could do, the places you could go and the contributions you might make. Write them down. Seek out people who have achieved the things you want to achieve. Learn from them. Emulate their positive behaviors.

And while you’re doing that, remember that there are some people who have built their careers on ill gotten gains. Earn success fairly, without doing harm. Karma always rules. You may not see it happen, but every bad behavior ultimately leads to an appropriate consequence.

Determine what additional tools you need to add to your backpack for your trip. Dump unproductive relationships and focus on people who share your passion and will support you. Get the training you need. And remember that success is built on a series of teachable moments, the things other people might define as “failure”. Fail forward.

And most importantly, do something to move you in the direction of your dreams right now. The world is a plethora of distractions. Most people vector toward activities that are tension-relieving instead of goal-achieving. Act as the person you hope to become and you’ll soon clearly recognize the difference.

Whatever your current circumstance, you have the power to change it. Jump out of that uncomfortable comfort zone. That’s where happiness lives. And you deserve to be there.

Here are links to a Word Doc and PDF of my Game Plan For Change Worksheet. I hope it helps you articulate your objectives and serves as a roadmap toward achieving them:

A GAME PLAN FOR CHANGE – PDF
A GAME PLAN FOR CHANGE – DOC

What to do when you blow a job interview

By Scott Westerman
“There’s nothing as exciting as a comeback – seeing someone with dreams, watching them fail, and then getting a second chance.
” ~Rachel Griffiths

Bad days! We all have them. Those times when you’ve completely prepared and practiced and, for some inexplicable reason, you can’t seem to put your best foot forward. What can we do when we’re up to bat in a job interview and our first swing is a miss?

Immediately recalibrate.

I’m a fan of handwritten notes, but you want to squelch bad first impressions immediately. So if you had a bad phone interview, immediately draft an email explaining that you’re much better in person. If you’ve done your homework, you knew what the interviewer was looking for. And now you have the benefit of intelligence. They asked you the questions. Go back and answer them again, better this time, more thoughtfully and with examples attached. Here’s a recalibration email that someone once sent me. I’ve saved it because it was so good.

Dear Scott,

As you no doubt guessed, I wasn’t on my A-Game today. It happens to all of us eventually, but this was a first for me and I wanted to write you immediately  to apologize.

I’m grateful for the time you took to talk with me today. It made me want to serve you and your team even more than ever. From our conversation, I learned that your biggest challenges are .. (They listed them.)

Here are some specific skill sets that I bring to the table that can add value.. (They listed them, customized to clearly and more effectively answer the interview questions, including real world scenarios that demonstrated their competency.)

I amm attaching some examples of my past work that directly relate to the position you’ve posted. (They explained succinctly how the attachments related to the need.)

And so you can get a better idea of what it is like to work with me, here are two of my references that you can feel free to contact to learn more about me. I respect them very much and have asked them to be honest and candid. They can confirm that I never give up until I am successful. If we get the chance to work together, you will quickly see that for yourself. (They provided both email and phone numbers for two impressive references.)

Finally, I include a brief outline of how I plan to approach the assignment. In short, this is my 60 day game plan to hit the ground running. It is yours to keep, whether or not we end up working together, in gratitude for the opportunity to compete for the position.

I would not blame you if you decided to move forward with other candidates. I did not demonstrate my best qualities on the phone and I am sorry about that.

But… I promise you that if we have another opportunity for some quality time, I can show you how our partnership will be mutually rewarding on every level. Most people give up when they stumble. I hope you’ve seen that I will never give up when it counts.

Thanks very much for reading these materials. With your permission, I will contact your assistant to arrange another chance for us to talk.

Sincerely,

Wow! How could I not give that person another shot? I shared their stuff with the interview committee and they were intrigued that someone would go to so much trouble for a second chance. We gave them that chance. They endured one of the tougher team interviews I’ve witnessed and came through with flying colors. They thrived at our company and ended up on the interview team when a promotion opened up their former position again.

So, if you really want the gig, and truly feel that you are the best suited candidate, go after it again!

There are no guarantees that this approach will work in your situation. But there is one thing I can totally guarantee: In the wise words of Thomas Carlyle, “Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.”

Tips from Alumni for Incoming Freshmen

By Scott Westerman
Listen to an audio version of this message.

One of the most frequently asked questions I hear from freshmen is, “How can I get ahead of the game?” Here eleven tips for success from alumni who answered our “Advice to My Younger Self” survey.

Get Good Grades – Just as an elite sports program is ultimately judged by its win/loss record, a successful academic career is all about your grade point average. Do what it takes to excel in the classroom. This may sound simple. But it’s not. Job one in college is to demonstrate your ability to learn. Prioritize this above all else.

Find your passion – Start from the assumption that all things are possible. What do you love doing? Can you turn your passion into a profession? If you’re not sure, keep exploring until you get an idea. Job shadow. Talk with upper classmen. Interview alumni who are doing what you think you might like to do. And it’s ok to change your mind and your major. The key outcome is happiness. Figure out what its definition means for you.

Get experience early – Work hard to get an internship in your desired field for the summer after your freshman year. Some people may say that this is too early. I don’t agree. The sooner you can roll up your sleeves and experience the work, the more you’ll be able to tie real world examples to your class work. And you’ll be a step ahead of most of your peers.

Join a Student Organization – MSU has over 600 of them. They are great places to make friends, to learn the discipline of work / classroom balance, and to get leadership experience.

Develop a broad array of friends – Get out of your comfort zone and get to know people who aren’t like you. Pay special attention to developing friendships with international students. Take advantage of overseas study. The world is getting smaller every day and your ability to navigate different cultures will be a plus.

Avoid energy suckers – Dump the drama queens and the kings of distraction. Prioritize people who care and gently let the party animals and high maintenance people go. Your plate is already full. Don’t let somebody else put their bad juju on it.

Reach out to alumni – I mentioned this in the passion segment but it deserves its own bullet. The power of the Spartan Nation is in the network. Build yours early. The “I think I want to grow up to be just like you, can you tell me your life story,” question is powerful and effective. Alumni love telling their stories and there is a lot you can learn from them.

Get healthy. Stay healthy – Get enough sleep. Put the right fuel into your body. Maintain an exercise program. If something doesn’t feel right, get professional help to make it right. And create habits that promote wellness. You won’t succeed if you don’t take care of your “marvelous machine”.

Add value – We live in a self-centered, “what have you done for me lately” world. People who get ahead find ways to add value to the lives of others. Your hireability will be directly connected to how well you can add value to an organization. Your most cherished relationships will be mutually beneficial value propositions. Asking, “How can I make your life better?” is the fundamental question. Authenticity is a key currency to earn credibility. Giving without the expectation of return can generate an exponential payback.

Embrace failure – Making mistakes is a requirement for growth, if you position them as the learning experience they are. Don’t be afraid to be bad at something. Smart people are made, not born. And the most important lessons are found as a result of the clear vision you can get when you stumble.

Keep trying – Success lives on the extra mile and it’s not very crowded there. If you’re not sure of what you want to be when you grow up, keep exploring until you figure it out. If someone else gets the internship you wanted, understand why and adjust your game plan accordingly. To paraphrase the wisdom of Winston Churchill, “Never give uo, never give up, never, never, never.”

Your college experience can be life changing. Chances are you’ll meet your best friends and discover your destiny here. Stay focused. Be open to new ideas. Pick yourself up when you fall. Develop humility, tenacity and a thirst for both knowledge and experience. And keep life’s ups and downs in perspective. The ultimate goal is to create a fun, fulfilling and rewarding life. Keep that at the center of your perspective. You’ll not only survive freshman year, you’ll thrive throughout your university years and launch into the real world with the confidence and ability to lead the field.

Why Most Podcasts Suck

By Scott Westerman
First off, please forgive the strongly worded headline. Once in awhile, I feel compelled to be uncomfortably direct. This is one of those times.

It was a particularly lengthy drive to Chicago this weekend. Road construction along the I-94 corridor alerted my Waze to reroute us via the Indiana Toll Road. So I had lots of time to consume a cadre of podcasts.

Most of them were terrible.

Wikipedia reckons that there are more than 115,000 podcast out there today. It’s never been easier to create content. But the rules of relevancy, usability and appeal still apply.

It’s about your audience, not you.

Many podcasts seem to be an opportunity for people to listen to themselves talk, about themselves, at length. Unless you are an exceptional entertainer with a fascinating life, the appeal of your podcast will be dependent on your guests and the value of the information you intend to impart.

I saw an interesting guest promoted in one podcast overview, but the first third of the show seemed to be the host meandering through a field of narcissism, to the point where I lost interest.

Put yourself in the listener’s head. What would they want to know?

TIP: Keep your introduction brief and get to the meat of the content.

Do your homework.

I hear so many podcasts where it’s clear that the people just turned on the recorder and started talking.

Find out all you can about your guest ahead of time. Research the subject. If there are things you need to know before showtime, you may want to do a quick pre-interview a few days before.

If you cover more than one subject, storyboard the show, assigning times to each segment. Here’s an example of one introduction format that’s quick and makes you want to stay tuned:

“On the program today, Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon. We’ll look back over his epic adventure and find out what an astronaut does for an encore, after he’s gone where no man has gone before. The latest iPhone iteration launched this week. We’ll talk to someone who’s got one about what’s new and whether it’s time to upgrade. And we’ll review the latest installment in the Avengers film franchise. Will you be there opening weekend? Our movie critic gives you some intel, with no spoilers attached.”

You may have figured out that there are 5 segments in the show: The Introduction, two guests, a movie review and the goodbyes. Map out how much time you’ll assign to each segment, remembering The Law of Attention: People have little time and lots of distractions.

TIP: Write out an introduction and stick to the script.

Ask brief, to the point questions.

I actually heard this “Question” almost verbatim today: “So I want to ask you about how you and your wife met, because I know it was at a class you two were taking, a lot like how I met my wife although it wasn’t in a class, and you guys have been married for so long and have been so many places, we’ve been to a lot of the same countries but you’ve seen a few more, so talk about when you first met, and was it love at first sight, and by the way, have you ever fought, because I’ve never seen it?”

Ouch! He could have done it like this with much more power: “Your love for your wife is legendary. How did it all start?”

Few were better at the art of asking questions than Larry King. Comedian Albert Brooks used to characterize Larry’s style with this two word question, “Why comedy?”

Mike Martel, writing at LifeHacker.com distills it this way:

Know what you want to learn before you ask the question.
Don’t ask “Yes” or “No” questions
Dig deeper by asking follow up questions
Use the power of silence. People will give you more information, if you wait for it.
Don’t interrupt, unless absolutely necessary. See my first rule, above: It’s not about you.

Some of the best questions start with “Why did you decide to..” or “How do you..” Follow up to get more detail if you’re not clear about what they have said. “How did that make you feel?” or a simple, “Because..” can fill in the blanks.

And don’t be afraid to go off course. Sometimes your guest may reveal something very interesting, off the beaten path.

Tip: Ask questions in a single sentence. (With no commas!)

Attention spans are short. Keep your programs short.

I have yet to listen to an 85 minute podcast that was worth staying with it to the end. People are divided on how long a podcast should be. 15 minutes seems to be a target if your audience will be listening in a vehicle. But be mindful of the shortening attention spans in this age of sound bytes. Unless your subject is uber interesting, stop when you’ve covered enough ground to tell the story.

Tip: Shorter is always better.

Remember, too, that this is just one guy’s opinion. If you think your podcast is working, follow your gut. These suggestions are just a few gleanings from what I’ve read and learned over about 10 years of podcasting experience. But you are the CEO of your personal brand. As John Goodman told Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski, “have it your way”. And have fun!

We could go into more detail, but I want to model the behavior I’m espousing. There are some links attached for those who want to dig deeper. But suffice to say that a good podcast is a lot like a good speech: Be brief. Be brilliant. And be gone.

Learn More:

Caring for the Caregiver

By Scott Westerman
Colleen and I recently learned that one of our good friends had been told those three words that make your blood run cold. “You have cancer”. Much has been written about how to care for a recovering cancer survivor. But there isn’t a lot of advice out there for those of us who are thrust into the role of caregivers. I wrote the following letter to our brave survivor’s spouse. She suggested that I share it with you.

The worst thing about this caregiver stuff is feeling helpless and alone. Here is the woman we love, suffering the unspeakable horrors that are necessary to prolong the quantity and quality of existence, and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.

You will feel like you don’t know what to do to help her. That’s normal. Be present. Listen. Love. Do all those wonderful things you already do so well. Sometimes just being in the same room with her is all you need to do. Allow yourself to tell her that you wish you could make the pain go away and that it breaks your heart to watch her go through this. Reassure her that you will get through it together, that you’re not leaving, that she’s beautiful without the hair (she will be, by the way), that surgical scars are the decorations of victorious warriors. All the things you first fell in love with will still be there.

Your steadfast support will mean the world to her, even when the stuff that’s coursing through her body to save her life may make it impossible for her to express it.

Moods tend to become amplified during times like this, so don’t be surprised if the lows feel lower than you’ve ever felt. There will also be moments when you guys will also want to laugh so hard that your nose will run. Let the feelings flow, whatever they may be. Fully experience everything, the good and the bad.

You may think that you have to keep it together on the worst chemo days. That’s ok. Sometimes compartmentalization is, itself, a survival skill. But make absolutely sure that you find a place to blow out the emotions as soon as possible. It’s very easy to compress all of the bad juju on top of the lifetime of suppressed issues that you’re already pushing around in that invisible wheelbarrow that’s chained to your wrists. If you don’t take the time to bring it back up and process what’s hurting, your own body will react, perhaps in some very uncomfortable ways.

Allow yourself to fully feel, whenever you can. It’s hard. I still struggle with it and have to consciously force myself into the dark spaces to dig the bad stuff up and let it wring me out. I don’t like that exercise, but just like throwing up after you’ve eaten some bad pizza, it’s what your mind/body/spirit need to cleanse.

Don’t forget to keep that fitness program going at full throttle. Exercise is medicine. Eat right, even if the love of your life doesn’t feel like she can. I did a lousy job in that second area, because: 1) I can’t cook and 2) I’m too lazy to think about putting the right things together when it’s much easier to eat Pringles and drink Coca Cola. Don’t be like me.

You may not believe it now, but you have the strength to be the witness your woman needs to help her through this. And you have the courage to take care of yourself even as you take care of her.

And here’s another surprising thing we discovered. Your senses become more acute. The flowers will have more color. The grass will seem greener. The smell of the air in the aftermath of a rainstorm will be indescribable. These are things you will get to keep, even after you are done with this monster. These are cancer’s gifts: awareness, mindfulness, and the ability to experience the second life you will be given more richly than you could have possibility imagined.

And understand one very important thing: You don’t have to do this alone.

Find a therapist. There’s nothing better than paying someone smart to help you make sense of suffering. Everybody needs a shrink. Get one and unload your burden.

Some of your best friends may be uncomfortable walking beside you. This is a challenging experience and not everybody is equipped to cope with it, even from a distance. But other amazing people will appear at just the right time, with just the right mixture of empathy and honesty to renew your strength. These are the people you can flood with long, angry, emotional emails whenever you need to. They will take your calls anytime, day or night. They will do what you need most at a time like this; they will listen.

And, perhaps most importantly, it’s ok to reach out to those who have gone through this before you. No one can truly understand another’s journey until we’ve walked the path. Some may be less comfortable than others in reliving the ups and downs of caring for a survivor. But many will open their hearts to you. There is an unspoken bond you will instantly feel, an instant connection that can provide hope and strength to both caregivers.

Cancer was the toughest battle Colleen and I have yet had to fight. But it also turned out to be some of the most important, illuminating and loving times we’ve experienced as soul mates. I hope you won’t have to go through this. But if you do, make it the defining moment of your life. You will discover that the greatest gifts are not in the outcomes. They are found along the way.

Remembering Hazen Schumacher

Hazen SchumacherBy Scott Westerman

Our good friend, Hazen Schumacher, passed away on the morning of July 19, 2015 in Ann Arbor. He was 88 years young.

Hazen was one of the world’s leading authorities on the first three decades of recorded American Jazz, served on the Ann Arbor School Board at a pivotal time in the district’s history and was a teacher, mentor and friend to a generation of broadcasters, community leaders and jazz aficionados.

Hazen was my father’s best friend. He was pivotal in Dad’s ascendency to the Superintendency of the Ann Arbor Public Schools and helped guide the district through one of its most tumultuous and challenging periods of change.

For three decades, his Jazz Revisited program celebrated “America’s greatest gift to the world”. IAJRC Journal columnist Art Hilgart noted that the program, “reached millions, giving Hazen a good claim to be America’s premier jazz educator.” In the course of its 30 year run, over 1500 programs were broadcast from a record collection that grew to more than 50,000 disks. [AUDIO: Listen to a typical Jazz Revisited Program – Courtesy Bix Eiben BixEibenHamburg.com]

A beloved professor at the University of Michigan, Hazen influenced hundreds of young lives, inspiring them to stretch beyond their self-imposed limitations and maximize their human potential. He had a knack of being the right person, in the right place, at the right time, a compassionate listening ear who often provided life-changing guidance.

As news of Hazen’s passing spread across the internet, I began to hear from many people who’s lives he touched. “Hazen was a wonderful advisor to us when we founded (University of Michigan Student Radio Station) WCBN-FM in 1972,” wrote former student Ross Ojeda. “He mentored many of us.”

“He was a special teacher,” Matt Targett noted on the Ann Arbor Townies Facebook page, “and his love for the music was evident in all that he did.”

A remarkable, man. A trailblazer. A valued friend. These were common sentiments.

When my college roommate, Steve Schram, was considering taking on the leadership of Michigan Radio, Hazen was the first person he sought out. ” He generously spent time with me,” Steve remembers, “explaining the background and history of the station so I could truly measure the value of WUOM to its loyal audience. ”

Hazen was my first radio mentor, graciously opening up his world to reveal the combination of technical and intellectual skills that combine to create a broadcaster.

As the host of the long running Jazz Revisited program, Hazen Schumacher was a one man preservation society, celebrating America's most enduring home-grown art form.

As the host of the long running Jazz Revisited program on Michigan Radio, Hazen Schumacher was a one man preservation society, celebrating America’s most enduring home-grown art form.

He was a role model for how style and substance so mix to create a personal brand. He believed that education isn’t something that only happens in a classroom and that the exhilaration of watching a team grow and succeed far surpasses personal accolades and financial remuneration.

Hazen taught us not to take ourselves, or life too seriously. He had the ego that is a prerequisite for perseverance in the most competitive environments. But he was the first to be self deprecating and to point the spotlight in the direction of those who helped put him on their shoulders, lifting him above the crowd where the world could envision the dreams Hazen helped make come true.

To become close friends with Hazen and Rusty’s children was icing on the cake. Watching each of their offspring grow has been an object lesson in parenting: encouraging individuality, working through the ups and downs and being willing to put your own skin into the game, again and again. The adults that they each have become are wonderful, eclectic testaments to the experiences Hazen and Rusty exposed them to, and the guidance they provided to all of us kids (even if even didn’t always follow it).

Hazen Schumacher at WUOM - Courtesy MichiganRadio.org

Hazen Schumacher at WUOM – Courtesy MichiganRadio.org

I recently had a chance to drive through the Lakewood subdivision that the Schumachers call home.  I noticed how much the trees had grown. I could feel them inhaling just as I exhaled, recycling the air that I breathed even as they moderated the extremes of the summer heat. It struck me at that moment that I could process all of that science, but it was Hazen and Rusty who taught me to explore the beauty of the leaves, the diversity of their design and color, and to appreciate the harmonious whole that comes together to make life not only worth living, but worth living joyfully.

The Schumachers have planted many seeds, seeds that grew to provide life giving energy, to protect others from suffering and to compel the beneficiaries to propagate a legacy of love across the ages.

This is the wonderful essence of what the these two extraordinary spirits have meant, not just to me, but to hundreds of others who had the great good fortune to cross their paths. Our world is better for their partnership. And I for one intend to model the behavior for a long time to come… with a little Count Basie in the background.

Listen to the theme from Hazen’s long running Jazz Revisited: Duke Ellington’s “What Am I Here For”.

A backstory on how Jazz Revisited came to be:

Russian Christmas Music – January 16, 1971

By Scott Westerman
Listen to an audio version of this message.

“All of the resources of the modern symphonic band are drawn upon to create an almost overwhelming sound picture of tone color, power, and sonority.”

These are the words that composer Alfred Reed wrote to describe his masterpiece, “Russian Christmas Music”. He wrote it in the throws of the Second World War, in a mere 16 days, for a concert designed to improve Soviet / American relations. It had it’s premiere on December 12, 1944 in Denver, Colorado, manifested by an aggregated group of musicians from 5 different military bands. The piece was revised and expanded two years later, winning the 1947 Columbia University prize for new serious music for symphonic band.

24 years after it’s debut, I stood amidst the percussion section as the Ann Arbor Pioneer Symphony Band was about to perform Russian Christmas Music at Hill Auditorium. (more…)

To the class of 2015

By Scott Westerman
Listen to an audio version of this message.

From my speech to the Senior Class Council.

Congratulations on surviving your college experience. When you consider that only about 7 out of 100 people ever get this far in the process, your achievement is truly extraordinary.

Right about now, I start to hear from some of the students I talked with one year ago at this very event. After 12 months out there in the real world these are the 5 common things they tell me:

  • “This was harder than I thought it would be.”
  • “This is NOT what I expected.”
  • “I’m not sure this is the career I want after all.”
  • “I feel in over my head.”
  • “What happens if I screw up?”

Whether you are starting something new or are contemplating expanding your current horizons, here are some thoughts to keep in mind as you approach a growth opportunity. (more…)

Happy 35th Birthday to the MSU Sexual Assault Program

Spartan IconsTonight, Colleen and I joined about 60 others, including Student Life VP, Dr. Denise Maybank and MSU President, Lou Anna K. Simon, to celebrate the 35th birthday of the Sexual Assault Program. I was deeply honored to be recognized, along with my good friend, ASMSU President, James Conwell, for our support during the past year.

It was one of those instances where I wrote down my remarks beforehand to make sure I said exactly what I wanted to say. Here’s the result:

For those who haven’t yet met her, I want to ask my wife, my soul mate and the love of my life, Colleen Aldrich-Westerman to stand up. That’s her, the beautiful blonde, standing in the back, wishing I had not pointed her out.

This generous recognition has special meaning for Colleen and me, because we know, first hand, what it’s like to be survivors. Five years ago, Colleen was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. It was an attack we didn’t expect. Colleen had to let strangers do horrific things to her body to survive. It destroyed any innocence we may have had left. And it profoundly impacted all of us who love and support her.

The monster will always be part of our consciousness, but thanks to gifted caregivers, we are now able to enter what we are calling our second life, dedicated to helping survivors of every definition regain their power, discover their life’s purpose and to turn that purpose into a joyful expression of the best we can be.

It’s a wonderful irony that the two words we are using to describe the current Campaign for MSU are Empower Extraordinary. Shari’s team, the counseling center, our peer educators and the amazing women of SACI are doing extraordinary things, helping men and women rediscover their power and pursue their purpose.

This is the essence of what makes Michigan State University great. We’re a microcosm of the larger world. We have flaws. And we still have much to learn. But as Spartans we have chosen to rise above whatever may happen to us, and to apply the immense, healing, enlightening power of the Spartan Nation in the direction of transformational change.

This is the true definition of a Spartan’s Will. We are honored to model the behavior and are deeply grateful for the honor of serving you.

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