By Scott Westerman
We got an email at work this week warning us to stay away from the legendary Brody Square dining facility at Michigan State. There are several thousand Methodists on campus for the church’s annual convention and, as I found out when I ventured to Brody last night, the place was jammed.
So I took the email’s advice and went to Snyder Phillips tonight. As I was walking in, a collegue was walking out. “500 kids just came in there for dinner,” he said. “You’re about 5 minutes too late.”
I didn’t mind. MSU hosts youth leadership camps all summer and I love the energy the young people bring to campus. He was right, the lines were long, spirits were high. I heard a few kids start a chorus of happy birthday and before it was over the whole place was singing, even though most of them probably didn’t know who the honoree was.
I was sitting alone at a high table near the window digesting the last of my meal when an attractive young lady approached. “May I clear your tray for you?” she asked.
“Wow,” I answered. “That would be wonderful. What made you offer? Are you guys tasked with doing random acts of kindness this week?”
“No,” she said. “We’re supposed to do something outside of our comfort zone and I’m terrified of making conversation with strangers.”
And so began a 10 minute visit. She told me where she was from, where she thought she might go to college, “Some place small,” and that she thought she wanted to go to law school.
“You’ll get plenty of exposure to strangers on the other side of the courtroom,” I said. “I bet you’ll get over that fear pretty quickly.”
I was proud of her for feeling the fear and doing it anyway. And my tray made its way over to the dishwashing station thanks to her random act of kindness. I was in the middle of reading Don Gonyea’s piece on Gordie Howe and had my head down in my web browser when a second young lady dropped into the chair across from me. “Ok if I ask you a question?”
“Sure. Is this another ‘outside of your comfort zone assignment’?”
“Nope. I’m interested in asking people about their passion and you look like someone who isn’t part of our group.”
I told her that my greatest joy came from creating an environment where people could discover their life’s purpose and chase happiness, confessing that this was what we did every day at the MSU Alumni Association. “And what’s your passion?” I asked.
“I want to be a comedy writer, a psychologist and an actor,” she said.
We worked on that one for awhile. I talked about our plethora of Spartans in Hollywood and how she could study all three of those things at MSU. She admitted that she had her sights on Ann Arbor and I think I stunned her when I encouraged her to follow her heart. “I thought all MSU and UM people didn’t like each other,” she said.
“It’s true that there have been points in our history where the U of M tried to stand in the way of our progress,” I said. “But all of those people are long gone and I think most authentic Spartans and Wolverines would agree that both of our schools have to be great if our state is to be great.” I told her I was Ann Arbor born and had a ton of friends who were Wolverines. “I’m excited for your adventures,” I said finally. About one in eight kids will work in jobs that didn’t exist when they were born. You may well create a gig that links all of your interests. I bet you’ll be a success in whatever you decide to do.”
Walking outside into the warm summer evening, I saw about a hundred of their group in the circle chanting, laughing and generally having a great time being young. I pondered the good fortune that brought me home to MSU and was thankful again for the opportunity to live and work in a college town, chasing my passion in a job I never would have ever expected to have when I was a struggling Spartan dreaming of a radio career in the 1970s.
I thought about a lunch I had the day before with a college basketball coach who left his job to follow the love of his life, who coaches here and how we were brainstorming that, wherever you go, there can be opportunity, if you’re willing to work to create it.
And that’s our message for the week. Adventures await on the outside of your comfort zone. That’s the only place where forward progress truly happens. It comes wrapped in setbacks and failures and may not have a very clear roadmap. In fact, every important discovery happened in this place and some of your most important life moments await you, when you feel the fear and do it anyway.
Add the Pass It on Podcast to your smart device via iTunes, Google or through my website, ScottWesterman.com. And send me your questions and feedback to scott@Spartaology.com. Have a terrific week. Be bold, be brave, never stop learning.. and pass it on!