One Green Blood's State of Mind

No comes the real test..

By Scott Westerman
OK guys. Time for some perspective.

This Michigan State football team has fought bravely all season. We fought back from injuries. We endured some horrific officiating. And we have made mistakes.

Any team can be beaten on any given week. Tonight, it was our turn.

That doesn’t change the fact that we are 8-1, bowl eligible, and in control of our destiny from here on out. As we know all too well, the game, and the season, isn’t over until it’s over. What’s behind us is not important. What’s ahead of us is everything.

Now comes the real test. Your test. This is the time the team needs your support the most. This is the time when fair-weather Spartans will whine and walk away. There will be many loud voices who will immediately dismiss us. They do so at their peril.

Unless you pile on.

True Spartans support their teams in good times and in bad. Let your social media posts show that.

True Spartans take the high road. Nebraska outplayed us tonight. The best team won. They deserve our respect, and our gratitude for giving us the opportunity to show what we can do when we’ve lost -one- game.

True Spartans will not blame what happened on the refs. The last call was the wrong call. But it was only one factor. We earned the outcome, just like we earned the outcome in Ann Arbor and will earn it in every game from now on.

I, for one, expect to be watching MSU football in the sunshine as the new year turns. Mark’s program is powerful, sustainable, on the rise and will ultimately achieve his goals.

Give Nebraska their props. They earned the win as a team. I hope they continue to win. That will make our victory the next time that much sweeter.

Failure will be our teacher and these #SpartansWill recover and rise again as a team. Tonight is over. The only thing we can impact is tomorrow.

All of us eventually get knocked down. What defines us is what we do when we get up.

And what will define you as a Spartan is how you react and respond to the events of this weekend.

Spartans never lose. We win or we learn. You are the 12th man. Your support is essential to the team’s success. Fill Spartan Stadium next weekend and let’s teach the world what being a true Spartan is really all about.

5 Years Later, This Definition of “Winning” Still Applies.

By Scott Westerman
I originally wrote this in November of 2010. Ironic that every word still applies, both to our football team and to life.

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

Yesterday my Spartans almost stopped my heart. We played inconsistently for three quarters and got behind a team we should have dominated. it wasn’t until the last minute that our come-from-behind victory was assured.

I Tweeted, “Ugly, but got the ‘W’.” to my friends. One of them tweeted back, “There is no such thing as an ugly win.”

There is.

Ben Lichtenwalner rails against the toxic leadership that so-called winners all to often inject into our organizations. In his Servant Leadership Manifesto, he writes, “You see it in business, when narcissistic executives build golden parachutes and steal from tomorrow to make today look good… You see it in Academia when professors forget the students in their march toward self-promotion and prominence in their field… You see it in churches where the minister’s name appears above the savior’s… You see it in charities that put growth and recognition ahead of the needs of the suffering… You see it in government when politicians promote themselves over the needs of their constituents.”

Yes, it’s possible to win ugly. But that’s not what real winning is all about.

Winners play by the rules – History is littered with those who have bent and broken the rules to get to the top. In time, everybody who twists the truth get’s caught. And the ages will record your true intentions. Play fair, win fair.

Winners give their best effort – The easy prize is hollow. And you don’t have to finish first to be a winner. Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything, but the will to win is everything.”

Winners learn from their mistakes – All winners have failed. Many have failed often. A mistake can be a powerful teacher. To paraphrase Denis Waitley, “Losers live in the past. Winners learn from the past, focus on the present and plan for the future.”

Winners are flexible – The world is constantly changing. Winners change with it and are often change agents. I love this Maria Robinson chestnut. “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”

Winners plan ahead – They are always imagining the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow and prepare for them today. As the old saying goes, It pays to plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.

Winners never give up – Award Winning screenwriter, Jim Cash, wrote screenplays for 15 years before he hit a home run with “Top Gun”. Tom Monaghan admits he did “everything wrong” on his way to creating Domino’s Pizza. Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before creating the Ford Motor Company that we know today.

Winners are humble – Most successful people are also nice people. They may achieve great things, but they never forget the hard work, the luck, and those who helped them get there.

Winners make more winners – This is, perhaps, the greatest trait of a true winner. They recognize that they can’t do it alone and inspire others to greatness, leaving other true winners in their wake.

Life is hard. It requires constant commitment, patience, tenacity and resiliency. And the irony is this: There is just as much pain, inconvenience and effort in an unfulfilled life as there is in an exceptional life.

It’s your choice. Choose to win.

Feedback welcome to or @MSUScottW on Twitter.

#NationalStressAwarenessDay = Everyday

By Scott Westerman
Even though it’s been more than five years since Colleen’s diagnosis and over two years since she was again deemed cancer free, I still stress out during the week we go to Ann Arbor for her check-ups.

I love to preach how the only moment we can control is the present moment but, in this case, I can’t seem to practice what I preach.

Be KindA favorite Internet meme of mine is, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be Kind. Always.” Whenever I’m in stressful encounters, I try to imagine what battle the person who is stressing me out may be fighting. Often times, our reactions in the moment are the result of a bad day or a painful past that hampers our ability to “be kind – always”. Expressed anger may have nothing to do with the person in its path. Peeling the onion to understand the root cause is essential to living the precept that “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to what happens to you that impacts the ultimate outcome.”

So step one in combatting stress is Awareness. Fully understand what your triggers are.

You may have read the book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.. And It’s All Small Stuff. I disagree with that title. Success is built on attention to detail. But it’s definition is up to you. Once you’ve been a cancer caregiver, there are very few things that are worth stressing about. The visceral understanding of the value of a single human life brings our attachments to material things, past mistakes and potential future trouble into proper focus.

Step two in combatting stress is to decide what is worth worrying about. 

When you truly think about it, most of us have very few things that are truly worth worrying about.

And what about those things that are on that list? Your family’s health and welfare and the contribution you can make to alleviate the suffering of others are really the only two that are worth your attention. Truly successful people have found a way to add value to a large number of lives. Our most cherished memories are often connected with family and friends. In the course of being a caring person, stress is inevitable, and important.

We stress our muscles with exercise to make them stronger. We stretch the limits of our understanding to gain the knowledge we need to be better servants. And we can’t care about someone we love without “feeling their pain”. Stress is a given. The challenge is how use it to make yourself stronger, and how to relieve stress when there is too much of it in your current moment.

The first and most important stress reliever of all time is your breath. “Take a breath,” people tell us when we get excited. “Keep breathing, it will pass,” is the punch line to one of my favorite Buddhist parables.

Step three in combatting stress begins with your breath.


Here’s a tool that can help center you when your stress feels like it’s taking control. Breathe in time with the animated gif, above. Inhale as the box expands. Exhale as it contracts. Try it for just 60 seconds and you may see the power that a simple series of breaths can give you to recenter and refocus. Science has shown that as little as 5 minutes of meditation per day can reduce stress, increase energy and impact productivity. Explore the concept of mindfulness and do what you can to live life in the present moment.

And what if none of the things you try on your own do the trick? Elite athletes retain highly trained professionals to help them stay in peak condition. And so it is with your body, mind and spirit. If stress is too much a part of your everyday life, talk with your doctor. Consider hiring your own coach, a therapist, who can help you determine your triggers, their root causes and strategies to turn bad stress into good stress. And practice the regimen they prescribe.

Twitter tells me that today is “National Stress Awareness Day”. Yup. It is. And so is every other day. Learn what causes you stress. Decide whether it really is worth worrying about. Take a few deep breaths to calm your countenance and focus you on activities that can move you forward. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Everything everyone has ever achieved happened because of the benevolence of others.

When you get your own house in order, practice step number four in our stress control program. Remember the three important words that can dissolve conflict and anger, build trust and initiate miracles.

Be Kind. Always. 

And this is probably a good time to remind you that the ideas and opinions I share here are my own. Use your own best judgement as you consider them and always consult a professional if you think you may be depressed or have other health issues.

This is why we do what we do

By Scott Westerman
Whatever abundance we may have enjoyed in our lives came about because someone else cared enough about us to invest in our potential.

Max O’Connor’s story brings that truth sharply into focus. Max had the desire and the brains to succeed in college and in life. Through no fault of his own, his circumstances put overwhelming obstacles in the way. Then, a group of Michigan State University alumni in St. Louis decided to invest in Max, and changed his life.

65% of the MSU student population receives some financial aid. Total student assistance administered by the university exceeds $600 million dollars annually. At the same time, the institution has held the line on expenses. From 2001-02 to 2012-13, MSU’s cost of attendance only went up $65 above inflation.

The skyrocketing cost of tuition is a direct result of systematic disinvestment by the State of Michigan.

Whether people like Max end up as engineers in the Michigan automotive industry or on public assistance, and perhaps in prison, depends on our willingness to invest in their education.

This is why the MSU Alumni Association eliminated membership dues, encouraging our alumni to invest in the university instead.

This is why dozens of MSU Alumni Clubs around the world help fund millions of dollars in scholarships every year.

This is why you should pick up your phone when the caller ID tells you that a student from our Green Line is calling to ask for you to participate in an annual giving program at Michigan State.

And this is why you should send a strong message to your legislator to stop further cuts to public education and to find the money to fix our roads somewhere else.

Once upon a time, the American Dream was rooted in the idea that every child deserved to have access to knowledge, to learn problem solving skills, to be exposed to the rich diversity of ethnicity and ideas that are a microcosm of the college experience, and to be inspired to leave our nation, and the world, in a better place than they found it.

Once upon a time, higher education was not just a birthright. It was the competitive advantage made us one of the greatest nations in the world. At Michigan State University, we’ve never lost sight of that America Dream. And thousands of us continue to invest our own time, talent and treasure to make it possible for more kids like Max O’Connor to become leaders, lifesavers and world changers.

Whatever good things you have experienced in your life happened because someone cared enough to invest in you. The ultimate return on that investment is to pay it forward.

This is the essence of a Spartans Will. Just ask Max O’Connor.

What’s standing between you and your dreams?

By Scott Westerman
What would it be like to be one of those rare few who live at the intersection of purpose and profession? And why don’t more people make their life’s work their life’s love?

Laura LabovichI met Laura Labovich this week. She’s a highly sought after career coach, a Spartan who helps people manage their work life with intention, and not through reaction. Think of your resume as a stock portfolio. You want it to appreciate over the years and may have different investment goals at different stages of your life. Just like the stock market, our career progression can take an unexpected turn. Laura encourages us to think about career strategies ahead of time, before we need to execute them. This goes for everything from elevator speeches to expressing appreciation and admiration for those in your network whom you admire. Proactive intention not only helps inoculate you against the worst side effects of an unexpected market shift, it can help you develop x-ray vision to recognize investment opportunities before they become visible to others.

Think of your resume as a stock portfolio. You want it to appreciate over the years and may have different investment goals at different stages of your life.

The Career Strategy GroupHow did Laura end up in this magical space? It began when she was a human resource professional at a major corporation. HR people are called to their professions, much like teachers and ministers. They create their positive energy by helping others discover and reach their potential. One day, she found herself having to do the exact opposite when she was tasked with executing a downsizing event. The company had hired an outplacement firm to help point those affected in productive directions. Laura saw people leaving her desk emotionally shattered. But they seemed to come out of the room where the outplacement team was with smiles on their faces.

Thus began Laura’s journey, chasing happiness. She built her career coaching practice slowly, carefully and well, ultimately placing it in proper perspective alongside her role as a wife and mother. Unless it’s an emergency, don’t call her after 3:30 in the afternoon or before 9:00 at night. That’s when the kids are at home. And so is she.

Laura found her professional happiness by deliberately thinking about the dimensions of work and life that were most important to her. It turned out that there wasn’t a corporate job that checked enough of those boxes. So she invented a job that fit her requirements.

Sometimes the ideal gig you seek does not currently exist. So you’ll have to create it.

I juxtapose that with another encounter I recently had with someone who is about to be laid off. For a variety of reasons, finding traditional employment in their chosen field is problematic. But as we discussed some creative alternatives, it became clear to me that this person was not motivated to think outside the box.

As you ponder these tales as two ends of the professional continuum, where would you place your personal brand right now? If you’re not happy with your current situation, what are you doing to change it?

And what’s keeping you from dreaming big?

Dick BealsI just finished re-reading one of my favorite autobiographies. It’s the story of Dick Beals, an MSU Spartan who helped invent the cartoon voice-over business at a time when demand for that skill set was spawning classics like the Flintstones and the Jetsons. Dick was blessed with a condition that prevented his body from going through puberty. He was 4’7″, with the intellect of a college graduate and the perpetual voice of a child. He leveraged that into a rewarding career, that included years as the voice of Speedy Alka Seltzer. Talk with Dick and you would instantly notice that he never looked at his situation as a handicap. He leveraged his unique gifts, which included tenacity, creativity and a knack for selling, into roles as a the CEO of his own advertising agency, an elected official, a private pilot and, ultimately a philanthropist.

Think Big by Dick BealsThe title of his autobiography? “Think Big”.

Why not consider following in the footsteps of giants like Laura Labovich and Dick Beals? What are your unique gifts? And how can you channel them into a profession that touches that part of your heart where happiness lives?

Here’s how to begin. Follow Scott’s “10% Rule”. If you are not where you want to be in your career, relationships or lifestyle, spend ten percent of every day, seven days a week, doing something to point you in that direction. That involves investing about an hour and twenty minutes each day defining and chasing happiness.

Scott’s 10% Rule: If you are not where you want to be in your career, relationships or lifestyle, spend ten percent of every day, seven days a week, doing something to point you in that direction.

Every achievement is the direct result of focusing energy toward positive outcomes. If you don’t exercise the muscles that can take you in the direction of your dreams, they will atrophy. And you’ll find yourself stuck in an uncomfortable current reality with little hope for changing anything.

Are you living the life you want? What should you be doing to ensure that your portfolio is both protected from loss and positioned for growth?

Are you in an unhappy situation? Every mutual fund is made up of stocks that began as investments. What are you willing to invest to change your life for the better?

There’s a corner in each of our brains that loves the status quo, no matter how bad that status quo may be. This is what Seth Godin calls “Resistance”.

The biggest deterrent to making our dreams come true is sometimes defined as “fear”. Seth Godin has a better word for it. “Resistence“. There’s a corner in each of our brains that loves the status quo, no matter how bad that status quo may be. It whispers self defeating messages to your subconscious and makes long lists of why things won’t work. Resistance is nothing more than a wild animal in need of obedience school. It’s possible to keep it in it’s crate. You’ll always hear it barking, but you don’t have to let it bite you.

Think about what life could be like if all your dreams could come true. And understand that the only difference between you and the happiest people on earth is this: Happy people decided to feel that way and focused their energies on manifesting it in every dimension of their lives.

Life is all about choices. And happiness is a feeling we can choose to manifest.

What’s stopping you from Chasing Happiness? What are the messages that Resistance is whispering in your ear? Are you willing to tame the beast and start removing the obstacles that stand between you and your dreams?

Our world has more than its share of unhappy people. But it is also filled with extraordinary spirits who decided to take their future into their own two hands.

Why not you? Why not now?

An Open Letter to Blake O’Neill

By Scott Westerman
Dear Blake,

Take it from a Spartan who has known his share of heartbreak.

It’s not all your fault.

It’s not your fault that the offense put you in a 4th and 2 position with seconds left on the clock. Punters only have to go to work when the offense can’t get the job done.

It’s not your fault that you were up against perhaps the most motivated defensive line you’ve seen all season. It’s not your fault that our offense over delivered in just about every key statistic and kept the game within reach.

It’s not your fault that your best tackler was thrown out of the game on a questionable call.

It’s not your fault that your coach put two guys wide when only one Spartan was out there, that two of your linemen gave half-hearted bump-and-runs instead of staying focused on the attackers.

It’s not your fault that it was effectively 10 of us against 8 of you.

It’s not your fault that you got a low snap or that two of our guys hit you before you could execute the kick.

It’s not your fault that we had five blockers against only two defenders when Jalen scored the decisive touchdown.

During any football game a thousand different decisions are made, any one of which can dramatically impact the outcome. You had the misfortune of being part of only one of those decisions, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

This does not change the fact that you are a gifted athlete. This doesn’t change the fact you still average 44 yards per kick, including that beautiful 80 blast during the game.

Most importantly (and having survived to become a graduate student) you know that this doesn’t change the fact that you are a valuable human being.

Those who criticize you, did not have to face down the situation that others created for you.

Your fellow Wolverine, Will Hagerup, put this into perspective for us. “You just saw first hand that punting is really hard. I challenge anyone to go catch a snap in 30 degree weather with 100,000 people watching. He had a terrific game and put our defense in great field position multiple times.”

When I talked with our star punter, Mike Sadler, this morning, he admitted that he’s made his share of mistakes. “Michigan would not have been in the position to win the game at the end if Blake hadn’t been a game changer up until that point.”

And my good friend,Terry Denbow, a Spartan who has witnessed many Michigan State ups and downs wrote, “Anyone who blames the punter.. better be prepared to say, ‘Of course, in my life, on my job, in my relationships I never have dropped the ball.’”

Those who criticize you most likely could never do what you do and would not have the fortitude to ever attempt it. You will learn from this experience and will be better for it.

In my book, you have all the character I look for in a Spartan. You’ve worked hard to become exceptional both on the field and in the classroom. You are a team player who has made important contributions to the team’s success. You have played a crucial role in one of the most amazing program turnarounds in history. You have known both acclaim and heartbreak with a visceral understanding of General Patton’s famous maxim that, “all glory is fleeting.” And my guess is that you know that it’s not how many times you get knocked down that define you. It’s how many times you can get back up.

I would be proud to have you on our team.

Scott Westerman
East Lansing, Michigan


Postscript: Thanks to everyone who made a contribution to Alex’s Great State Race. This great new collaborative tradition brought out the best in both Spartans and Wolverines, while providing crucial financial support to both of our Resource Centers for Persons With Disabilities. Alex’s legacy is living proof that our two institutions are strongest, when we work together.

Alex's Great State Race Begins

Alex’s Great State Race Begins

This morning at 3:30 AM as Alex’s Great State Race got underway.

30 minutes later, Spartan Marching Band members guarding the Spartan Statue were attacked by vandals with balloons filled with blue paint.

More vandalism this morning at the Spartan Statue

More vandalism this morning at the Spartan Statue

As misguided Michigan fans try to be destructive, help me show how Spartans Will be constructive.

If you haven’t already done so, please consider a gift to the MSU Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities during our Great State Race competition with UM.

Let’s demonstrate how “Spartans teams will always win” on the high road.

Turning Vandalism into Magic

RetaliateBy now, most Spartans know that vandals defaced the statue of Earvin “Magic” Johnson outside of the Breslin Center on Wednesday night. The picture has gone viral, often juxtaposed with an unfortunate green and white defacing of the Block M on Michigan’s Diag in Ann Arbor.

True Spartans and Wolverines don’t destroy. We create. So we put our heads together to turn a negative situation into Magic. Last year, Michigan State and the University of Michigan inaugurated a new tradition, “Alex’s Great State Race“. It’s a 64 mile running of the game ball from the away team’s stadium to the home team’s stadium. The task is achieved by a group of Army ROTC cadets from both schools to benefit our Resource Centers for Persons With Disabilities. (more…)

Living in The Now

By Scott Westerman
It’s easy to peer into the unknown and worry, to look in the rearview mirror and regret.

We can become paralyzed if we imagine some inevitable future pain we must endure, fearing that traumatic scars, real or imagined will damage us beyond recognition. We sometimes choose to give up on a dream, rather than risk the heartbreak inherent in the inevitable failures that show us the way to making them come true.

How can some people find seemingly unending reserves of energy and courage to try again and again, even as an objective mind tries to convince a subjective heart to give up?

The Swiss Psychiatrist, Carl Jung, challenges us to remember, “I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become.”

Those choices can make all the difference. (more…)

In Praise of Marc Conlin

Once upon a time, there were 6 campus radio stations at Michigan State. Between 1968 and 1985, “The Michigan State Network” was under the care and guidance of Marc Conlin. We’re honoring Marc this weekend at homecoming which inspired me to dig up this piece I wrote about him 14 years ago.


Marc Conlin with Gary Reid in 2001

Marc Conlin with Gary Reid in 2001

Marc Conlin, who guided student radio at Michigan State from 1968 to 1985 was honored with the Founders Award at the 2001 Radio Reunion held during Homecoming, October 13. Conlin, who earned an Electrical Engineering degree and an MBA from MSU, began his campus radio career as a swing announcer at WBRS. “I was one of those guys who would show up on the spur of the moment when somebody needed to fill a shift,” he remembered.

Conlin became the third network general manager and served the longest, guiding the expansion of the Michigan State Network to a peak of six stations. But perhaps his greatest contribution was initiating the license proceedings that ultimately lead to the creation of WDBM, Impact 89. (more…)

Previous Posts