If you have kept score you might have noticed we missed a pair of blogs here at 2020 Vision Quest’s “On The Path” outreach to our community. If you are wondering who is responsible for such things, look no further than me as that’s one of my duties. I’m a little disappointed but I have to tell you the “To Do” list piled up a little more than normal and I had to make some decisions in the priority. Today I get to share both my response to the feeling of being overwhelmed and some of the rather fantastic reasons behind it all.
I do not always respond ideally to feeling like I’m on the edge. This rather fun photo from the United Way “United Over the Edge” event last June highlights one positive response to a physical moment. In life moments I feel the stresses and pressure of a schedule occasionally a bit out of control. For me a list and a priority plan are quality tools but the best tool of all is to share how I’m feeling to inspire a little collaboration on the plan for managing. Essential in that process is to understand frustration leads faster to failure and curiosity creates calm. The quicker I convert frustration to curiosity, the quicker I’m on the path to resolution.
As for what has been building the backlog, I won’t be able to share everything but a few very worthy highlights:
Schools are at the heart of our mission and we are back at schools presenting with reviews already suggesting we are on the right path!
Did I mention we have this enormous book launch incredibly close to happening? You might even expect the big news in next week’s blog on official dates, blurbs and more!
Our 2020 Vision Quest website has been in the midst of a massive redesign and will launch on Wednesday of this week! We are excited to share the many aspects of it we feel will allow it to help us further our mission.
Most of you know I dislocated my ankle badly last November and ultimately dashed my National Marathon Championship hopes. I’m hard at work training to be ready for the December 2 return with Rodney Andre guiding me to the best performance I can provide.
Finally, we are less than 48 days away from our 9th Annual Peak Potential Event. While we are sold-out (Thank you!) and have tremendous sponsorship support, we are still working on the Auction details and ensuring it’s an event worthy of all those who put their trust in us for that very goal!
I hope you’ll forgive the two week hiatus and join us in celebrating the handful of exciting details above as well as the very big news coming next week.
“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” – Andrew Carnegie
So much of my life has benefitted from the incredible people with whom I have partnered along the path. In this book project, I’ve had partnerships aplenty. Even in the writing I was not alone as Tracy and I have been in this together, poring over every chapter, page, line and word to craft what we believe is a quality result. My friend Gene has been the editor — not just for the grammatical errors, of which there were many notable issues, but also for some excellent content guidance. My first and full test reader, Chris Woods, knows me well enough to share candidly even on some of the difficult topics: what works, what didn’t work, what needs more, and what needs to go away. Greg Neault has agreed to create the cover design for us and we are well on the way to finishing that process. Many more friends have had roles of encouragement and support bringing us to the effectively finished product of this book: See You at The Summit – My Journey From The Depths Of Loss To The Heights Of Achievement.
Now I’m asking for some of you to consider joining a new team with me. We are set to publish and have the process reasonably well in hand. I think most already know but for clarity, we are going to donate all of the proceeds at this point to 2020 Vision Quest and that increases our desire to help this be an excellent success.
We have chosen to manage all the promotion and events geared towards making this the best success possible. When do we reveal the cover and how? Where and when might I appear for book signings? How do we create the network of readers and enthusiasts who hopefully help us share a book we think has value to the world? This means I’ll need to convince you of its value as well and that’s no forgone conclusion on my part.
The more places we can think to reach out and connect to build excitement and connectivity for the book and its impending release, the better a success we may find for us and the 2020 Vision Quest charity. We believe the launch will officially happen on November 17 at our 9th Annual Peak Potential Dinner and Auction. This means I need to quickly get to work on all the best planning and approaches and it starts with this core team. Initially we need brainstorming and eventually we’ll need to be reaching out and contacting opportunities for signings, interviews and general promotion.
If you wish to help us on this big project, reach out to me with questions, comments or simply your suggestion you want to help and I’ll make a list. My intent is to communicate with an occasional conference call, some form of electronic connection such as an email list and very rarely, if ever, a live get-together. Some of us may meet at times if convenience encourages but people near and far may contribute and I’m eager to get started. My first outreach will happen on September 15 to the entire team at that point. We’ll have only two months until launch and so need every bit of that time.
So what do you think? Want to be part of this next team?
What is behind our educational presentations at schools throughout New England? We are told many times and in various ways that the most important part may be that inspired students and staff are often more motivated to believe in themselves, set goals, manage obstacles, face adversity, utilize problem solving, enhance perseverance, and many more positive methods of managing life as a result of our time together. This is no doubt part of why so many schools invite us to return regularly to speak with students year after year. It is also why we are inspired to give our best effort to connect with more students and schools.
But in order to accomplish this, we need your help.
We rely on those who are familiar with our presentations to share the opportunity with teachers, administrators, PTA organizations, or simply anyone connected with the process by which a school might consider bringing us to visit. We are launching a new website very soon but the links will remain constant and the basic process is well defined such that simply sharing the link with a word of encouragement might be all it takes to provide the opportunity. We suggest our For Educators page.
Sharing our site accomplishes a significant part of the need in helping more people become aware of the opportunity we provide. A second and equally important need involves the many volunteers who help Autumn and me arrive at our destination for these presentations.
We keep a private Facebook page for 2020 Vision Quest Volunteers in which I post each opportunity and allow the approved drivers to choose if they are available. I would welcome as many of you as are able to consider joining the group to enhance the possibility of those rides being available to make the school visits possible.
There are many people who have kindly put themselves on the list, but with so many visits throughout the year, we are often in need of more volunteers to manage the diverse timing and locations of these opportunities. I also keep a (presently short) list of email contacts in the event the one post to our Facebook list fails. It is worth mentioning my friend Rick Pereira has chosen to be a fail-safe plan and thus has accompanied me to more school presentations than anyone else through the years. Without his invaluable service, our ability to deliver our presentations would be significantly more challenged.
There are several people who have been tremendously supportive in this fashion and if you are unable to join the Facebook group but would be willing to join my list for emergency outreach, please drop me an email and let me know how I might reach out to you in such a situation.
Ultimately, we are confident in the benefit of our presentations and will continue to strive to ensure we provide a positive enhancement to the students and schools as we have done since our inception. As we work towards our peak potential in helping more, we always celebrate the value of team–Together Everyone Achieves More. With your help, we can powerfully realize that and work towards an excellent year ahead. I hope you’ll join us in some fashion, including helping us boost the signal by sharing this post as widely as possible.
Are you missing out on Tracy, Autumn and my trip to Scotland presently? We are delighting in our vacation at the moment, so to make amends we want to invite you to join us for an exciting opportunity. On September 14 we intend to attend the showing of the “dogumentary” “Pick of the Litter” at the Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge, MA.
It is easy to marvel and appreciate the incredible work done by all of my Guide dogs from Ostend to Quinn to Ms. Autumn. Many times I’ve been asked for more insight into just how this is all possible and now you can get a look into the process like never before. 2020 Vision Quest is proud to support Guide Dogs for the Blind, as they lent a paw to the process of this film we want to share with you.
So save the date and come join us on September 14!
Below you can see the recent press release about this from Guide Dogs for the Blind:
After several years in the making, we are excited to announce that Guide Dogs for the Blind is the subject of an award-winning, feature-length documentary that is coming to theaters across the country at the end of August. The film, titled “Pick of the Litter,” follows a litter of GDB puppies on their journey to becoming guide dogs. The filmmakers, Dana Nachman and Don Hardy, received unprecedented access to raisers, staff, and clients in order to create this look at our life-changing mission. We hope you’ll go check it out!
I love synergy: the working together of two things to produce an effect greater than the sum of their individual effects. On August 26 at 10:00 a.m., I will participate for the Future In Sight Knights as we take on the NH Fishercats in a competitive game of Beep Baseball at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium! Our game will be a warm-up for the Fishercats who will later host the Binghamton Rumble Ponies at 1:30, but you can join us for our game, lunch, and their game as part of a fantastic Sunday Summer extravaganza!
What is Beep Baseball and how will our blind/visually impaired team possibly have a chance against this professional baseball team? No, we won’t be using our Guide dogs as secret weapons–though Autumn did love her meeting with Fungo, the mascot for the Fishercats who have partnered up with Future in Sight to help us accomplish several worthy goals in support of each other.
My teammates and I all derived significant skills and support from Future In Sight, including an emphasis on “Ability Awareness.” The notion we can achieve with a little creative problem solving is at the heart of the training and services provided by Future In Sight as they help ensure people experiencing low or no vision can participate in the life enriching activities we all deserve–and this Beep Baseball game is a great opportunity to showcase it at a very high level as we take on professional athletes in this grand event!
I first played Beep Baseball for the “Lowell Lightning” back in 2002 and 2003. It’s baseball, or more closely softball, with a few different twists. The ball has an electronic beeper within it so it makes a noise that a batter or fielder can hear and use to react accordingly. All participants will be wearing full blindfolds so that everyone will be on the same sight level as me, no light perception, total blindness. The one exception to this is the pitcher is sighted and is on the same team as the batting team, trying to make the pitches easier to hit rather than more difficult.
When the ball is hit, there are only two base options, effectively first and third base. As soon as the hit is made one of the two bases will being beeping and the batter must hear which one and run towards that base. The object is to reach that base before the defensive team in the field is able to get control of the ball. If the runner reaches the base first then it is a run. If the fielder gets control of the ball in their hand first, the runner is out. This prevents blind runners in the field of play with blind fielders, a recipe for collisions!
There are typically sighted coaches in the field who are allowed to make simple number calls to help the fielders decide who will field or back-up an incoming hit but otherwise it is solely managed by the sound. Based on the speed of the ball, a fielder will typically get themselves in front of it and lay across the path to halt it and wrap around it as quickly as possible. Knowing whether to charge towards a slower ball, back up for a quicker ball just get down in the right place is the largest challenge to fielding.
There are many tips and tricks I hope to keep for my teammates as we face this professional team, but what is our edge over these talented athletes? Most of us are familiar with very low or no sight and should make some of the sound based adjustments fairly well. For the Fishercats it will be an untypical experience for them to switch to an entirely audible world. Do they have the advantage? I expect their swings to be smooth and strong, their pitching precise and their coordination excellent. This makes us the obvious and easy underdogs, but Autumn knows we like to achieve the unexpected.
I hope you’ll come out and watch a historic game, a fun game, and get a whole new perspective on baseball, ability awareness and the benefits of organizations coming together to make a difference: synergy!
Strengths, Leadership and Resilience: Meet Randy Pierce, President and Founder, 2020 Vision Quest
Randy Pierce is an impactful keynote speaker and accomplished athlete who founded and manages a successful nonprofit organization. He runs marathons, has hiked all the 4000+ feet peaks in the New Hampshire White Mountains and has been known to participate in extreme sporting events like Tough Mudder. And he is completely blind.
Randy’s top five talent themes are Responsibility, Woo, Connectedness, Includer and Restorative.
Randy, thank you for sharing your strengths with us today! To get us started, tell us about your work and your organization.
I am the president of 2020 Vision Quest. Our goal is to inspire people to reach beyond adversity and discover all they CAN do. I lead by example and share my experiences to motivate and inspire others. I speak regularly at schools, corporations, and everything in between – from large industry conferences to small scout troops. The money raised supports two non-profit organizations:Future in Sight and the internationally renowned Guide Dogs for the Blind. In the eight years since inception we have given over a quarter of a million to charities. So far this year we have raised over $90,000.
What was your first reaction to your strengths report?
I felt like my top-five really fit and I relate to all of them. I was entirely unsurprised by the order and by what was included. The Strengths Insight Report absolutely surprised me for its uncanny accuracy. This played an important role for me, because the tool really earned my confidence. As a result, I was motivated to think deeply about my results and give good consideration to the impact of my strengths.
Which of your strengths do you relate to most strongly?
Responsibility and Includer are the themes that stand out most strongly to me. Woo is also a big part of me, and I am comfortable with it, but it did sound a bit like a snake oil salesman at first. Restorative defines how I adapt to challenges and Connectedness fits because I am very aware of how one person’s actions can have great impact on another’s experience.
During my life I have been fortunate enough to benefit from a process that allowed me to have significant regrowth, and I feel such appreciation. My Responsibility motivates me to propagate that experience and help others. I felt powerless and helpless when I went blind. I was able to shift that with guidance and direction from others. I know how hard that can be and I am compelled to help others.
The very first 4,000+ feet climb I did with my guide dog was Mt. Hale. This mountain was named after The Reverend Edward Hale who famously said, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” This has been great inspiration to me. I cannot do everything, but I am going to do my part. What CAN I do? What tools do I have to help me? My Responsibility drives me to do that which I can do.
I know firsthand that one of the best ways to feel better is to help others (Includer, Connectedness). I still have days when I feel bad, but helping others is part of how I manage my own life and feelings. It is altruism? Is it self-servicing? It is both. You can choose what you do and how you do it. This reminds me of a powerful life moment that ultimately helped me lean into my Responsibility more.
That sounds interesting. Are you willing to share it with us?
Absolutely. In May 1989 I was nearly 22 and I started to lose my eyesight. It was unexpected, and it happened quickly. When I was admitted to the hospital, I had a can-do kind of attitude. Just tell me what we need to do to deal with this and I will do it (Restorative). I easily made friends with the nursing staff (Includer, Connectedness, Woo). It soon became clear that there were no easy answers and that there was no path to restoring my vision. In my mind, success was not possible, and I just quit trying.
One of my nurses got a day pass and took me on her sailboat. She had an honest talk with me. She said I arrived at the hospital fun loving, gregarious and upbeat, and that it was easy for the nurses to work with me and do everything they could to help. She said that I had disconnected and closed them all out, but they were still going to help me. She wondered aloud if other people in my life were going to feel the same way if they met this new version of myself. She feared that others might step away from me, not go towards me, and she asked if I could make my way back to the person I was.
I’m sad to say I was annoyed with her at first, but I thought a lot about it. I wanted to change my behavior, but it was hard. We can logically know something, but our emotions are still there, right? In the hospital I got better with the nurses, but I stayed distant with friends, getting off the phone quickly when they called. I couldn’t do anything fun, so why would anyone want to be around me? My family was too far away to visit. My girlfriend was overwhelmed and didn’t take my calls. I was isolated, bitter and angry. I knew I had to go through the stages of loss, but what could help me get headed in the right direction? How could I get out of this?
Things slowly got better when I got home. I started reaching out and sharing my truth, opening up and making connections. And by doing this, I started to help other people. My Responsibility grew from that. I am not even sure Responsibility would have been in my top five prior to this experience. But now whenever people lean on me, it grows. It combines with my Includer and Connectedness, and okay, Woo, to drive me to do more for others.
Woo stands for Winning Others Over and you said you didn’t love it at first because it sounded a bit like a snake oil salesman to you. How do you use your Woo?
I don’t intentionally try to influence people or win them over. That is not my objective, but I am aware that I do influence people. I want to relate to people and share my stories and experiences. I want them to take what matters to them and works for them or is helpful. I don’t approach my public speaking with, “here are the answers, here you go.” The reality is that my influence does exist, and I can tell from experience that it comes through to others in how I address a crowd, how I tackle challenges and how I live my life. I want it to be present and visible for others to choose to be influenced by – or not. That is how I put it out there.
Do you think your blindness has caused you to rely on some strengths more than others?
Complete blindness takes away all sight, and with that goes 80% of the way a typical person interacts with the world. All my skills of people interaction had to go up. One of the best things that blindness did for me is that it gave me a really good dose of humility. I was fresh out of school, had a great job as a hardware design engineer and had lots of things going my way. I hope I wasn’t arrogant, but I was closer to overconfident than humble. Losing my sight gave me perspective on the ease in which our world can change and our challenges can become different than we think. From this point forward, I had greater compassion for what others might be experiencing. I began to look through other people’s eyes, literally and figuratively, after that moment.
How has blindness changed or impacted your strengths – as you perceive them? Do you ever wonder if your themes were the same before and after losing your sight?
Yes, I do wonder. There is no way for me to go back and take the assessment, but I suspect it would change because being blind has changed my brain. Parts that did sight processing now do language processing. I visualize everything internally with no external mnemonics. In my mind, people are feelings and attributes more than anything physical. Helen Keller, who was incredible, says the most beautiful things in the world we see with our hearts, not our eyes. I try to look at things this way too, though I still enjoy having someone describe a sunset to me.
I don’t get to look at facial expressions, but my strengths give me candor! I will ask you anything, and I will do so with respect. If there is something I need to know, I will just ask. With my Connectedness and Woo, I can’t imagine not asking.
How have your strengths helped you in your role as the President and Founder of 2020 Vision Quest?
I have a great team of people who work with me, and I do a lot of the work myself too. My wife, Tracy, manages the finances, and I have staff and a board. With my Responsibility, I don’t let things slide. Connectedness and Includer keep me reaching out and building relationships. Woo is so important for all the public speaking and it helps me be comfortable sharing about myself and my accomplishments. Restorative comes into play when there are challenges. I am ready to solve problems and keep things moving forward.
How do your strengths help you in your role as a keynote speaker?
When I step in front of a group to speak, in most situations I am the first blind person many people will encounter. I just assume people are going to be uncomfortable with me. In order to establish an effective learning environment, I need to put others at ease and in a very real way, win them over (Woo). I can’t see faces and body language, so I rely on sound to collect information about the audience. I listen to get a sense of the baseline of room from a distraction sense. When people are not attentive they shuffle, so I listen for that. I tell a few jokes and pay attention to what their laughs sound like. Different types of laughs can tell you things about the comfort level in a room.Most importantly I note the change in these laughs as we progress, so I can measure the impact I’m having on their comfort and engagement.
I use my Restorative in these moments too. I need to know where the audience is, or I might rotate a little and no longer be facing them. I develop ways of orienting myself. I am not always at a podium, which can set you apart from the audience. If there is a stage behind me, I might orient by tapping my heel
When I am at schools I make things as interactive as possible (Includer, Connectedness). I ask questions like, “What do you think a person who is blind might not be able to do?” This gets the students thinking and talking, which helps me achieve the all-important engagement of the students.
Your specific physical affliction could cause more difficulty for you at any time. How do you stay in the moment? Do you ever worry about your health?
Yes, I have an ongoing rare neurological disorder called chronic demyelinating polyneuropathy, which causes nerve damage. It can attack any part of the nervous system. There is no telling if or when the disease will progress nor what part of the body it might impact. There is no comfort in not knowing. My mindset is that I don’t like it, but I can’t immediately affect it. I have to avoid hypochondriac feelings. The disorder could affect any part of your system, so you don’t know what to look for. It could be intensely frustrating.
Do any of your top five strengths themes help you stay in the moment?
There is a higher chance of a car accident than my neurological condition being my end, but I am not irresponsible about either of these things (Responsibility). There are plenty of good times and good experiences ahead, but I have already won. I choose to not live with the shadow of affliction darkening out present and future possibilities. This mindset has already let me have wonderful experiences and much success. To me this is demonstrable proof that I am taking the right approach. When I have a set-back, I am frustrated in the moment, but I find the new baseline and build from there (Restorative). And I have had incredible rewards from doing this. I am living life to the fullest.
People always say when you are faced with adversity, you choose how you react. I like to take it a step further. WHAT we choose to do, the specific choice we make, will have a bigger impact on our life than our adversity. My choice of following all my dreams, hiking, founding a company, giving presentations, these are what impact my life – not my blindness, not my neurological disfunction. The specific choices I make impact my life and this is how I view it.
I am 6’4’’ tall, have gray hair, and am blind, but the strengths at the top of my list have a phenomenally larger impact on my life than my height or sight. My choices, which involve continuing to use my strengths, are what defines my life and leads me to my success.
For more information on 2020 Vision Quest and Randy Pierce, visit 2020visionquest.org. Stay tuned for Randy’s upcoming book, which will be published later this year.
On Saturday, June 2, in Concord, NH we’ll all gather for a short 3k (1.8 miles) stroll together for the Walk for Sight.
If you join us, you can see some of the amazing work of Autumn guiding me, many other guide dogs and cane users, and several hundred supporters helping us raise awareness and funds for the more than 30,000 people we hope to provide training and service at Future In Sight. We’ll finish the walk and have lunch together, and somewhere in there our 2020 Vision Quest team will present will also present a check for nearly $30,000 raised through our tremendous community of support throughout the year.
We fund raise through three main methods: our Peak Potential Dinner in November, this walk, and my corporate presentations. This walk is a low cost way to join in, literally, or by a donation to one of our team members (pick me!), but time is running out so please consider making the choice today!
Less than a month to the event and our team has been growing slowly so we hope to make this push for a full team and for all our walkers to hopefully hit their fund raising goals.
“Like a Potter turns his clay, help us shape a better day” –Ray Conniff
Future in Sight has been promoting an assortment of activities intended to enrich the lives of the clients they serve. One opportunity caught my attention as something I had always wished to try. I almost let the opportunity slide past which would have been regrettable on many levels. Fortunately a second nudge exposed me to a wonderful afternoon experience and one which inspires me to plan a visit with friends for a follow up crafting session.
More than 20 sight-impaired adults arrived bristling with eager anticipation to Future In Sight to meet with our guide, Ahmad Qadri. He had provided an incredibly successful youth experience previously and his blend of history, crafting, teaching and experience soon had us transforming our egg of clay into an assortment of different cups and bowls.
It was no small chore to work with so many; his patient and encouraging manner kept us all working forward with insight into his passionate approach to pottery. We had the chance to feel the broad assortment of tools and to apply several of them to the shaping and decoration of our devices in our all too brief time together. Although we didn’t fire our craftings into a permanent keepsake, he did offer to have this done at his studio: Rainmaker Pottery.
He did, however, provide us the fantastic opportunity to work on an actual pottery wheel. At the speed of the wheel’s turning, our clay would change so much more dramatically with the most subtle of pressures from a thumb, finger or tool. We didn’t all have time to craft on the wheel in this introductory lesson but we could place our hands upon the bowl and feel the transformation as he described the subtle move he planned. It is so easy to shape our pottery and so easy to shape our lives a little better with the right guidance!
My takeaway involved the excellent reminder to choose involvement and participation as often as possible. As someone working to support and promote the excellent work (and needs) of Future In Sight, I had almost forgotten to appreciate the value they can provide to my life as a person who is blind, still learning and exploring opportunity in our world.
Thank you to Future in Sight, Rainmaker Pottery, and Ahmad Qadri specifically.
The original announcement from Future In Sight:
Hand building and pottery wheel workshop Wednesday, April 4
Future In Sight
25 Walker St., Concord, NH
“Participants will have the opportunity to try both methods of Hand building and a pottery wheel to explore their creative imagination through this tactile experience. Ahmad Qadri teaches at an international camp in Windsor, NH. He is also on the New Hampshire art council teaching roster. He has over 30 years of pottery experience to bring to this event.”
“The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
On Saturday, June 2, 2018, I will celebrate walking at the 15th Annual Walk for Sight at 25 Walker Street, Concord, NH which is the home of Future In Sight. I will celebrate the thousands of lives uplifted by their life-changing training, services, and support — including my own!
What I hope to celebrate even more is the many people who will gather to walk the 3-kilometer route or otherwise support our ability to ensure thousands more in need will have the same opportunity. We can raise awareness, funds, and community connections by joining together to enjoy the late morning and early afternoon.
We have had so many commitments and activities for ourselves and our many friends that it has been more challenging to sustain our commitment to this wonderful event for the incredible 15 years. Yet the need persists and the organization’s commitment to improve it each year while elevating the incredible work they achieve has enhanced their worthiness for our efforts.
So Autumn and I implore you to consider joining our team and using the new website to help reach out for donations to support the 2020 Vision Quest effort as well as Future In Sight. We will be splitting our fundraising in a 50/50 program, assuming we meet our minimum fundraising requirements of $1,000 as a team. We have managed this each year since the program began and I can tell you that Autumn and I have made that amount our personal goal. If you cannot join our team — which is our absolute first preference — then please consider making a donation to our effort.
The earlier you make the choice to join the team, the easier it will be to hopefully help raise a few sponsorships for your walking or general donations of support. So please consider one of my personal quotations: procrastinate procrastination! Join us today and we’ll keep you informed of all the ways we hope to keep the event and our team growing together towards our goals!
Almost everyone I knew and never knew was eager to give me encouragement and congratulations, excited and enthused for my unusual experience as not only the Patriot Fan of the Year but unimaginably announced as a selection for the Ultimate Fan with a plaque to be placed in the Pro-Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. For me, the much supported excitement was entirely focused upon the upcoming Super Bowl competition between the St. Louis Rams (“The Greatest Show on Turf”) and “my” New England Patriots.
I’d recently had a fun on-air radio interview with Emmitt Smith of the Dallas Cowboys who, while congratulating me and my team, hoped I was content because we unfortunately had no chance in the game. It is with that perspective I always hope to readily find the appropriate respect and humility to appreciate accomplishment without ever denigrating a challenge. It is also where I put my experiential philosophies to the debate as we went point for point on why I thought there was always reason for hope with a plan and the determination to back it up. Why I felt that teamwork raised the group beyond the individual limitations when managed effectively.
I still recall his final dismissal: “You are a great fan and I respect that, but I’m an NFL player and I think I’ve got a little more credibility — Rams will win.” Undaunted by his unquestioned talent and great humor throughout our work I responded: “Emmitt, I’m already in the Hall of Fame and you still have to wait five years so maybe I have the credibility edge and I still say my team has a chance in this game!” He laughed himself off his chair, conceded the jab if not the game, and we shook hands in appreciation of a fun interview and time well spent.
While the eventual Patriot victory served my point rather well that day, the real points for me are methods of approaching life. There is always possibility if you are willing to problem solve and persevere. It is always reasonable to maintain an appropriate respect for opposition and humility for our own abilities both to succeed or stumble.
I have long loved the sport of football and specifically my New England Patriots. I love the blend of strategy with a myriad and diverse style of athleticism into a team oriented effort. I love the social interactions which are readily encouraged by the stop action nature of the sport as personnel shifts and formations allow for strategy discussion before the flurry of action. I spent decades attending every home game and wearing my fanaticism plainly with the reward of so many moments of friendship and fun along the way.
Football has played many roles in my life and some of those were captured wonderfully in the Sports Emmy Award Nominated Episode of HBO “Inside the NFL Fanlife” which featured my friends and me in a worthy 11 minute video that I encourage you to watch for what it shares well beyond football:
I still love my team today and will be hoping and rooting for their win on February 4, 2018. I know they have been winning at levels so far beyond what I could have ever expected and more than any fan surely deserves. I truly wish the positive fans of every team could understand and experience some of the great rewards I believe my team has brought to me. Of course I want my team to continue to strive for excellence and to win. I candidly miss the long gone days when so many were eager to be positive and encouraging for me and my team as well. The reality is that resentment for our team has grown for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons may be deserved, many are less so.
I too feel concern for how the NFL manages player safety, domestic violence, and a monetary foundation which seems to have lost more focus than I find comfortable. I watch the opportunities for real and positive change to come along and advocate for it in the ways I am best able. Much as I did with Emmitt so long ago, I believe it’s possible and for now continue to enjoy how fortunate I am to enjoy a remarkable team on an incredible run. I recall some of the lessons I learned from this team and how, with a little thought, they might apply to life and hope for those positive aspects to find their way to the forefront again.
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