This Guy Won’t Go Broke

If you made $3.7 million last year, would you work at Finish Line??

Many people would answer no, but Baltimore Ravens safety Matt Elam is not like many people.

Elam, a former first round pick is spending his off season preparing for a future outside of football. Not only is he a potential NFL all-star safety, but he is also a future all-star in the business world.

Check out this awesome story that discusses that Elam has a dream of owning his own sports merchandise store and how he is putting in the work to learn that field now.  By working at Finish Line he is looking into the future and learning as much as he can now so that when the time comes to start his own store, he will be ready.

“I just need to get retail knowledge,” Elam told the Baltimore Raven’s website. “That’s basically what I’m doing. I’m getting that knowledge for when it’s time.”

In a sport that sees 78% of its players go broke less that 5 years out of the league, Elam is setting himself up to be a part of the 22% that doesn’t see financial ruin.

No, the $8 per hour (or whatever he makes at Finish Line) will not keep him off the broke list, but the experience he is gaining now certainly will.

Elam is a great example of putting in time to work on your dream, even when you aren’t able to go full time.  We can all learn from this.

“I know you can’t do football forever. I’m going to use it to benefit me when I’m doing so that my kids won’t have to worry about this,” Elam said. “I take a lot of pride in that because I feel like a lot of kids are blind to this, and don’t have these opportunities, and don’t have the knowledge. I hope I can open a lot of their eyes.”

Next time we think it doesn’t make sense to spend our free time working towards our future dream, we need to think again. And think of Matt Elam.

Thankful For Lessons

In the past, I have written about situations when I have not been at my best. Times when I have answered simple questions horribly wrong or acted like a dummy.

These times when I was not at my best led to many of the lessons I have learned throughout my life.

A lesson is defined as “something learned through experience.”

This could be something painful that we have all done, like learning the hard way that you shouldn’t touch a hot stove. Or it can be something embarrassing (that maybe only I have done), like learning that you shouldn’t force a girl try a wheatgrass shot on a first date.

The times that we are forced to learn lessons aren’t our finest moments but they are among the moments that will make us our finest.

Helen Keller put it best when she said, “Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”

The lessons that I learn always feel tough at the time, and sometimes I get burned (literally & figuratively), but I wouldn’t trade them for anything easier.

That is why, today, I am thankful for lessons.

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Why Is A Toilet Called A John?

Recently I was jogging by a park and I saw a company setting up for an outdoor event.

I couldn’t tell what the event was going to be, but I guessed it was a fair or competitive eating contest or something that would involve a ton of food judging by the dozens of portable toilets they were setting up.

I had never seen so many port-a-potties in my life. And they all had the name John on them.

That made me wonder…why is a toilet sometimes called a john?

John seems like a nice enough name. I don’t know why it always has to be associated with human waste.

According to a fun new site I found called, the name comes from Sir John Harrington.

Harrington devised Britain’s first flushing toilet, which he called the “Ajax”.

(Side note…Ajax sounds way cooler than toilet. If someone told me they were going to use the Ajax I would probably picture really dangerous place with lasers or ninjas or something. Maybe I am just thinking of Jax from Mortal Kombat.) says that “Harrington wasn’t the first to invent a flushing toilet (there are references to flushing toilets going all the way back to around 2600 BC), but his invention was an innovation in Britain at the time and it was commonly thought that he was the inventor of the flushing toilet, which is why it is thought the flushing toilet today is often also called a ‘John’.”

I wonder if Sir John Harrington would be proud or ashamed that his name is now synonymous with a toilet? I bet he would be much prouder if people knew him as the guy who invented the Ajax!

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Zoom Out

“The closer you look, the less you see.”

That line comes from Jesse Eisenberg’s character in the movie Now You See Me. Eisenberg, who plays a magician, says that line in regards to noticing a magic trick.

I think that line can also apply to our everyday lives.

We get so involved with our daily projects that we often miss the bigger picture. Especially when the unexpected happens.

One time, when I worked for a sports marketing company, I had a deadline fast approaching to submit a newspaper advertisement for a college basketball game we were running. I was up against the clock, but wanted to take care of every little detail to make the perfect ad. I made sure the font was just right and the images were spaced out, but not too spread out across the page.

Only problem is that I looked so closely at the ad that I made a critical error. I forgot to put the date of the game.

Any person off the street could have taken one look at this ad and realized that it was missing something. But I could not because I only zoomed in. I didn’t zoom out.

Bestselling author Jim Collins writes that we often have to zoom out from what we are doing so that we can see the whole picture.

He uses the example of a rock climber, who in the middle of a climb doesn’t know what holds are coming next. From the ground, the climber thinks he knows the sequence of good holds that will be needed to reach the top. But then the climber gets up on the side of the mountain, his forearms start to shake and all of a sudden he can’t find the next grip.

“At that moment,” Collins says, “our natural tendency is to zoom in. You start zooming in on that hold and try to grip it tighter and try to hang on to the holds you’ve got in your hands. What you have to do when you’re in that climb situation or an unexpected, duress situation and your heart rate is elevated and you’re scared, is to do the exact opposite of zooming in. You have to view the situation through a wide-angle lens: ‘What holds am I missing? What am I not seeing? How should I think about this?’ Once you’ve done that, then you come in and execute on the moves. If you do this, you’ll see you may have missed a big foothold or something that’s just off to the left.”

Collins has found that the best company leaders are really good at responding to the unexpected. When they are hit with something unexpected, they have the ability to zoom out to see the whole situation and then they can zoom in, refocusing their energies into executing objectives.

In Now You See Me, Eisenberg’s character says that the trick to explaining magic is not to look too closely. Rather it is to look so far that you see 20 years in the past.

In our lives we might not have to look 20 years into the past, but we can all benefit from zooming out.

Own it

At my first ever book reading I was asked a simple question. One so straightforward, I wasn’t prepared for it.

“Are you a local author?”

That is a fairly common question for a person to ask at a book reading, right?

Somehow I blew the answer.

I nervously laughed and sarcastically joked, “I am local, but I don’t know that I would call myself an author.”

The nice woman who asked the question didn’t laugh. This was clearly not what she wanted to hear. “Oh, umm, okay,” she said as she walked away probably thinking, “If this guy isn’t an author, why did I just sit and listen to him read a book for 15 minutes??”

Looking back on it, my response showed that I was being protective because I didn’t want to feel vulnerable. Given that I have only written one book, and it had only been out for days, I wasn’t feeling like a true author. And even more, I was afraid to claim to be an author because I felt people might consider me a fraud.

After all, authors are people like J.K Rowling & R.L. Stine who have written numerous books and sold millions of copies, right?

How am I like them? Beside the fact that I use my first name and not two initials, I haven’t written multiple books or sold millions of copies.

Sure, those folks are authors at the highest level, but I now realize something.

I wrote a book and that is what authors do.

If I could go back in time and redo the conversation from my first book reading what I would say now, is simply, “Yes.” I would explain that I grew up in the area, thus making me a local author.

That is what this woman wanted to hear. She was probably excited to talk to an author from her city and was disappointed by my response. Who knows, had I just said yes, she would have been happy and maybe even told her friends about my book. I could have gained a fan or two. I could have sold more books.

But more than that, I needed to just own it. I don’t know that I will ever feel like an author in the proper sense. But I know that I definitely won’t feel like one if I keep shying away from it.

Instead of making jokes that land with a thud, I need to own my achievement and be proud.

I wrote a book, so I am an author. I need to own it.

What do you need to own?

Are you a guitar player in a garage band who is afraid to call himself a musician?

Or maybe you make magnificent doodles in a sketch book but you are ashamed to refer to yourself as an artist.

Whatever your case may be, learn from my mistake.

Own your art and you will be amazed where it can take you!

World Thinking Day

Did you know that tomorrow is World Thinking Day?

Created by Girl Scouts, February 22nd has become a day in which to spend extra time thinking and pondering. (who knew that Girl Scouts created more than just tasty cookies??)

Each year, Thinking Day has a different theme. This year’s theme is “education opens doors for all girls and boys.”

I think that is a great theme. I encourage you all to spend some time dedicated to thought tomorrow. Think about all of the doors education has opened for you. Think about what you can do now that you have passed through those doors.

Or think about your favorite Girl Scout cookie. Think about whatever you want. Just think.

You can read more about World Thinking Day here.

(If you are wondering, today is Sticky Bun Day. Not as important as World Thinking Day, but still fun. Treat yourself to a sticky bun and load up on sugar so you will be ready for all of that thinking you are going to do tomorrow.)

What I have

In the past I have used Thankful Thursday posts to write about special events like the Super Bowl or the Olympics. I also have written about helpful items like microwaves & to-do lists.

For today I will keep it simple.

Today, I am thankful for what I have.

Now you may be saying, “of course you are thankful for what you have. How can you be thankful for what you don’t have.”

Too many times I catch myself thinking, “I wish I had this or I wish I had that.” I am always wanting more, sometimes at the expense of appreciating what I have.

It is okay to strive for more, but we all need to remember just how many good things we have. We want to have certain relationships, better looks, and more toys. But don’t forget that you may already have a great family, perfect health and plenty of fun things to keep you busy.

So today I am thankful for what I have and I will spend time reflecting on that instead of worrying about more.

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Why Don’t Figure Skaters Get Dizzy?

If you have been watching the winter Olympics, you’ve probably seen men’s or women’s figure skating. One of the most popular Olympic sports, figure skating is an impressive combination of grace and athleticism.

How they can jump and spin multiple times in the air is beyond me. I can’t even jump and spin like that when I’m on a trampoline. And my trampoline always rips when I try to do it wearing skates.

Watching highlights of the men’s skating competition, I started to wonder…how are they not dizzy? With all of the twirling, whirling and rotating, I get dizzy just watching. How are they able to spin that much and stay on their skates?

For our answer we turn to none other than two-time Olympic silver medalist Elvis Stojko.

Stojko explains in this video that one of the main reasons figure skaters don’t get dizzy is practice. Turns out that skaters do get dizzy when they are new to the sport, but their inner ear learns to get used to spinning after years of training.

I didn’t know this, but apparently all skaters have a dominant side. They either spin clockwise or counterclockwise. When they are just about finished with their spin, they spot with their eyes to find out where in relation they are to the arena. Doing this helps their eyes adjust when spinning and prevents them from getting dizzy.

So next time you are watching figure skating, spin a little and see if you are a clockwise or counterclockwise spinner. But don’t do it too long, you might get dizzy.

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The Survivor’s Creed

(If you are going through a tough time, the following creed might be exactly what you need. If life is great at the moment, then bookmark this page for when things seem to be spiraling out of control.)

The Survivor’s Creed

You’ll get through this.
It won’t be painless. It won’t be quick.
But God will use this mess for good.
Don’t be foolish or naive.
But don’t despair either.
With God’s help, you will get through this.

In his book, You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Timesauthor Max Lucado shares the Biblical story of Joseph and shows how God works through difficult circumstances to bring redemption and reconciliation.

Lucado writes that while we can’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel, it is important to know that it is there.

Lucado offers what he calls The Survivor’s Creed which he uses in his ministry and when he is counseling others.

I think that remembering this creed is an important thing to do in order to get through tough times. This may be extremely difficult when we are in the middle of our suffering, but it is during those times when we need it most.

If you like this creed, I would definitely recommend checking out Lucado’s book You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times which you can find here.

You Don’t Have To Be The Best At Everything To Be The Most Valuable

With the game on the line, U.S.A. men’s hockey coach Dan Bylsma knew exactly who he would turn to.

And it wasn’t his best player. It wasn’t even his 20th best player.

When three periods and overtime were not enough to determine the winner between U.S.A and Russia on Saturday, the Olympic game came down to a shootout. After three rounds of the shootout, the game was still all tied up.

Bylsma had his choice of any one of his players to take the ensuing shootout attempts. He chose T.J. Oshie. Not once, but six times.

Upon reading that you may assume that Oshie, a forward for the St. Louis Blues, is U.S.A’s best player. But that is not the case.

According to an ESPN story, Oshie was likely the last player chosen for the Olympic team. And the reason that he was chosen…he is great at shootouts.

He was picked for this exact circumstance. And Oshie delivered. U.S.A. defeated Russia thanks to Oshie’s 4 shootout goals.

Obviously Oshie is a great hockey player. He wouldn’t have made the Olympic team if he was not one of the best players in the world.

But he isn’t the perfect hockey player. Without knowing a ton about hockey, I think it is pretty safe to say that Oshie isn’t the team’s best skater or passer. He might not even be their best puck handler or scorer.

But when it comes to the skills that are required for a shootout (creativity, confidence & clutch-ness), Oshie appears to be unmatched.

That is a good reminder that we don’t have to be perfect or the best at everything to make an impact in our careers.

Within your organization, there may be 20 people who are superior or more experienced than you in certain areas. You might not be great at crunching numbers.  You might not have a creative bone in your body. You might be the last person picked to give a presentation.

But you might just be great at making a customer feel like they are the most important person in the world.

When the circumstance calls for customer service, then you become he most valuable person in the office.

Oshie didn’t have experience; this was his first Olympics.

Oshie wasn’t the best player; he was the team’s last pick.

But much like Liam Neeson, he has a very particular set of skills.  And these skills made him the best man for the job.

Crunching numbers might not make your go trending on Twitter (Oshie added 130,000 Twitter followers after the game) but it certainly could make you memorable around the office.

Quit trying to be perfect and spend more time developing your skill that makes you valuable.

In a given situation you too might just be the best man (or woman) for the job.