May You Find Your Nan

The time I have spent at Mayo Clinic has given me so much, but nothing will ever surpass the impact that the people have had on me.  By people I mean the people that I work with and the people that I have the opportunity to impact that come to Mayo Clinic looking for health and in some cases hope.

Out of all the people that have impacted me at Mayo Clinic, there was one person who I will always attribute for giving the work that I do the most meaning.  There is also one person that never missed an opportunity to remind me that it was the life outside of work that should and because of her always will have the most meaning to me.

I began working with Nan on a project in 2011, she was the lead for the project and I was one of the resources tapped from my division at Mayo Clinic to help her. She was probably the most intimidating person I have ever come across in my career.  She stood five foot something and weighed a hundred and something pounds and she had a southern accent and grit. Of course she would intimidate your father that stands 6’2″ and aspires to keep his weight under 300 pounds consistently and might be known for having a bit of untamed emotion.

Her intimidation came because she had such confidence about her and a way to influence discussions that those being influenced never knew that they were being influenced.  Not to mention that she was at a level at Mayo Clinic that very few will ever get to, but many aspire to do so.  Nan could you used her ability to influence and her position alone in many ways, but she chose what I saw as a singular focus.  Nan sought to make the lives of those around her better.

I will never forget my first one on one meeting with her.  It was middle to late 2012 and my primary efforts for her were to help her fill a position to support the efforts the project was intended to fulfill.  I had the lead working on the hiring effort with a partner in human resources. We had carefully screened a large pool of candidates and it came down to three people that I thought would have done a great job in the role.

The panel on the other hand which was led by Nan made the decision to not hire any of them. As a follow up to the meeting where that decision was made Nan asked me to schedule a meeting with her.  Normally I had always met with her with the person from human resources or a project manager, but she was very specific in wanting to meet with me by myself.

I had felt to some extent like I had failed her, that I had managed to waste her time and the time of the people on the panel and that the work that I was doing with her was about to come to an end.

The meeting with her was in the conference room next to her office and I was early to the meeting and sat in the conference room, nervous and sweating.  Nan came into the room and immediately mentioned how hot it was in the room which made me feel better and she even took off her jacket.  I would have done the same, but it would have been sure to reveal the pools of sweat that had accumulated on my shirt.

It was at that moment I noticed a port near her shoulder and as she sat down at the table she adjusted her wig.  I noticed for the first time that Nan might have cancer.  I had been in meetings with her at that point for over a year and prior to that remembered her giving one of the most inspirational speeches on the value of the physician and healthcare administrator partnership.  She had never shown any weakness or sign having cancer in any of those previous encounters, but at that moment I no longer saw her as intimidating or as an executive.  I saw her as a person.

When I think about her, I think about that moment a lot.  Did she remove her jacket and adjust her wig to help me relax?  Regardless, the first words out of her mouth after she did that were, “Looks like we have some more work to do, what do you think……”

Ultimately the discussion came to a point where I said that if she wasn’t looking for someone with a Masters that I would be interested, but we left with going back to the drawing board on the position “as is” until the next day.  She called me in my office and said that she was going to work directly with human resources on the job and that I was encouraged to apply as long as I was willing to get my Masters within three years.

It was the longest and hardest interview process that I ever went through which was unfortunately interrupted by a car accident that took me several months to recover from.  It came down to me and one other person for the position, who I knew through common acquaintances and she would have been great.  Ultimately though Nan hired me and back to school I went.

I am still in the job today and hope that the work that I am doing is fulfilling Nan’s vision, but I will never know for sure and there is a lot of pain that goes along with that.  The world lost Nan only four months after I started working for her in my new role in an official capacity.  She lost her battle with cancer.  CANCER SUCKS!!!

My last conversation with Nan was a week before we were both supposed to present to the leadership team.  It was a new approach for the effort that we had developed together and she was bound and determined to be there, but she had recently left on medical leave because she had started on a new treatment and things were not going great.

After Nan had hired me her health became a point of conversation, in part because I finally got the guts to ask her about it.  Even when I did she had said that there were many protocols that she had as options and that she intended to be around for a long time.  I never thought anything else to be true even that last time that I did talk to her and tell her not to worry about being there, in retrospect I wish I had not done that.  I wish she had come and I would have been able to see her one more time.

I shifted the conversation when she talked about wanting to be there to the fact that we had done our homework and I felt it was the right approach and based on everyones input that we would get the support we needed.   I told her that she should worry about getting back to be there when the real work would be starting.  She started to say something to the effect of, ‘I don’t know when that will be or if I will be back’; but I changed topics and asked her how her family was doing and the last thing we ever talked about was how my family was doing.

In my first meeting working for Nan, after she had hired me, she started by asking how I was doing.  I had just come back from my 2012 car accident and it seemed like a perfectly normal thing to do, however it was how she started every meeting we had and then we got down to business.

Then with ten minutes to go in every meeting she would shutdown her iPad or push aside any papers and ask, “So tell me how your family is doing.”  We talked about you a lot, your mom a little and your baby sister that was on the way.  Every meeting, ten minutes to go, like clockwork, “So tell me how your family is doing.”

We live a little over an hour away from Mayo Clinic and she used to tell me that I should work from home as much as I could and that I should invest the time I save by not driving to and from work in you.

I didn’t right it down so I don’t know what she said verbatim, but I do know that she wished she could have had more time with her family and used to tell me about the importance of living in the moment and putting your family first whenever possible.

While I hope I am making Nan proud in the work I am trying to accomplish at Mayo Clinic, I really hope I am making her proud in my relationship with you, your mom and your little sister the most.  I hope it’s a long ways off, but if there is a “other side” I can’t wait to sit with her in her office again and answer the question, “So tell me how your family is doing?”

I’ll start my answer by thanking her for making my life better as she did for so many others.

Nan Sawyer

Moments I’ll Always Remember

On Monday, April 15, 2013 two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I was sitting at my desk on Gonda 1 in the Mayo Clinic when I found out. I spent the next 15 minutes on Twitter, Facebook and Google trying to understand what happened.

On September 11, 2001 I was sitting on the couch in the living room of our townhouse with Caesar sitting on my lap watching the Today Show. They were talking about what appeared to be a fire at the World Trade Center in New York when a “small plane” appeared to hit the other World Trade Center tower. We later found out that it was not a small plane and they were two of four planes that were to be used as weapons by terrorists that day.

These to date are two of the most engrained memories that I have in my life. I can remember every detail around those moments, with almost every one of my senses engaged up to the near numb feeling that I experienced throughout my entire body. They are also the worst memories that I have.

Fortunately, I have two equally good memories where the same senses engaged.

The first is when your mother was walking toward me on our wedding day, right up until your Grandpa Marv let go of her at the altar and went in for the kiss. He kissed me and not your mom. She remembers that.

The rest of the ceremony and the day are a blur because of nerves and activity. Most Wisconsin weddings would be a blur because of the drinking, but I had one glass of champagne all day.

The second good memory was when you were born on Friday, July 13, 2007. I remember almost every moment of joy, anticipation and even fear. Right after you were born there was what I thought was a frantic call for help and you weren’t making a peep. It was probably seconds before we heard your voice for the first time, but even today when I think about it, it feels like hours.

There are other memories, some of which I mentioned in previous posts and others I hope to get to in the future, but these are the four most significant.

The four memories where I can recall the tastes, the sounds, exactly what I saw like someone hit record in my brains blue-ray player, the sensation of numbness and tingling all the way to my finger tips in all occasions and finally the smells right down to how stinky Caesar was on September 11, 2001.

I figured out almost immediately what the common link between these memories were. They are the most powerful memories I have that have shown me how precious life and love are.

Life and love are by far the most precious things we have, and we should never take them for granted.

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My Silent Teacher

When I wanted to start playing football there was one big issue. My home town of Eden, WI; did not have a team and even know a coach had invited me to play on a team in Fond du Lac, WI. I still had the issue of, how to I get there every day for practice.

By this time my mom and dad were divorced, Dad was running his business and mom was working full time too.

However, Grandma Feyen was coming to clean our house once a week and after listening to me complain about not being able to play because I couldn’t get to practice she said, “Ray will take care of it.”

Ray Feyen, was my Grandpa Feyen and for my whole first year of football he drove the 10 miles from Fond du Lac to pick me up and drive me the 10 miles back to Fond du Lac and some days when dad could not make it from work to pick me up he would make the round trip again.

We spent about 3 months doing that trip together and honestly, I don’t remember a single conversation. I just remember how he listened to talk radio every day and how annoying I thought it was. I’m guessing that is what you will think some day about my talk radio habit.

And even though I lived with Grandma and Grandpa Feyen for a few years later in life, I can honestly only remember two things that came out of Grandpa Feyen’s mouth. One, the fact that he used to call us grandkids, snicklefritzes and the infamous, “Can I get my drink yet?,” when he knew family was coming to visit. Grandma only let him drink when people were visiting in the later years.

I think that it is kind of strange that I remember how much Grandpa B told me, possibly because of the number of times he repeated the same story, but almost nothing about what Grandpa Feyen said.

Even though I don’t remember what he said, I remember several things that he taught me.

I remember being at the farm in the morning and watching him walk to to the barn to start the day.  I remember his striped overalls and hankerchief.  I remember not remembering him ever complaining or looking like he didn’t want to do it.  My memory may be different from others on that last statement but I really think it had an effect on my work ethic.

Although I may complain more than I remember Grandpa complaining, I know that I am responsible to get my work done.

I also remember how Grandpa realized that our regular trips to the Golden Goat to recylce cans were loosing us money and that we should be taking our cans to the recycling center where they paid more per pound of cans.  The only difference is that the cans taken to the recycling center had to be crushed.

He would take our full bags of uncrushed cans from our house in Eden to the farm house and he would crush the cans one by one with a sledge hammer on his work bench.  I swear that each can was crushed to the exact same measurement.

I learned two things from this.  The first is the value of money, your mother may argue that that value alludes me at times, but the fact that Grandpa was willing to invest the time to help us make a few extra dollars meant a lot.  The second is no matter what you are doing that you should take pride in it, even if it means a perfect crush on a can that is bound for a recycling center.

That wasn’t the last lesson I learned from Grandpa around the cans. When we got to the recycling center I realized the bags were put on a scale, weighed and then we threw them into a bin.  The more the bag weighed the more money we made and no one really inspected the bags so why not add some weight to the bags and bingo, more money.

I decided that I was going to add sand to the bags, and then the first bag I added the sand to was gone from Grandpa’s garage with all the other bags the next morning because Grandpa decided to take the cans in for us.

When he got back all I remember is him carrying one bag out of the back of the car, dropping it in the garage, telling us to clean out the sand and that was it. He didn’t get mad at us and never asked why or how it got there.

Then at lunch that day he pointed out the milkhose hanging in the mudroom like the one that he used to smack the cows with to get them to do what he wanted them to do. I don’t remember what he said as much as I knew that from that point forward I would never put sand in our aluminum cans ever again and that I never wanted to find out how a cow felt when it gets hit by that hose.

The lesson; if you make a mistake you are going to fix it yourself and there are consequences for big mistakes.  Not always a milkhose to the backside, but consequences just the same.

The final lesson I learned from Grandpa was the hardest lesson.  Grandma and Grandpa left their farm to move into the city when they were in relatively good health, but what I percieved once they moved was that Grandpa had lost a big part of who he was.  I saw him try to find things to keep himself busy, but he never was quite the same or quite as happy as I remembered him being on the farm.

Grandpa seemed to loose a little bit more of himself every day and I remember watching him struggle to get the bread he always dunked into his coffee into his mouth before it fell apart.  I saw him fail more times than I would like to remember.

I don’t know if Grandpa would have lived longer or had more quality of life if they never left the farm, but I do think he would have been happier.  He never said that to me, at least that I can remember, but that is what I think.

What I do know is that I will always seek to ensure my life is full and I will hold on tight to those things that keep me happy.

I will also endeavor to lead as much by example as well as my Grandpa Feyen did.

 

Never Stop Setting Goals

Grandpa B’s lesson to me around never stop learning or you might as well be dead, is a lesson I will continue to teach and I will continue to live by until the day I die.

Over the past couple of years I have now come to develop my own until death rule:

“If you don’t have goals you might as well be dead.”

For a few years I stood on the sidelines as my family ran the Rockford River Days 5k, but then something got into my head that made me want to be part of that. I set the goal and I ran my first 5k in July of 2010.

I then set my next goal to finish a 5k in under 30 minutes. October of 2010 I reached that goal with seconds to spare, wearing a Spiderman costume with your Uncle Mike running next to me pushing a stroller and wearing and poncho and sombrero.

Then came my work Christmas party of 2010 where I accepted the challenge to do a triathlon. I eventually did that triathlon and another in 2011.

I now sit less than a few days away from running my first half marathon to be followed by a triathlon a week later and before the year is out I will have finished four triathlons and two half marathons in 2012.

I’m much healthier today, but I would not be if I had not set goals to get me where I am today.

Health and wellness is only one area where goals have meant a lot to me.

Over 7 years ago, I made the goal that I wanted to have a job that had more personal meaning and fulfillment than the one I had at the time. I started by going to culinary school to become a chef and own a restaurant and eventually made my way to Mayo Clinic where I have no responsibility at all for the cafeteria or food service.

I made it to Mayo Clinic because I stayed true to my goal of having a job that had more meaning and I couldn’t imagine more meaning than being a part of what Mayo Clinic does for people. Culinary school fit in there, because I thought and still think that good food makes people happy and making people happy is pretty darn fulfilling.

Then there is you.

I set the goal when you were born that I was going to make sure you had every opportunity to be who you want to be. I also committed to making sure you understand that you don’t get anything without hard work and that you need to be polite.

You don’t have to do much these days besides behave and smile to get what you want because I am a big sucker, so my hard work lesson is still a work in progress. However, because it is a goal that I still have and am committed to I know I will not give up on it.

Goals are a way of life, as you read this I hope you know what yours are. Keep on living.

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A Top Ten List: Leadership Direction

One of the things I love about the life I have lived, the jobs I have had, the career path that I have followed and the sports that I have played is that I have been exposed to some great leaders. I have also been exposed to some not so great leaders.

This top ten list is my perspective on the ten pieces of direction that come to mind first when I think about the direction these leaders have given me.

Fail Fast, Fix Faster

  • I go back and forth on how much I buy into this. Failure is not something I really think one should pride themselves on. On the other hand being able to recognize failure and fixing that failure quickly is something I think is respectable. Then there is the fact that fear of failure holds too many people back from execution and doing nothing is not something I think anyone should be proud of or have the guts to accept a paycheck for.

He Who Hesitates, Get’s Ass Kicked

  • Every aspect of life and business seems to move at a faster pace almost every day. Hesitation is dangerous.

Be Patient

  • With everything in life moving so fast patience is becoming a valuable asset, especially when applied in the correct situations. It’s not one of my personal strengths, but something I do desire to have more of.

Execute

  • The greatest plans, ideas and intentions are worthless without execution.

Learn From Your Mistakes

  • I really do believe that this is something that you can use in all walks of life. I have made plenty of mistakes in my life and expect that you will make your own. As long as you learn from your mistakes and avoid repeating them you can go a long way. I also feel that if you embrace learning from your mistakes that you will be less fearful of making mistakes in the first place and you will value your mistakes instead of regretting them.

Don’t F**k Up

  • There are levels of failure and mistakes that you just can’t recover from or fix, that would probably be defined as a f**k up. You really want to avoid those if you can.

Decomplexify

  • This concept was first known to me as and probably most commonly known as the kiss principle, keep it simple stupid. Decomplexifying is an art form that seeks to get maximum results with the least amount of effort or planning. The masters of decomplexification are the most valuable assets to any business and just good people to have around when it comes to making the best out of a less than ideal situation.

Trust Your Instincts

  • If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust.

Never Say You’re Sorry

  • ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE ADVICE!!!!! If you f**k up, make a mistake, fail or just do wrong by someone never be afraid to admit that you were wrong and never hesitate to say I am sorry. If you find yourself apologizing too much you might want to exhibit some patience and figure out why that is the case.

Focus on People

  • ABSOLUTELY THE BEST ADVICE!!!! The most complex, simple statement. Very simply I do believe there is no purpose in life without others. Even in individual sports you need to show respect for your coaches and competitors, in team sports you need to have other people. In business, people are the foundation of all organizations and customers are people.

Perception is Reality

The person who I am is not the person you think I am.

That pretty much says it all, but it’s a fact of life that I believe.

Trying to align perception and reality is a tiring task. So, I have chosen to focus my energy as much as I can on being me and not trying to shape who others think that is.

I am 6’2″ and weigh close to 300 pounds, I have a loud speaking voice and when I believe in something strongly I will hold that belief until someone convinces me it is wrong.

That gets interpreted by some as me being an arrogant bully. That’s their perception and they have the right to believe that.

I was told by my first professional mentor that if you’re not trying to eliminate the need for your job or the job’s of the people on your team, you’re probably not doing the right thing. The ideal outcome is that if you work that way that you will increase you and your team’s value to the organization through the ability of your team to contribute incrementally to the organization.

The less than ideal outcome is that you end up eliminating your own job or your team’s jobs. Unfortunately that might be what happens, but it doesn’t make it the wrong thing to do.

This gets interpreted by some as me not having respect for the work they do or the value they currently bring. I have spent a ton of hours explaining to people that is not the case and that the intent is to increase their value constantly.

Not everyone sees that and some don’t want that because they are happy doing what they currently do.

I’ll continue to invest the time explaining that to people because I care. Regardless of what I say, some people’s perception of me will never change.

Some people know me for the person who I think I am.

I think I am a physically big individual with a metaphorically big heart who cares a lot about what other people think.

I really want people to be happy.

I like to debate, but hate to argue.

I am driven to make everything I touch better.

I love my family and friends first, my work is a distant second and myself a close third.

So maybe who I think I am is who you think I am, but I never percieve that to be the case in anyone.

That may be my unfortunate reality.

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Diets and Excercise are BS

Remember that above all I believe that all people are different, that not everything will work the same for everyone. Also, while I walk the halls today with some of the greatest doctors in the world, I am definitely not one of them.

I do believe however as the topic states that diets and exercise are absolutely without a doubt bullspit.

When I was a junior in high school I was by far in the best shape of my life. At the peak of my physical fitness I weighed 275 pounds, could bench press 525 pounds, squatted over 1,200 pounds, could slam dunk a basketball and ran a 4.89 40-yard dash. However, my progress was stopped in its tracks by a torn ACL, MCL and LCL in my left knee.

By my senior year of football I had got most of my upper body strength back, but my legs were never the same. By the end of my senior year of football I was down under 250 pounds and ran one more 40 under 5 seconds at a recruiting trip at Northern Michigan.

I heard the same from every one of the coaches that recruited me though, I was an offensive lineman and I needed to get my weight to 300 plus. I ultimately got up to 320 by my first day on the field at St. Cloud State University in St Cloud, MN. The third day on the field, before I even got to wear shoulder pads in college I got my knee rolled over, tore my ACL and I was out of football for good. Subsequently I gave up working out for the most part too and would not see under 300 pounds on the scale for over 20 years.

At my worst I weighed somewhere between 450 and 500 pounds, I once saw the scale register 479 and at that point pretty much avoided scales unless I was in a doctor’s office, which eventually became a regular occurrence. I found myself diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis, chronic back pain and chronic joint pain. In November of 2008 I was taking 13 pills a day for all my ailments.

It was also in November of 2008 that I started working at Mayo Clinic. When I interviewed I was wearing a size 58 inch waist pants and was somewhere between 350 and 400 pounds. Shortly after starting I took a health assessment and there was something that prompted me to say I wanted help, and that help came in a phone call from a disease management nurse. Her name was Bonnie.

Little by little she helped me make better choices. She encouraged me to go to my doctor on a regular basis. She encouraged me to start eating better breakfasts. She encouraged me to monitor my blood sugars. She encouraged me to see a dietician and then a doctor specializing in diets by the name of Dr Donald Hensrud. Dr Hensrud encouraged me to by a bigger salad bowl.

Bonnie encouraged me to make better choices at lunch and then at dinner. Bonnie got me to take the clothes and boxes off the treadmill and go for a walk. I still remember it like it was yesterday; 0 incline, 3.0 mph, 30 minutes. I was sweating like crazy, my heart was pounding, my feet and my back hurt; but I got back to it two days later and every other day for a while. Eventually it was every day and eventually the treadmill at home couldn’t get to an incline or speed that were challenging for me without feeling like it was going to break.

Eventually salads were more frequently served at the dinner table and I still remember the day you told me at the age of two that your favorite food was a salad. Mine is still vanilla ice cream with almost equal parts crunchy peanut butter, and I know your tastes have evolved past your statement that salads were your favorite food.

Today as I write this I fit in a size 42 inch waist pair of pants and I take two pills a day. I am getting ready to run a half marathon memorial day weekend and will do four triathlons followed by a late fall half marathon this year. You love talking about Buffalo, that’s where I tried and failed at my first triathlon, but I went on to finish two more last year and can’t wait to kick that courses butt in Buffalo, MN this year.

You might have just read that thinking, why does my dad feel diets and exercise are bullspit because they sure seem to have made a difference in his life.

It’s very simple, I failed at diets and exercise, but I finally succeeded when I chose to live life right.

I chose to make better food choices part of what I do, and part of who I am.

It’s not a diet, it’s not a journey, it’s living right.

I chose to make swimming, running and biking part of what I do to take care of myself, to live to see you live your life as long as I possibly can.

I failed at diets, I started and stopped exercising. I will not willingly stop living and I chose to live life right.

To be continued……

I Have GAD Not an Excuse

I told a friend of mine recently that I was doing a blog for my son to tell him about me, my life and things I learned.  At the time I was pondering how to tell this part of my story and asked him his advice.

He asked me if I intended this to be my catharsis.  I had heard the word before, but it was not a word that was part of my vocabulary so I asked him what it meant and he told me to look it up.  So I did.

The first definition of catharsis on dictionary.com is the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music.

I’m still not sure if I would call this a catharsis, but I do know  I want you to know who I am and a part of who I am is a person who has generalized anxiety disorder.

About 8 years ago I was sitting in a friend’s office at work and thought I was having a heart attack.  After an ambulance ride, hours in the hospital and several follow-up appointments it was determined what I had was a panic attack and ultimately a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder.

Since then I have been on medication to control my panic attacks and my anxiety and have an understanding of what some people mean when they say “better living by chemistry.”

Most days I am fine, but at all times I have a heightened sense of paranoia, desire to control my own situation, concern over future events and general fear of the unknown.

When under control I can use these feelings to help me in my job and in life in general.  It’s amazing how being worried and thinking about the future can help you in measuring business risks and anticipating market needs.  It also is sometimes helpful to be thinking about what might happen if you don’t do everything within your control to do.

When my feelings are out of control I am fearful, irritable, somewhat depressed and generally a pain in the ass. In general these things just work against me, and I have little use for them.  Probably about as little use as people around me have for those things.

So yes, I am putting myself out there and letting the world know I’m not perfect.  I know some will be shocked at both the fact that I’m not perfect and the fact that I am admitting to not being perfect alike.

So what does the admission that I have generalized anxiety disorder mean?  It means I have generalized anxiety disorder, that’s it.  You know it’s part of who I am and you know that you may or may not have to deal with it as part of who I am.  Other than that it does not mean a damn thing else.

I am responsible for myself, I am responsible for being a great dad, I am responsible for being your mom’s husband, I am responsible for being a friend and family member and I’m responsible for doing the job I am hired to do.  No excuses.

My Trip to Mayo Clinic

Part of what college is supposed to do is prepare you for the real world.  My path to my degree from the University of Minnesota was nothing compared to my path to Mayo Clinic.  It  only took me three colleges to get a degree, it took me 46 jobs to find Mayo Clinic.

Twenty-two of those jobs were at eight companies between my degree and my current job at Mayo Clinic.  I was fortunate enough to be able to choose every single one of those jobs and I do feel blessed for having the opportunity to make those choices.

My first job out of school was in marketing and I truly enjoy the mix of science and creativity that is marketing. However, when I was presented the opportunity to shift to new product development I had little idea how much that would change my career direction.  I found even more challenge in developing products to fit market needs than in just figuring out the best way to get people to buy those products.

I continued to find ways to challenge myself and one of those was in changing market focus. My first product development focus was direct to consumer products and services, but after a few short years with a consumer market focus I was given the opportunity to develop and grow new products for businesses.  This shift in market also represented my first opportunity to grow a business from the ground up, starting with just me as an employee and moving to  a staff of 50+ and filled roles from customer service through business development was an amazing experience.

Growing this new business was the longest I was ever in a single job but the company chose to move out of the market. In retrospect it really was a good thing that the company moved on, because if it had not I probably never would have made the choice to leave and I may have never ended up where I am today.

My next stop was doing international marketing and product development.  I really loved working internationally and saw parts of the world I would have never expected to see, but that much travel was not in the cards once we decided to have you.

I got a call from a recruiter about the same time we found out you were on your way, the new job was a combination of sales, product development and marketing.  The job only lasted six months though, because the company was not a good fit.  I left that job right before you were born and I got to spend maternity leave with you and your mom. I wouldn’t have traded the experience of spending the first weeks of your life with you for the world.

When it came time to go back to work, my next step in my career was a step back because I had finally decided I wanted to focus on doing something that meant something to me personally more than moving up in the business world.  I took a job in product development and worked on a product that impacted people that I respect a lot.  It was a great product and a great opportunity and I even managed to move into management within a few short months of starting there so the step back did not last long.  Unfortunately, with all the pluses there I still had the feeling that I was missing something.

That feeling came almost simultaneously with the call from Mayo Clinic and when I finally took the job I could have never fathomed how my life was about to change  for the better in so many ways.


Blue Collar Values – White Collar Humility

I have at last count had 46 jobs in my lifetime, starting with my first experience as an entrepreneurial lemonade stand owner through my current role with Mayo Clinic; where I hope some day to retire from.

I have learned a lot from each and every job I have had; however the most significant lesson I have learned is that I am embarrassed to call what I do today work.

Today, I work primarily in conference rooms and at a desk in front of a computer.

At thirteen I was cleaning up vomit in a bar in the mornings before school.

I eventually graduated to washing dishes and cooking in a bar restaurant, which actually contributed to my love of cooking and an eventual 58 inch waist. I even spent five years bouncing in a bar where I got vomited on a couple of times, I promise that’s my last vomit reference for this post.

Before my bar worker career though; I bailed hay, picked stones, cleaned up yards, dug through garbage cans to collect cans, stocked shelves in a grocery store, cleaned a welding shop, changed oil, cleaned mechanic tools, mowed lawns, delivered newspapers, did my chores at home and that’s not even a comprehensive list.

So when I left my football career behind I was not scared to leave the sheltered life of a collegiate athlete and join the working world while I figured out what I wanted to do with my life.

I immediately went back to the glamorous life of a small town bar bouncer, which I eventually quit after getting my ass kicked by a men’s softball team. However, bouncing did not pay the rent even at my Grandma Feyen’s house so I had to find daytime work too.

I first went to work in a metal fabrication shop where I operated a drill press drilling holes into boat motor mounts and on more exciting days got to work a saw cutting pieces of tube aluminum for deer stands.

I do have a scar on the back of my hand from when I brought the saw down on it. Who knew drinking while bouncing until two in the morning before running a large saw starting at six would be a bad combo.

I eventually was lured away from metal fabricating to working in a small foundry that did boat motor castings. I was a ladle handler which essentially meant in 120 degree building I would spoon 50 pounds of molten aluminum out of a furnace and carry it 20 feet to pour into a cast, walk back and repeat. When I was lucky I would get a break to work on the shaker team which broke up the casts to pull out the finished product. At the end of the day I was covered from head to toe in a black soot like substance. That was my shortest tenured job ever, I lasted two weeks.

I thankfully had been offered a job in a feed mill where I got to clean out huge bins full of moldy soy beans, clean out drain gutters full mixed moldy feed, bag animal feed by hand and eventually got my commercial drivers license.

After I got the license I was eligible for driving a dump truck with a conveyor for cleaning out corn cribs. I would get out of the mill and in temperatures from 120 degrees to minus 20 degrees be out shoveling corn. I would then drive back to the mill where I got to empty out the corn, turn it into feed and then take the finished product back in bags or a bulk feed truck where at times I got to crawl into attics of barns to spread out the feed. At the end of the day I was usually covered in dust from the feed.

I made it through a couple of years there before being lured away by a drywall distributor. There I was driving a boom truck which had a crane for picking up piles of drywall which me and a team member got to handle piece by piece to haul into new homes, existing homes and various commercial construction sites in all kinds of weather. I eventually graduated to more bulk deliveries where I didn’t have to handle every piece and at times got the chance to manage the warehouse. This is where I learned management has it easy.

It was about at this time too, that I had started back to school part time at your mothers urging. I was initially planning on majoring in English and becoming a high school teacher and football coach; but I had been bit by the business management bug.

I ultimately quit my job at the drywall distributor to get work near the university so I could go back to school full time and work full time. While I was in school I did a bit of driving for a lumberyard. However, my management experience had spoiled me with the idea of temperature controlled environments so while in college I worked at a truck stop, auto parts warehouse and did phone sales. I did eventually do door to door sales to, but only during the summer.

So back to my earlier comment, I am embarrassed to call what I do today work compared to what I know other people do for a living.

I know it drives me to do more and it often drives me to spend time reflecting when I think I had a rough day. My hands are callous free these days, but I still see the callouses there when I do reflect and it makes me appreciate life and all people more.

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