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……

Politics, Religion and The Green Bay Packers

Over the years I have heard it said in different ways and in different situations that if you want to avoid confrontation, argument or heated discussion avoid the topics of politics, religion and the Green Bay Packers.  The third topic is one that I generally do not shy away from especially when around Minnesota Vikings or Chicago Bears fans; however when it comes to religion and politics I do tend to avoid those conversations.

I keep to myself because even at this point in my life I am not sure what to say about the topics, I don’t hold hard and fast on either topic to what my beliefs are, to some that is an issue.  For me, it’s just who I am.

When it comes to politics I don’t vote along party lines, I have tried to look at what the individual stances of the candidate are and make my decisions based on that.  I fully admit that it becomes more difficult all the time to separate the party from the person, but at least in every presidential election there has been one thing or another that has swayed my vote on an individual.

When it comes to local elections where it has been more difficult to know who the candidates are as individuals, I generally have never voted for an incumbent.  My logic behind this is pretty simple, I believe that a blend of individual perspectives is much better than a continued single stream of thought and I believe that in almost every situation.

A caveat to all of it, if I get a call from any politician after 9pm or they bother me at home they generally do not get my vote.  Some will call that a waste of a vote, but it’s my choice on how I vote.  It’s a right that my Grandpa B fought for and I believe in.

So what else to I believe in when it comes to things of a political nature.  Very simply I believe in individual freedoms.  I don’t have a strong opinion of how much government is too little or too much, because I think every situation and every time may have a different answer.  I would loosely compare this to being your dad, I generally want to let you always make your own choices; but when you don’t know enough about something I need to know that and know when to help you out.  People in general, including me, don’t always know what is best for them and I hope that government realizes where that is the case in situations where they can help.

In addition to the privilege of freedom, I also look for government to ensure our safety.  I’m honestly more concerned about our domestic safety and local law enforcement than the need for us to play the world police, but I’m not sure how the good old US of A can get out of that position.  In the recent years I think that a lot of good has happened from US involvement in foreign conflicts, but I think the cost of all that good has yet to be seen.

Then there’s religion.  I went to Catholic schools from 1st grade through high school.  I stopped going mass regularly when I was 13 years old because I couldn’t get my head around the fact that people felt they could break any of the then commandments and by going into a closet and telling a priest that they did it, asking the priest for forgiveness and then saying a few prayers they were forgiven. I still don’t quite get it and I know I’m oversimplifying, but I’m a simple person.

I also got asked to stop coming to theology classes in 10th grade when I started challenging the interpretation of bible stories based on other stories within the bible.  My theology teacher said that I had the best grasp of the bible that she had ever seen and that I was taking away from her ability to teach the other students who didn’t have that level of understanding.

Both of those things probably would give you the impression that I am anti-religion or anti-catholic, but that’s not the case at all.  Very much like politics I feel people have choices when it comes to religion including the choice to not have one.

Do I believe in a higher power, greater meaning to life, that there is something beyond our time on earth? I kind of hope so, but I want to make the best out of the life I have here on earth just in case there is not. What I think is important was kind of encapsulated in a quote I saw this week:

The quote might lead some to think they have my political and religious stances figured out and that is their choice to think what they want to.

I hope your mom and I give you the freedom to choose and the exposure and experiences to have the ability to choose when it comes to politics, religion and anything else. Although I’ll do everything within my power to hopefully make sure you choose the Green Bay Packers.

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.


The Wander Years a.k.a College

When I left my football career behind at St Cloud State University in St Cloud, Minnesota, I moved back home to good old Fond du Lac, WI and started right back to work. There was a part of me that really enjoyed the working world, enjoyed getting a pay check and I had no desire to take on student loan debt to go back to college. I had for the most part settled into living my blue-collar life, helping out Grandma and Grandpa and then I met your mother.

Your mother was in her last year of high school and had just picked her college, Hamline University in St. Paul, MN. Based on the fact that we had only about 7 months until she would be heading off to school and I was settled into my day-to-day we agreed that we would enjoy spending time together until it was time for her to go to school and then neither of us had interest in a long distance relationship.

I tried a long distance relationship when I headed off to St. Cloud and that did not exactly work out. Simply based on that one experience and the fact that your mother wasn’t really interested in a long distance relationship it all seemed to make sense.

I was inspired though, she didn’t come from money, she didn’t have a sports scholarship and she didn’t care about going into debt to get an education. The combination of that and your mother continually digging at me to think about going back to school got me to enroll at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh as a part-time student. I took a couple of night classes, continued to work full-time and was still living with my Grandma and Grandpa Feyen.

I enrolled even through the summer and made the decision that in the fall when your mother headed to Minnesota that I was going to give the life of a full-time student a chance. However, I had also become accustomed to a pay check so I took out loans for school and continued to work 40 plus hours a week.

Your mom was gone for two weeks and I had accepted that our relationship was over, but then the call came. Your mom called to ask me when I was going to come to visit and I picked up and left to visit her that weekend. We decided to try to make it work and we apparently did exactly that.

I spent the next two years at Oshkosh and was to the point that I was going to visit your mother every other weekend. In order to afford it I started to give people rides to Minneapolis to get gas money, continued to work full-time, took out a bit of extra money in loans and discovered the free money called credit cards (IT’S NOT REALLY FREE, DON’T DO IT.)

Your mom came back to Wisconsin for the first two years and then the third summer came and your mom decided to stay in Minnesota to do an internship. I was bummed and between that and the back and forth wearing on me I decided to look into transferring to a school in Minnesota.

I considered Hamline, but it wasn’t cheap so I even talked to the football coach and he offered to get me financial help to make it work. Ultimately though I decided that football was still a bad idea. I then decided to go to the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.

That presented a huge problem too. They, unlike Oshkosh, included my time spent at St Cloud as qualifying credits which brought my GPA down to levels that really were not high enough to get in. After my debacle on the football field, I may have not made school my highest priority and may have invested a bit too much in unsanctioned extracurriculars. (We can talk about that some day.)

I had put all my eggs into the University of Minnesota basket and when I got the letter from their admissions office denying me admission due to my GPA, I was crushed. I had decided though that I was done at Oshkosh and decided to move to Minnesota anyway. I had dropped out of college for the second time in my life. I went to work at an auto parts warehouse which was owned by the same company I was working for in Oshkosh. I would be loading trucks on second shift hours and figured I would worry about getting back to school during the day.

When it came down to it though I knew I was good enough for the Carlson School of Management and I was not ready to give up. I put in calls to guidance counselors that went unreturned and eventually I walked into the guidance counselors offices only to be told that I needed to re-apply. I knew though that I would be unlikely to get in if I just did that.

As I was leaving the office on the day I was told to reapply, I was looking at the photograph’s of the counselors up on the wall and picked out a picture of one that I thought looked nice. I feel horrible that I can’t remember her name as I type, but I remember the friendly face. I wrote down her name and went back to my basement apartment near your mothers dorm and wrote a letter to her. A week later she called, the day after that we met, that day I filled out another application and a week later I got an acceptance letter. It was an amazing feeling and I did not let her down.

In my time at the Carlson School, as with my time at Oshkosh, I got near straight A’s. In Oshkosh, my demise was an accounting class and at Carlson School it was both Finance (I got my first C since St Cloud) and International Business (I got a B, and still think I deserved an A to this day).

It was amazing how easy college was once I decided to go to every class and I made sure the professor knew if I had to miss which usually meant they would give you some pointers on where to spend extra time studying. I also actively participated in class and in all my group assignments I never sought out the “cool” kids to be part of their group. I stuck to the front row where I sat myself, even though it annoyed the people who had to be able to see around me.

Ultimately, my degree says that I graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelors of Science in Business. It fails to mention that it was via St. Cloud State and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. It also fails to mention that I probably spent more time on the Hamline campus than any of those campuses combined.

I got the degree though and I ultimately got it from a school that I chose because I wanted to be there. It wasn’t a school that gave me a scholarship, or from a school that was convienently located, it was from one of the best business schools in the country and I didn’t give up until they let me in because I wanted to go there.

I learned a lot from school, but when it comes right down to it the Carlson School taught me the most when they didn’t let me in. They taught me that if you want something enough, you should not give up on it because essentially if you do you are giving up on yourself.

You are the one thing in this world you should never give up on.

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The Freeze, The Fall, The Reflection

I have two very vivid memories of my grandfathers. They are vivid because of how much they scared me at the time. But over time I have come to treasure them as much as I feared them and I will never forget them.

When I was fourteen years old I got a babysitting gig from my Grandma B. She had just been hospitalized for pneumonia and she called and asked if I could stay with Grandpa.

I really knew my Grandpa B in part for his World War II stories; how he waded through water filled with what he thought was brush but was actually snakes, how he sat on a mountain top and could make out a flash from one of the nuclear bombs that hit Japan, how he traded spots with someone in line when they were being assigned to Europe or the Pacific, how he did a USO show with a group of guys in black socks and tutus (I actually have that picture, because it was given to me after Grandma passed).

I also knew Grandpa B as a guy who loved writing, making art, buying silly stuffed animals, watching the weather channel and watching movies about world war II primarily to point out how inaccurate and falsely full of bravado they were.

But that winter when I watched him I had one of my most vivid memories of him. He told me he was taking the dog for a walk and he left the house. I watched him as he got out the door and went to the end of the driveway and he stopped.

After a minute I was wondering if he was second guessing whether he had the energy, after five the background noise of the TV faded for me and he still had not moved, after ten and still no movement I decided to go fill up my coffee mug (Coffee was like water in Grandma and Grandpa B’s House), after twenty my coffee cup was empty but now I was frozen to the window shade still watching and waiting for him to make a move.

His dog sat there the whole time too, it was amazing show of obedience. Grandpa maybe turned his head a few times, the expression on his face never changed. He seemed in awe of the world around him, and at the same time unaware. After exactly one hour, I opened the door and asked him how his walk was, never admitting that I was watching him the whole time. He simply responded, “Good.”

Over the next few days he would leave for the walk almost at the same time, and about half the time he walked. The other half he stood there the same as he did that day. I would watch him on the days he “froze” from the window and about an hour in each day I would open the door to ask him how his walk was and he would respond, “Good.” On the days he actually walked I worried too and I would wait for him by the window the same as if he were standing at the end of the driveway.

Fast forward five years and after my departure from my football career, I moved in with my Grandma and Grandpa Feyen. When I left for school my mom had become a foster parent and when I dropped out of college there really wasn’t room for me in her house.

I tried a couple of different living arrangments but one day got a call from Grandma Feyen asking if I could come help her out and she would only charge me $150 a month for rent. Really the only thing I did to help for the most part on a consistent basis was mow the lawn and shovel the driveway. In retrospect I got a lot more from her because she taught me immeasureable amounts about responsibility, love and what it meant to be married. She also darned my socks (a lost art).

Grandma was essentially taking care of Grandpa full time. It was amazing the amount of work that she did, cooking three meals a day (not much instant ingredients in her bag of tricks), making sure Grandpa had his medecine, helping him bathe and on and on and on. Her only solice is that for the most part he could be content in front of the television when he was awake and they both enjoyed watching the Wheel of Fortune and she could sit a play solitare forever.

Grandma would also be happy when I would share late night ice cream sundaes with her, late night because I could only go get them once Grandpa was in bed because he couldn’t have them. Banana Splits with no nuts was her sundae of choice.

On the day I got my Grandpa Feyen scare, I won’t forget the tone Grandma used when she yelled down to me in the basement to come and help and I came as quickly as I could. I had no idea what she was calling for and when I got up there I was not prepared to see Grandpa laying on his bedroom floor unable to help himself up in any way. He hadn’t lost his voice though and was pretty adamant that someone needed to get him back to bed. I reached down to lift him up and followed Grandma’s instructions explicitly, he felt so weak and fragile. We got him back into bed and he laid there breathing hard, staring at the cieling and he didn’t say a word once he got into bed.

Both of these moments scared me so much because they were so contrary to what I knew my Grandfathers to be. Grandpa B was full of energy, stories and always on the go. Seeing him frozen in time was scary.

Grandpa Feyen on the other hand was always someone that I saw as a strong farmer who killed chickens with a hatchet, swatted cows with rubber tubing and didn’t hesitate to do the same to a kid that got out of line. As I helped him into bed it was like all that strength was gone.

In retrospect though, I like to think that both of them were doing the same thing. Thanking their lucky stars for the full lives they lived in those exact moments, Grandpa B standing at the end of the driveway and Grandpa Feyen lying comfortably back in bed.

I picture them thinking about all the fun times they had, all the kids and grandkids they played with, the fantastic women in their lives, the contributions they made to the world and maybe what they meant to me.

So what, if in reality Grandpa B actually thought he was on a walk, like Grandma B later told me, and he had idea that he was actually just standing there.

So what, if Grandpa Feyen was going through a diatribe of four letter words and probably pissed that Grandma couldn’t get him up without my help or get himself up.

Hopefully they have the same memory up in heaven that I have of those events today, the fear mostly melted away.

With that said, this is my last post of 2011. Bring on the New Year I have contributions to make!!!!

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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A Non-Career in Review

While I sucked at basketball and baseball, I was not a terrible football player.

Before my seventh grade year I attended the summer football camp at St Mary’s Springs. It was the first time i did anything remotely related to organized football. I was 6′ 2″ tall and weighed 300lbs. (I am the exact same height and weight today.)

I was also relatively fast and agile given my size, but growing up in Eden there wasn’t a football team for me to play on.

One of the coaches from the camp just happened to be the coach for Saint Mary’s grade school in Fond du Lac and my mom’s next door neighbor. Somehow I ended up on his team even though I didn’t go to school there.

The team went undefeated both years I played there. In fact I never started a game one of my teams lost ever.

Now there were losses I was part of, but my team my junior and senior year of high school team went undefeated as well.

I dreamed from the first time I put on a helmet that I would play pro ball and even when I knew the NFL was out of the question I still felt I could find a professional level I could succeed in.

That all changed though in one game in Two Rivers Wisconsin in my junior year.

Right before that season I was in the best shape of my life. I broke the 4.8 second 40 yard dash mark, benched a max 520 pounds and squatted a max of just under 1200 pounds. I also could do a seven mile run once a week just for the hell of it, but the coolest thing I could do was slam dunk a basketball.

At the game in Two Rivers I tore my ACL, MCL, LCL and a bit of meniscus to boot in my left knee. I was never able to dunk a basketball again and spent the next two years in and out of surgeries and on a mix of painkillers of various strengths and types.

I eventually did get a football scholarship to St Cloud State in Minnesota and even got a visit in my home from the Wisconsin Badgers head coach, Barry Alvarez, during the recruiting process.

It was cool to be recruited and cool to get the scholarship, but three days into practice before we even had pads on someone rolled my knee and I never wore pads as a college player with the exception of picture day.

It wasn’t easy for me to decide to quit playing football. In the letter giving up my scholarship; I summed it up as I didn’t feel I was quitting football, but accepting a new path and challenge in life.

I had no idea what I was going to do in reality, but it sounded good on paper.

I eventually ended up where I’m at today, but I definitely did not take the shortest distance between two points. I actually ended up taking several paths and accepting numerous challenges.

Life does not come with a roadmap, so you do need to be willing to navigate a bit in the dark when detours come up. It gets easier though because every experience you have and person you meet will help light the paths a bit more.

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