College Sports: Will it Survive?

This conversation is happening in every collegiate athletics department around the country right now. My answer as to will college sports survive is yes, but…

The only way college sports will survive is if every department evaluates what is truly at the heart of what they do, recognizes what is most important and makes that a priority.

Every. Day. Of. The. Year.
Period.

What might you ask is at the heart of college sports? Community.
What is most important? Real connections with real people. Again, community.

Make that the focus and the priority and everything else will fall into place. College sports will survive if each department recognizes what really makes them great and what they really stand for. Every employee. Every day. All year. All conversations. With everyone you meet.

Is the competition aspect important? Yes. But it’s not everything. The community is everything.

College sports are unique and some legendary programs now span centuries of active existence and participation. And yet for some that legacy is in jeopardy. For others, they’re more confident now than they’ve ever been and they continue to reinvest in their communities.

I’ll say it again: College sports will survive if the executives in charge put community at the heart of everything they do and make their work about the community and nothing else.

Is money important. Yes, absolutely.

Are expenses real and growing every year, if not every month or day? Yes, absolutely.

So what do I mean by community?

I mean the collection of people who all believe in something greater than themselves. The community of alumni, employees, friends, fans and citizens that come together to celebrate the culture that exists around the competition.

This topic is somewhat controversial and may stir some people the wrong way, but over the next few months, I’ll be exploring why and how I think college sports can survive. The grand summary of how college sports will survive is community.

Community is service to others.
Community is acceptance.
Community is celebration.
Community is core values.
Community is academia and business coming together.
Community is people connecting at a higher level.

Community is love.

Haircuts are Psychological Tricks

I got my hair cut yesterday. For me, haircuts are usually a trip I make about every three weeks. Sometimes I “feel” like I should get my hair cut more frequently, say every two weeks, just so that it never really looks any different and so I always look “clean cut” and fresh.

Waiting

When I arrived at the barbershop yesterday, there were a few guys there waiting, so I had some time to myself to either watch the TV they had turned to an NFL preseason game, listen to the conversations the barbers were having with the clients, read one of the magazines on the coffee table in front of me, play on my phone or just sit there and think quietly.

I started my wait time by playing backgammon on my phone until the battery died. There was about 7% left, so I was able to get through one game before if finally turned off. Since I didn’t have that as an option any more, I just sat there staring through the TV more than actually watching. Mostly I was just making it look like I was paying close attention to the commentators when I was really just daydreaming and let various thoughts wash over my mind like gentle waves at the beach.

Dirty Thoughts to Consider

Something that came to mind as I was sitting there was how I always consider reading the periodicals on display for people to peruse when in a public waiting area. Sometimes there are some interesting or new or very niche magazines in the stack of too many to count which really piques my interest. Just as I reach out to grab one and think there’s something I might like to read, I stop myself dead in my tracks…and I think about how many bacteria and virus cells might be living in those pages.

Have you ever thought about how many people touch those things in their life in the stacks or on the common table? Even greater than the number of people thumbing through the pages of People, Time and the Wall Street Journal are the number of hair particles, dead skin cells and more types of bacteria than you really want to know about. That’s why I don’t read magazines in public waiting rooms – too much of a risk at getting myself sick.

Take it One Step Further

Think about how few people wash their hands on a regular basis. Or even how many people actually wash their hands after using the restroom. I work in a public facility and am constantly disgusted about how many men DON’T wash their hands after doing their business in the restrooms. They finish up and walk right out. Eww. Now think about that guy and at least 20 more that day alone that got their hair cut before you that didn’t wash their hands and then come along wanting to see how J-Lo’s new bikini body is looking just as much as you do. Gross.

Here’s my advice:
Don’t read public magazines. If you do, wash your hands immediately after doing so.

Back to Daydreaming

So I’m sitting there, daydreaming, waiting to get my haircut thinking about why I’m getting my haircut. So I think to myself, “Self. Why are you here? For whom are you getting your haircut?”

I look at myself in the mirror only about maybe 10-15 minutes a day, tops. A few minutes in the morning to brush my teeth and shave and a few minutes in the evening to brush and floss again. That’s it. Not all of the restrooms I use throughout the day have mirrors in front of the sinks, so if they do, add another few minutes for hand washing after I use the restroom during the day.

That means at most, I look at myself in the mirror about 20 minutes every day. That also means that I am NOT looking at my self about 98.6% of the time. Accounting for a good night’s rest of 8 hours, I’m only awake for 16 hours. 20 minutes out of 16 hours is 2.9%. That means that on an average day, I’m NOT looking at myself 97.1% of the time. To say this differently, other people have the potential to be looking at me 97.1% of the time.

So why am I getting my hair cut?

Good question.

Answer: So everyone else who looks at me thinks I have an awesome haircut.*

But it’s not REALLY for everyone else, there are a few reasons why I like getting my haircut.

1- I like my hair short. It’s easy to clean, easy to maintain and allows sweat to easily escape my head, allowing my body to cool itself more efficiently.
2- I like how it feels getting my haircut. For at least 20 minutes every three weeks or so, I have to sit in a comfortable barber’s seat and remain still. Except for the guy trying to talk to me over loud clippers, it’s a somewhat peaceful, meditative experience. I also like how it feels to have my haircut. It’s sort of like a weird head massage in a way. And if I sit really still. close my eyes and focus, I can actually feel my hairs being cut. It’s a really cool feeling.
3- I want to look presentable and professional to other people, based on what I consider to appropriate social norms for hygiene.

Psychological Aspects

Aw ha! Now we’re getting somewhere. Number three above is me trying to please other people because I want to be accepted in the social circles in which I’ve placed myself. People are judgmental. They judge books based on their covers. It’s true. It’s nearly impossible to not do that. We’re always trying to assess new things and people by our senses and for most, the first sense is vision. We judge what we’re looking at just as soon as we see it. If I never got my hair cut and had dreadlocks that smelled really bad, in some situations, it wouldn’t matter how wicked smart I was or how intelligently I speak (see what I did there), I’d be written off completely. Not by all, but most would scoff at my appearance and turn the other way. In other social circles, I’d blend right in with dreadlocks and be welcome as an insider. It’s all relative.

Social Influences

We’re conditioned as children as to what’s acceptable in society and what’s not, and sometimes that just depends on where you come from…For the most part, there is a standard of appropriate appearance and hygiene and everything outside of that is “different”.

So why do I get my haircut? I just want to fit in like everyone else, while at the same time expressing my own uniqueness within that construct. Groomed might be one HR standard for hair guidelines. Vague enough to allow some creative expression, but firm enough to enforce.

I like getting my haircut. But sometimes the pleasure of the experience is diminished by the necessity of having to do something for other people that I just really don’t want to do.

You didn’t know a haircut could be such a psychological conundrum did you?

Go Forth.
And get a haircut!

Personas and Masks

I’m an inquisitive and observant person by nature, although the observant part ebbs and flows… Regardless, I like to observe and ponder the things happening around me and why things are they way they are.

Business Marketing

In business, particularly as it applies to marketing, we talk about personas. A marketing persona in this regard is the collection of traits, qualities, buying habits, demographics and psychographics that make up a company’s ideal customer. Every company should know who their ideal customer is based on whatever it is they sell or offer and many have entire departments committed to figuring that out, constantly researching and crunching data in order to pass that on to everyone else so they can adapt what they’re doing for better business outcomes.

The thing about personas though is that people change and can manifest more than one at a time…in the same space.

Masks

We often hear the expression of wearing masks or hiding our true selves…well, I think we have many selves or parts to our identity and each part expresses itself differently at different times…or even different parts being expressed at the same time. Often, these parts are related to various points in our maturation where we adapt our experiences to who we are and who we think we should be.

This whole idea of personas hit me like a brick when I saw people who I know in a certain capacity act completely different than what I was familiar with from my personal interactions with them. Perhaps I don’t fully know these particular individuals, which is certainly true in some fashion (can you every REALLY know someone?), but it was quite obvious they were acting different from normal.

The Situation

Imagine yourself in a room that includes a person with their spouse, children, siblings and their parents. Now imagine yourself as that person. You live with your spouse or partner and surely you’ve got some sort of routine and a regular way of going about your days with an understanding of how to act in that relationship.

Next, consider how you act with your siblings…likely that hasn’t changed much, regardless of your age now. The attitudes, the sensitivities, the jealousy, the bad memories, the great memories, all of it. The eldest siblings probably mentor or give advice and the youngest siblings are probably jokesters just trying to figure stuff out. The middle siblings are either aloof or jealous, looking for something they feel like they’re not getting. These are only a suggestion of what family sibling dynamics are like or can be, so just work with me on this example.

Now, consider how you acted toward your parents…what was that like? What were your parents like toward you? Always hovering, watching, waiting? Or did they leave you alone to do whatever you wanted to do?

How were you with your parents? Were you a submissive child, always obeying your parents, looking constantly for their approval? Or perhaps you were rebellious and always looking for a fight and going against what they said?

It was really interesting for me to see what it was like for different family members to interact with each other as adults. It seemed quite clear to me that people just fall instantly back into their personas when interacting with various people….acting in the only way they know how when with people they know from different parts of their lives.

If they were talking to siblings, those dynamics instantly became apparent and each person almost instantly fell back into sibling role….then in the very same room they switched back to “parent mode” when talking to their own kids and yet a completely different tone of voice was heard when talking to their spouse. This actually happened and yes, it was that distinctive to me.

People are complicated and certainly none of these things can be seen or understood in only one interaction, but after a considerable amount of time observing and thinking about what I was witnessing, it became quite clear to me that many, if not most, people revert to whatever really lies inside themselves…or their masks.

You hear this all the time in thoughtful analysis of online commentary and self-identification. People only put online what they want people to see or know about themselves, without sharing the whole picture. There are certainly many reasons for that…a blog post for another time perhaps.

At any rate, I just think it’s really interesting to see people I know from one aspect of their lives, interact with other people they know from other aspects of their lives. Think about that for a minute…are you different with different people in your family? How do those relationships different from co-workers and regular friends or other social circles?

A thinking exercise for you. Go forth!

10 Ways to Improve Traveling in Coach

Flight over Hawaii - Make people happier.
10 Ways to Improve Travel in Coach that Could Make People Happier

I recently read Claudia Altucher’s Become An Idea Machine: Because Ideas Are The Currency Of The 21st Century (affiliate)
which got me thinking about all sorts of things. If you haven’t heard of or read it yet, you really should consider getting it from the library or downloading it on Kindle for $.99. The whole premise of the book is to come up with a 10 ideas about a whole bunch of different things as a way to get amped up and thinking outside the box.

One of the exercises in the book is to come up with 10 ways the airline industry could improve traveling in coach class seats that would make people happier. I’ve been fortunate to have flown around the country (and the world) a fair amount, so here are my ideas. Let me know what you think in the comments below or tell me on Twitter.

1 – Give everyone a chocolate chip cookie as they board the plane (or right before the safety messages).
How great would this be?! Everybody loves a little treat now and then and this would certainly be a great way to cheer up those grumpy (and hungry) travelers. Be careful to offer gluten-free and nut free options for those with allergies.

2 – Free first drink for all passengers age 21 and over.
Yes! This one makes me want to sing Drunk On A Plane (affiliate) by Dierks Bentley. No better way to relax than with a free drink on a long flight.

3 – Free WiFi.
Duh. Don’t you want your passengers tweeting and facebooking about how great you are as an airline while mid-flight?

4 – Quick and fun group trivia or gambling games.
Southwest Airlines used to do this every time I flew to Las Vegas. Everyone who wanted to play would put a dollar in a hat or something and get a raffle ticket. They’d ring their flight attendant button to answer to win. Or maybe no money is exchanged, just the first correct answer gets another free drink or meal or something. I’m sure someone could come up with a fun way to do a group game like that. Make flying fun again!

5 – USB power in every seat.
I think most Alaska Airline flights already do this. Gotta keep my gadgets charged up so I can pay a ridiculous amount of money to watch the latest movies and tv shows on that “free” wi-fi we’re getting.

6 – Designate a quiet or loud area in certain areas so passengers can either read/sleep or be loud and obnoxious if they want.
I realize this one is a stretch, but I thought it would be cool in case there are a bunch of people who want to talk or play games or something.

7 – Raffle for free food or drinks or A FREE FLIGHT VOUCHER!!!
I admit, this one is kind of related to number 4, but how cool awesome would it be to actually win a free flight just for flying. People love free stuff. Maybe you only do one of these a day in the entire fleet, but still, a great way to build rapport with your customers. And a great way to build loyalty as an airline that gives back to their passengers.

8 – Magazine exchange.
I always see the flight attendants carrying armfuls of unwanted magazines that usually just end up in recycling. Midway through every 1 hr+ flight, make an announcement that the magazine exchange has begun and allow people to donate and sift through what everyone else on the flight already finished reading. This one wouldn’t cost anything and would be pretty easy to implement. Just use an old food or soda box to carry everything around in or make people go to the back of the plane to find what they want.

9 – Book exchange.
Same as number 8, but with books. Might get heavy, so be careful when lifting!

10 – Game consoles in the back of the headrest monitors to play with other passengers.
Remember how some planes back in the day used to have the actual phone in the back of the middle seat headrest? I was thinking of something like that, but with a tv and armrest control unit with an internal network that only allowed you to play certain games with other passengers. Or you could go all out and pop for the full size unit with internet connected gaming to anyone in the world on certain gaming networks. Make it easy and start with board games or go full speed with RPGs or other more graphics intense games.

If anyone from the airline industry reads this, please know my thoughts are coming from a place of wanting to help make your product more enjoyable. I have a sales and marketing background and want you to offer a few low cost and high cost tips for making the average Joe’s experience a little more enjoyable. Most airline seats are probably coach and the competition is fierce, so here’s a few tips you hopefully enjoyed reading and could possibly implement as a way to one-up the competition.

And for any passengers out there that ever take any airline survey that ask “how can we serve you better?” – remember some of these ideas and maybe we’ll meet on a flight with one of these great new benefits.

Here’s to your flying enjoyment!

Go Forth!

You Deserve to Be Happy

Happy New Year
Happy new year! You deserve to be Happy.

Happy New Year! It’s that time again – where we hope and dream and think about all the ways we wish we and the world around us were better. Or fitter. Or different. Or…anything other than what we are right now. Why can’t we just be happy?

Why are we so unhappy with ourselves? Why do we always want something to be different? I think a healthy sense of wanting to be improved is important and necessary for personal satisfaction, but to just throw your hands up in disgust with your life as it is now is absurd.

I still remember the feeling of when I first realized that I deserve to be happy and I deserve the people and the things around me. (It wasn’t that long ago…maybe a year or so after many months of thoughtful reflection and prayer) I also still remember the feeling of walking around everyday not believing that I deserved everything that I had in my life – both the good and the bad. Sometimes I need to be reminded of that realization that I deserve to be happy. I’m not a vain person, but with so many people with so much less than I have and so many stories of suffering I felt uncomfortable with the blessings I have. In response, I try to live a life of gratitude and service to others in any way that I can. I want to be happy.

Over the last few years, I’ve tried very hard to think critically about living a “minimalist” lifestyle and have actively tried to pursue such a way of living. Now some of you may scoff at that, but please read on and hear me out. To me, minimalism is not about trying to be cool and stand out from everyone else to show off how great you are because you don’t have any possessions and live in a tiny house with everything organized perfectly in its own little space (although I do love that idea). Quite the contrary actually, minimalism is the act and process of decluttering your life from all the extraneous so that you can truly cherish whatever is left – both possessions and relationships. If your way of being a minimalist is living in a tiny house, go for it! You deserve to be happy.

Minimalism is the act and process of valuing the most important things in life and eliminating everything else. We all need some material possessions to survive, especially clothing and housing. But after those and a maybe a few other small items, not much else is necessary to survive. Society will tell you otherwise, but look inward and your soul will tell you the truth. Sure there are chemical reactions that happen inside the body that trick you into thinking you need all that stuff, but once your shopping hormones settle down, something inside tells you otherwise. You’re still not happy.

The same goes for relationships. It’s very easy to get tricked into thinking that because we’re “friends” on social media, that means we’re actually friends in real life. The nature of online conversations have been well documented as being only surface level and lacking genuine interaction. At least as far as my own social feed goes, most of what I see are game scores (both sports and video variety), fashion (don’t judge), internet memes and pictures of people posing in ways they would never do in real life (maybe I don’t really know them after all…case in point. what?). Sure you might know someone, maybe you even met once before, or maybe you’re just stalking them like any celebrity, ever. Either way, most of the people on your friends list you probably don’t have a deep friendship with and likely never will. You’re still not happy.

So why are we unhappy? I have no idea. It might be all the stuff getting in your way. It might be a few toxic relationships weighing heavy on your soul. It might be that you have no true relationships and everything you live is on the internet. Sure there is a lot of pain and suffering both personally and globally to make us so, but what else?

Ultimately, we have the freedom to choose our own thinking and choose our own happiness. And that’s what I’ve learned and hope to pass on – that happiness is a choice. You have to choose to seek that which will make you happy – and the answer usually isn’t easy to accept.

Will minimalism make you happy? Maybe. Hopefully it might lead you to think critically for yourself about the things you possess and what really matters and what doesn’t.

Getting in touch with the Creator and Spirit will help, and those answers don’t come in our time.

Prayer.

Meditation.

Either way, I think we all deserve to be happy. We all deserve to have friends. And we all deserve to be unhappy at times just so we can appreciate the happy feelings and empathize with those we find who aren’t happy.

Happy new year. Here’s to your happiness journey in 2016.