The Power of Choice: A Boy Named Smoke

The Power of Choice: A Boy Named Smoke

“Well my daddy left home when I was three And he didn’t leave much to Ma and me Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze Now, I don’t blame him ’cause he run and hid But the meanest thing that he ever did Was before he left, he went and named me “Sue”” – Johnny Cash “A Boy Named Sue”

My whole life I’ve been asked if Smoke is my real name. Born John Smoke Wallin, I’ve been Smoke since memory. This might seem a trivial question, but explaining my name has been a reality for me since as long as I can remember. I attended a Young Presidents Organization (YPO) event last night in West Hollywood and met another member with an equally unique name. We connected on the issue of growing up with an unusual name and the challenges that presented each of us. He explained his story of growing up hating his name, wishing to change it, and then being given a choice by his family. He was offered a color TV or name change and picked the TV. He went on to describe the pivot that happened for him when he chose not to change his name and owning the decision for the rest of his life. “The day after my choice, someone called me a name and we fought. I stood my ground. From that moment on, I owned my name and it empowered me.”

I immediately realized he described my own experience. Growing up in multiple towns, from Hoboken, Boston, Siesta Key and ultimately Longboat Key. I changed schools and moved 4 and 5 times before entering high school. Each move provided the usual challenges of meeting new kids, introducing myself and getting asked (aka challenged) about my name. Kids generally want to be liked and fit in. Having a weird name always came with this challenge up front. As I’ve described it many times, kids can be very mean and I remember this being very upsetting. I can remember coming home in tears. I always felt like an outsider.

I entered yet another school for 7th grade and declared to my mom, “I’m sick and tired of getting made fun of, I am going to use my given first name at my new school”. Declaring that, and having mom’s full support, I entered Sugg Middle School in Bradenton, FL as John Wallin. The first day of school and throughout my 2 years there I quickly realized 2 things: 1. I did not respond to the name John. 2. There were 7-10 John’s in every class. No one made fun of me and I fit right in and yet realized I did not feel like me.

As I prepared to enter Bayshore High School I declared to my mom, “ok, I’m going back to my real name, Smoke”. I’ve owned my decision ever since. Having a unique name from HS through college through my business career is now a source of strength. I embraced the unique gift my parents gave me at birth. Proudly explain my American Indian heritage (very small) and my likely semi-hippie parents at the time. Everyone remembers my name and me. It is a part of what makes me me.

The power of choice in our lives is all powerful. Deciding something for oneself means you own the decision. The greatest gift my mom gave me was to let me choose.

If you are facing a challenge or problem great or small, think about the choices you have made to be in your situation. Realizing that there are many things outside our control, think about the choices you can make going forward that you do control. Worrying about things outside your control adds no value. Remember, once we have identified a problem or issue we all have these choices: to change it, to solve it or to live with it. Doing nothing is a choice. Once you realize this, you empower yourself and own the decision. No one can take it away from you.

By A Boy Named Smoke.

Finish What You Started

Finish What You Started

It was the Summer before my senior year in High School when I ran into my Scout Master. He was also our neighbor in the small fishing village of Longboat Key, FL, where I grew up. “Smoke, good to see you. You going to finish what you started?” he asked. Of course, I knew exactly what he was referring to. You see, a few short years before, I was one of the founding scouts of Troop 44 on Longboat Key. As a new troop, I had the opportunity to immediately become a leader. It didn’t take long for a rapid ascent through the ranks; from Scout, to Tenderfoot, to 2nd Class, to 1st Class, to Star, and on to Life Scout by age 16. I only had a few more requirements to achieve my goal of becoming an Eagle Scout, the Boy Scouts highest rank. While Scouting and camping remained something I cared about, sports, school and social activities had begun to take most of my time.

On that hot Summer day while on my way to catch some Mullet with my cast net, Mr. Carmen reminded me, “Smoke, you know that only 4% of boys who start scouting ever achieve the rank of Eagle?”. This had been grilled into us from the first days of scouting. He was reminding me, that in less than a year I would turn 18 and no longer be eligible for advancement. He also knew there was a very good chance I would not finish as he’d seen this happen to many scouts over the years. Wrestling was my priority and I was about to head to Dan Gable’s 28 Day Intensive Training Camp in Iowa. Once the season started, this meant 3 hour practices, 5 days a week and meets and matches on many weekends. Juggling this with school work and applying to colleges would be a challenge as it was, add on all the social distractions that come with senior year in high school and it would be a real challenge to put the necessary time into Scouts. It was a moment of truth. Do I make the commitment to finish what I set out to do or do I take the much easier path and let other things take priority? I remember looking myself in the mirror and asking, “What matters to me?” I decided then and there that I would not let anything get in the way of my goal of Eagle. Looking back, I had no idea of the impact the answer to that question would have on my life.

Eleven months later, I completed my Eagle project. We cleaned up part of the beaches on Longboat Key and built a small foot bridge at the LBK Youth Center. I finished right before my 18th birthday. My brother Clay followed suit, earning his Eagle rank a short time later (but also right under the wire). In the end, it was up to me to do the hard work and complete the requirements. I never would have made it without the support and encouragement of my family and the adult leaders in the Troop, when I needed it most.

Today, I reflect on this story to share one of the many lessons I have learned: finish what you start.

Building the internal fortitude to bear down is hard when there are many other distractions. This is something you cannot teach, but rather one must learn from experience. Looking back on my years since, finishing my Eagle changed my whole life.

The willingness to step up and complete what one begins is an essential element for success in business, industry and community activities. I moved to Indianapolis upon graduating from Cornell University and read about an Eagle Scout leadership dinner in town. This is where I met some of the community’s biggest business and community leaders at the time, including then Senator Richard Lugar. At 22 years old, I was networking with a Senator and CEOs of some of the biggest businesses in a town. Prior to this, I only knew a handful of people in Indianapolis. Being an Eagle Scout has opened many doors for me along my personal journey. A few years later, when I was in position to hire talent for my businesses, a candidate with Eagle Scout on their resume would always make my interview list regardless of other experience. It’s the one thing from childhood that has come up time and again throughout my adult life. This would not have happened had I not finished. No one recognizes a Life Scout.

When my two sons Skye and Cameron joined Scouting, I told them this story. We had many adventures in Scouting together including hiking on the Appalachian Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park, Philmont Scout Ranch and the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska. As they got older, when time was running out for their Eagle, I had to remind them of it. There was a good chance they would not finish, but fortunately there were many adults and fellow scouts who helped push them when they needed it most. (Scoutmaster Clifton, Mr. B, the Johnsons, the Stewarts, and other parents, in particular Diana Church). When one starts anything new, it is easy to say, “I’ll finish and reach my goal.” It is a lot harder to actually do it. I’m proud that both sons also went on to earn their Eagle rank.

Throughout my career in business as a serial entrepreneur, I’ve encountered many setbacks and roadblocks to achieving my goals. It is how one responds to adversity that determines success. There is a confidence one develops knowing whatever it takes and no matter how difficult the situation one can persevere.

When you have the opportunity to give an extra push or words of encouragement to someone you know who is struggling or has lost sight of their goal, do it, even if it is not what they want to hear. Your encouragement could be the thing that gets them over the top to rededicate themselves to achieve their potential. It takes caring people to bring out the best in each of us. Sometimes, one person asking, “are you going to finish what you started?” is the final catalyst needed for action.

At the end of the day it is up to the individual to do what it takes. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. When you feel most like giving up, that is the time to bear down and do what it takes to finish what you started.

If you enjoyed this read, please follow me on twitter @smokewallin or on https://www.linkedin.com/in/smokewallin and you can read more on my personal website drinktechnology.com. If you know someone how needs to hear this message, please share.

Giving Thanks

Giving thanks to all my family and friends. Cheers to all.

Morning Prayer

Let me awaken every morning and be thankful for what God has brought me.

Let me awaken every morning knowing things are as they are meant to be.

Let me awaken every morning knowing life is a journey and I am just a part.

Let me awaken every morning knowing the day will
bring challenges, opportunities and learning experiences.

Let me awaken every morning with self-love and self-acceptance, so I may be more tolerant of myself and others.

Let me awaken every morning with an open heart, so love may rush in and out like the tide of the mighty ocean.

Thrive Under Pressure

Thrive Under Pressure

Thrive on Pressure

I’ve been thinking about the concept of pressure after a conversation I had with several recent college graduates who are at the beginning of their careers. What is pressure and how do I handle it when I feel it? When I think about this topic, I immediately think about sports and how the great competitors face incredible pressure at specific moments. Yesterday’s PGA as Jason Day closed in on his first major win with Jordan Spieth on the hunt. Day has had so many near misses, putting those nagging doubts out of his head and playing strong for a record breaking 20 under major was incredible to watch. How does one do that and what can the rest of us learn from it?

jason day pga

I decided to go back to a classic and highly motivational book I have gone to since my days of Cornell wrestling, The Edge, by Howard E. Ferguson, 1982. Here is the legendary coach of one of wrestling’s greatest high schools, St. Edward of Lakewood, Ohio take on pressure:

“Time’s running out. Your team trails by one basket. The noise of the crowd is deafening.

What do you do? Do you hide, or do you break from your opponent and come out to get the ball for the last shot?

If you’ve prepared mentally and physically as we have mapped out, you’ll never need to worry about pressure; in fact, you’ll go out of your way to put yourself in pressure situations. You’ll be the type of athlete who thrives on a close game, a tight match. Pressure is something you put on yourself when you’re not prepared. If you don’t have faith in what you are doing and you fear the unexpected, then its something for which you didn’t properly prepare. All pressure is self-inflicted and, like anything else in life, you can look at it in several ways. You can look forward to it or you can cringe in front of it. … If you welcome pressure, you’ll be amazed at how successful you’ll be. When the situation gets tight, you’ll have the edge because you’ll know: 1. There’s just as much pressure on your opponent, 2. Exactly how to handle it, and 3. Chances are he(she) won’t.

No matter how confident you are though, sometimes you’ll find yourself caught up in a pressure situation and little doubts of your ability will creep into your mind. No need to panic, no need ot think its unnatural. Even the great ones have moments of fear. The secret to their success is that they know exactly how to handle these moments – they know they can’t avoid them, so when the pop up, they don’t lose it – they handle them. They slow it down a little, they go back to their very fundamentals of their particular sport and they concentrate. Slow it down. Get your confidence back. Get your edge back. Then face the pressure head-on.”

In business, just as in sports, you make a choice in a “pressure” situation. You can either embrace it with the confidence of preparation and a belief in your ability and your content or your can let it get to you. I’ve probably given 1,000s of presentations or speeches over the years to important audiences, customers, and business leaders. In every one of these situations, even early on, I felt the pressure in the form of adrenalin.   I grew to feed on these situations. I embraced them. Even early on, these were the situations I sought and thrived on. Whether it was getting a meeting with Walmart’s Sam’s Club at 23 years old and traveling to Bentonville, AK to present on my own, taking the lead on presentations to our major suppliers or going out to the investment community and raising $100s of millions while still in my twenties, I put myself in “pressure” situations. While there were always ways in which I could have improved or done better and each of these experiences could have been terribly nerve racking, but instead they where incredible learning experiences in which I thrived.

As a person starting out in the business world, you will have opportunities presented to you to take a lead on a project or to represent your company in a meeting. Take them and embrace them. These are the moments that separate the performers from the rest. These are the moments that enable one to stand out from the crowd. Feeling it is natural, even with proper preparation.

Smoke with Kyle Dake - Cornell Wrestling 2013  kyle Dake

“Pressure is something you really put on yourself. If its not real, why put it on yourself?” -Kyle Dake

Kyle Dake is an American former collegiate wrestler at Cornell University. He won four NCAA Division I national tittles in four different weight classes. With his fourth title in 2013, he joined Cael Sanderson and Pat Smith as the only four-time NCAA champions.

larry bird

As NBA legend, Larry Bird put it back in his playing days, “In the closing seconds of every game, I want the ball in my hands for that last shot – not in anybody else’s, not in anybody else’s hands in the world.”  I look at business situations similarly.

While no one expects a new entrant to the workforce to excel in every situation right from the start, you will have opportunities to put yourself into a “pressure situation”. Seek these out. Always be the one who raises their hand and steps up. Don’t fear failure. Take the chance and be willing to put yourself into these situations. You may not realize it at the time, but your boss and other senior people in your organization will notice. More importantly, you will gain experience and confidence by going through these experiences. The more you do this, the more you will have confidence and never get rattled.

“Courage is grace under pressure.” Ernest Hemingway

 

Giving Memorial Day Thanks – “Build Me A Son”

Giving Memorial Day Thanks – “Build Me A Son”

Giving Thanks - Memorial Day 2015

On this Memorial Day weekend I am thinking about all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of Freedom. The world we live in is a dangerous one, fraught with men with evil intentions. But for the sacrifice of a brave few, those men would have their way on all. We can see it in places near and far, from the evil men who brutally tortured and killed a YPO family in Washington DC (Savvas Savopoulos) to the evil being inflicted on whole countries in the Middle East. Left unchecked evil prevails. We live in a the greatest country, a place where an individual, no matter if they were born into poverty and extreme disadvantage can do and be anything they set out to achieve. A country where the world’s people, seek out more than any other, to take refuge from evil, to build a better life for their family, to live free. We are all privileged and I give thanks to those who have made it possible.

This poem, by General Douglas MacArthur, commander of the Allied Forces in the Pacific during the great struggle against evil in World War II, has hung on my wall for 26 years. I can think of no better message to all of my children (sons and daughters) than that contained herein.MacArthur on Time

“Build me a son, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee-and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.

Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

After all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength. Then, I, his father, will dare to whisper, ‘I have not lived in vain.’”

– General Douglas MacArthur

 

As we all enjoy the holiday weekend, including the many who come to town for the Indy 500 Sunday, let’s all take a moment and reflect on these words. Happy Memorial Day Weekend.

With Gratitude,

Smoke

May 23, 2015

Savvas Savopoulos YPO Member

Savvas Savopoulos YPO Member

On my wall since 1989

IMG_5507

The Wallin Children May 2015

Interview – Mark E. Walker – premier business and life strategist for athletes, entertainers and entrepreneurs that are committed to playing for life.

Interview – Mark E. Walker – premier business and life strategist for athletes, entertainers and entrepreneurs that are committed to playing for life.

Mark E. Walker is the premier business and life strategist for athletes, entertainers and entrepreneurs that are committed to playing for life.  His new book LIVE! The Life That’s Meant For You.  One Day At A Time is now available.

Mark E Walker-Ph-50

Mark you have been working with athletes, entertainers and entrepreneurs for many years, I know you are quite selective with who you work with, what is your philosophy on picking clients or business partners?

My philosophy starts with a client or business partner that is 100% committed and dedicated to their career or business, authentic, and mutual respect. But is also open-minded enough to listen to alternative approaches.

I know you got your start in the music industry. What was your biggest take away from that experience?

It opened my view from a world perspective that a product that is created in the US or maybe in one market could be appealing to a group let’s say in Australia. So as a result, it has allowed me to look at the world from a larger perspective, and understand that there are micro communities that relate to my product all throughout the world.

How does being a college athlete help you relate to the athletes you work with today?At Blair HSYounger Mark

It gives me a bit of insight as to the dedication and the commitment that is required for them to get to the next level.

Growing up in Jamaica must have been incredible. What about that do you think about or manifests itself in you today?

I had an amazing childhood growing up in Jamaica. That experience gave me an exploration nature and a “no problem” attitude, which is essential in dealing with my clients in business today. Things happen daily that are not part of the original plan. But it allows me to quickly adapt and make adjustments and not worry about what was and focus on creating solutions.

What made you write your new book “Live! The Life That’s Meant For You, One Day AtScreenshot 2014-04-28 12.24.27-1 A Time”?

I have come to realize that most people don’t take the time to enjoy and live every day. But instead, many wait for the weekend or vacations to live and be happy. So I started sending out Facebook posts based on my reflections on life and business. Friends began to tell me that they looked forward to reading my posts. After some time had passed, I started to get asked from multiple sources over and over again if I had my quotes in a book. So, this is what prompted me to write this book.

 

You have so many great principles in the book. One that spoke to me personally is “Courage invites critics, so don’t expect everyone to support your vision”. Can you elaborate on this?

I have always had people tell me that I was crazy because I never did the predictable. Over time, I have come to realize that it takes courage to go against the grain, the crowd, or the norm. After studying most people who have become trend setters or created inventive products or services, I recognized that often times they were doing things that went against the conventional wisdom/norm at the time.

What one thing would you tell a young aspiring entrepreneur who came to you for coaching?

You must be willing to fail in order to become successful.

You served in the U.S. Army early on in your adult life. What did being in the military teach you and how does being a veteran today impact your life?

The biggest take away from the military is that anything is possible if you have a plan of action and a team that is totally committed to accomplishing a task. Nothing is impossible.

By being a veteran, I am part of a larger extended family of comrades, which has turned out to be an extended network.

I’ll turn the tables on you and ask, you where do you see yourself in 5 years. How do you personally live the principles you share in the book?

In 5 years, I see myself releasing a few more books such as one that would delve into specific strategies for entrepreneurs, expansion on my seminars to larger venues, expanding my reach to help more entrepreneurs and business owners to bring their visions to life, and a regular business correspondence role on a TV network.

All my quotes are part of me and my life’s journey. I live them daily. However, some days are better than others while always looking for the message.Mark E Walker Life & Business Seminar

What did I forget to ask?

You didn’t ask me what inspires me. I am inspired by the possibility of helping others to accomplish their dreams.

Mark is conducting a “Life & Business” seminar June 7, 2014 in L.A..  If you’d like to attend information is here.

2013-08-03 11.45.42

Remembering Louis J. Conti Cornell University Class of 1941, US Marine

Remembering Louis J. Conti Cornell University Class of 1941, US Marine

I just received this from the Cornell Athletics dept (and my old wrestling coach, Andy Noel, our athletic director)… and all I could think was wow, what an amazing life.  I thought I’d share it here.    Thanks Andy for sharing. Remembering Louis J. Conti Cornell University Class of 1941, US Marine  Conti HOF Lou Conti was a two-way single wing pocket guard on Cornell’s 1939 and 1940 teams that beat Ohio State in Columbus and Ithaca. The 1939 team was undefeated and voted national champions. The 1940 team played in the famous 5th down game at Dartmouth. Lou was AP All-East in 1940 and played in the 1941 East-West Shrine game. In recognition of his athletic prowess, he was inducted into the Cornell Athletics Hall of Fame in 1981. Lou died on February 14, just two weeks after his beloved wife Dottie passed. In 1942, as a Marine Corps Lieutenant, Lou flew dive bombers in World War II’s Pacific theater. He was assigned to Marine Scout Bombing Squadrons and flew many missions in the Central and South Pacific from Palmyra, Guadal Canal, Munda, Bougainville, and Green Island in the Solomon Islands. In 1945 he was assigned as Commanding Officer of the photo recon detachment on Okinawa in support of that operation and flew photo missions over Japan in preparation for the U.S. invasion (that fortunately never happened). In 1949, he joined the football coaching staff at Cornell as an assistant and was concurrently commissioned as a Captain in the Marine Corps Reserve. He was recalled to active duty in 1952 and served as Operations and Executive Officer of the Marine Photographic squadron of the 1st Marine Air Craft Wing in Korea. He flew 102 combat missions in Korea. After a second tenure as an assistant coach with the Big Red, he began his business career in 1956 with General American Transportation Corporation’s (GATX) Tank Storage Division. There, he was instrumental in making it the largest company of its kind in the world and increased sales in a 10-year period from $10 million to $250 million annually. He went on to become the Chairman and CEO of Marine Transport Lines, a public company spun off from GATX. Lou served as a director for Emerson Electric Company. At the time, Chuck Knight was the Chairman, President, and CEO; Al Suter was the COO, and Bob Staley the Vice Chairman. All were Cornell `57, Knight and Suter football players and Staley a world champion oarsman for the Big Red. Dick Loynd `50 was also on the Emerson board, and also a former football player. The five were great friends and provided the bulk of the funding for the construction of “Friends Hall” and named so in honor of their friendship.  (I got to know Chuck when I was Co-Chair of the Owen Distinguished Lecture Series at Vanderbilt and with my Cornell connection I was his host for the visit and I had the privilege of introducing him to the school). While furthering his civilian career, Lou continued to be active in the USMC Reserve before retiring as a Major General. As a civilian, he was appointed by the Secretary of Defense to Chair the Reserve Forces Policy Board. He served in that capacity for eight years and upon his retirement was named Chairman Emeritus. For his service with the Department of Defense, he was awarded the Distinguished Public Service Medal. For his military service, he was awarded the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, and five Air Medals. photo_2169268_1_photo1_cropped_20140220.jpgx Lou was a devoted family man, a great athlete, served his country with distinction and was a generous benefactor of Big Red Football and a friend to all Cornell athletes. He and Dotty had six children, one of whom lost his life as a Marine in combat in Viet Nam. Lou and Dottie lived in Inverness, IL.

On behalf of the entire Cornell community, we send heartfelt condolences to Lou’s family and friends. The Cornell Football Association very appropriately named its most prestigious award the “Lou Conti Lifetime Achievement Award.” It recognizes individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the program over many years. Lou will be missed, but never forgotten. A life well lived…rest in peace dear friend.

Also as posted in the Chicago Tribune here… A memorial Mass will be held, February 24, at 9:30 at Saint Theresa Catholic Church , 455 Benton Street, Palantine, Il 60067.

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