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.

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

 

Rules to Live By and Hills to Climb

Rules to Live By and Hills to Climb

Two recent things friends have shared with me, some changes on the business front and spending time with my family this week have given me cause to reflect on what is important.  In my posts on Being Grateful earlier this year, I address many things for which I am immensely thankful. [ Being Grateful  & On Being Grateful II ]  Here, I’m thinking about the many challenges we all face from time to time or more frequently.  These can be considered road blocks to one’s path forward, things that get in the way and stop us.  I prefer to consider them “Hills to Climb” as Charles M. Blow put so well in his New York Times piece today. Thanks to my friend Michael R. Burcham for sharing.

What Charles does not address is the HOW, although he touches on it.  The HOW is really important to understand.  Just deciding to overcome an obstacle and to climb that hill is essential but inadequate.  Many may decide but upon encountering further impediments, delays or little progress become discouraged.  Nothing ever goes according to “Plan”.  There will be setbacks, naysayers and failures along the way.  Growing up in a family of educators, musicians and self made individuals, I learned early on how important hard work is to achieving anything worthwhile.  But hard work, coupled with incredible never ending PERSISTENCE is what determines success.  My Cornell classmate and fellow wrestler, Nick Whitcombe shared this inspiring video highlighting Kyle Dake’s incredible 4 NCAA National Championships at 4 DIFFERENT weight classes – a feat never before accomplished making Kyle the Sports Illustrated College Athlete of the Year.  It is narrated by The Arnold, who despite his flaws (as all of us have), has always be an inspiration to me.  I don’t think there are a better set of Rules to Live By if one wants to achieve a goal, attain greatness, or Climb a Hill.

1. Trust Yourself

2. Break Some Rules

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

4. Ignore the Naysayers

5. Work like Hell

6. Give something Back

I’m interested in your thoughts on this or anything you might like to add. Post here or send me a note.

Cheers and Happy Holidays!

Smoke

Send Your Letter to Support Olympic Wrestling To The International Olympic Committee

Thanks for all the reposts and kind comments… building on my last post, I liked John Irving’s opinion piece in the New York Times “How Wrestling Lost the Olympics”.

Also, looking at the bright side, what could possibly create a headline like this:

“Iran, US Find Common Ground…”

well, the Olympics found a way to cause it…

I also agree with wrestling great, Carl Sanderson, let’s flood the executive committee of the International Olympic Committee with POSITIVE letters showing the passion and great following of Olympic Wrestling.

Executive Committee Members:
(Address at bottom)

Mr Ching-Kuo WU – TPE (Chinese Taipei)

Mr Willi KALTSCHMITT LUJÁN – GUA (Guatemala)

Count Jacques ROGGE – BEL (Belgium)

Mr Thomas BACH – GER (Germany)

Sir Craig REEDIE – GBR (Great Britain)

Dr René FASEL – SUI (Switzerland)

Mr Sam RAMSAMY – RSA (South Africa)

Mr Patrick Joseph HICKEY – IRL (Ireland)

Mrs Gunilla LINDBERG – SWE (Sweden)

Ms Nawal EL MOUTAWAKEL – MAR (Morocco)

Mr Ser Miang NG – SIN (Singapore)

Mr John D. COATES, AC – AUS (Australia)

Mr Juan Antonio SAMARANCH JR – ESP (Spain)

Mr Sergey BUBKA – UKR (Ukraine)

Mrs Claudia BOKEL – GER (Germany)
————————————————————————-

I.O.C.
Château de Vidy
Case postale 356
1001 Lausanne
Switzerland
Phone +41 21 621 61 11
Fax +41 21 621 62 16

Pass this on…

A Former Wrestler’s Open Letter To The International Olympic Committee & Olympic Sponsors.  Save Olympic Wrestling!

A Former Wrestler’s Open Letter To The International Olympic Committee & Olympic Sponsors. Save Olympic Wrestling!

Dear International Olympic Committee & Olympic Sponsors

cc: Friends of Wrestling,

Your decision today clearly upset a large number of Olympic fans around the world.  While we who are not privy to all of the issues you must grapple with internally, cannot know exactly what led to your decision announced today to drop wrestling from the 2020 Olympic games, it is clear you have miscalculated on at least one front.  To wit, wrestling is one of the toughest sports ever invented and anyone who has wrestled at any level or has been close to wrestling can tell you… wrestlers are a tenacious lot.  In fact, we don’t give up.  The level of protest you can expect from this community will surely come as a surprise to all of you.

There three main reasons why the Olympics will be diminished without wrestling:

1. Wrestling, a truly international sport, has been around since pre-historic times and was an important part of Greek culture when the Olympics got its start –

According to WIKIPEDIA:

In the Ancient Near East, forms of belt wrestling were popular from earliest times.  A carving on a stone slabe showing three pairs of wrestlers was dated to around 3000 BC… A portrayal of figures wrestling was found in the tomb of Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum in Saqqara dating to around 2400 BC.  Another early piece of evidence for wrestling in Egypt appeared circa 2300 BC, on the tomb of the Old Kingdom philosopher Ptahhotep…. Greek wrestling was a popular form of martial art in which points were awarded for touching a competitor’s back to the ground, forcing a competitor out of bounds (arena).  Three falls determined the winner. It was at least featured as a sport since the eighteenth Olympiad in 704 BC. Wrestling is described in the earliest celebrated works of Greek literature, the Iliad and the Odyssey.   Wrestlers were also depicted in action on many vases, sculptures, and coins, as well as in other literature. Other cultures featured wrestling at royal or religious celebrations, but the ancient Greeks structured their style of wrestling as part of a tournament where a single winner emerged from a pool of competitors.   Late Greek tradition also stated that Plato was known for wrestling in the Isthmian games.

When the Olympic games resurfaced at Athens in 1896, Greco-Roman wrestling was introduced. After not being featured in the 1900 Olympics, sport wrestling was seen again in 1904 in St. Louis; this time in freestyle competition. Since then, Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling have both been featured, with women’s freestyle added in the Summer Olympics of 2004.

2. Wrestling has a tight knit passionate community of participants and followers globally, who greatly value and honor the Olympics.  Wrestling does not have a professional wrestling option as many other sports.  Unlike many other sports, the Olympics are the highest and most important venue for wrestling.  Many other sports have other higher levels (professional ).  All US (and international) wrestlers who got our start after him, grew up idolizing Dan Gable and his perfect performance (no point ever scored against him throughout the games) in the 1972 Olympic games.  I had the privilege of attending Dan Gable’s Iowa Intensive Training Camp back in 1983.

Smoke with Dan Gable in 1983

3.  Wrestlers and their friends have significant influence in today’s society.  It is ironic that the day the IOC chose to drop wrestling happens to be wrestler and greatest US President, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.  We will use that influence to do anything in our power to change this short sighted decision.  Whether the wrestling greats like Dan Gable or the many others who have gone on to excel in their professional pursuits, we will work together to fix this.  Here are but a few of the well known Americans who wrestled (from the National Wrestling Coaches Association):

U.S. PRESIDENTS

Chester Arthur Calvin Coolidge Dwight Eisenhower

Ulysses S Grant Andrew Jackson Abraham Lincoln Teddy Roosevelt William Howard Taft

John Tyler

 

 

U.S. SENATE

The late John Chafee (former senator RI)

Lincoln Chafee (former senator RI)

Chuck Hagel ( Nebraska )

John McCain ( Arizona )

The Late Paul Wellstone ( Minnesota )

 

U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Brad Glass

Greg Ganske (Iowa )

Jim Jordon (Ohio)

Jim Leach ( Iowa )

Jim Nussle ( Iowa )

The Late Carl Albert (Former Speaker of the House)

Dennis Hastert ( Illinois ) (Former Speaker of the House)

 

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE

Donald Rumsfeld

Frank Carlucci

 

WHITE HOUSE STAFF

Ari Fleischer

George Stephanopoulos

 

ACADEMY AWARD WINNER

John Irving

 

ACTORS

Nate Parker

Mario Lopez

Ashton Kutcher

Tom Cruise

Billy Baldwin

 

BUSINESS LEADERS

Rocky Aoki, Benihana

Scott Beck, Boston Market

James Bigger, Nestlé

Dan Cathy, Chic-Fil-a

Stephen Friedman, Goldman Sachs and Cornell

Ron McGruder, Olive Garden

Edward Rust, State Farm

Arthur Rutzen, Wells Fargo

MILITARY LEADERS

Military leaders

Denny Benchoff

Greg “Pappy” Boyington

Charles C Krulak

George Patton

Al Rushotz

Norman Schwartzkopf

ATHLETES

NFL

Stephen Neal – New England Patriots

Antonio Garay – San Diego Chargers

Davin Joseph – Tampa Bay

Ronde Barber – Tampa Bay

Joe Condo – Oakland

Chris Colley – Washington

Ray Lewis – Baltimore

Lorenzo Neal – San Diego

Donnie Edwards

Kelly Gregg – Baltimore

Bryant McKinnie – Minnesota

David Patten – New England

Adam Vinatieri – Indianapolis

Ricky Williams – Miami

Coy Wire – Atlanta

Roddy White – Atlanta

Ronnie Brown – Miami

Matt Roth – Cleveland

Mike Patterson – Philadelphia

Luis Castillo – San Diego

Jim Nance – New England

Brand Benson – NY Giants

Mike Reid – Bengals

Jeff Richardson – NY Jets

Tiki Barber – NY Giants

Tedy Bruschi – New England

Larry Czonka – Miami

Bob Golic – Cleveland

Mike Golic – Philadelphia

Carlton Haselrig – Pittsburgh

Bo Jackson – Oakland

Matt Millen – Oakland

Warren Sapp – Tampa Bay

Mark Schlereth – Denver

Chuck Noll – Pittsburgh

Curley Culp – Kansas City Chiefs

At the Olympic Wrestling Trials in Indianapolis in 2004

US Olympic Wrestling Trials - 2004 Former Cornell Wrestlers at Olympic Trials 2004

And if I could list all the non-American’s I would.  Wrestling is truly an international sport like few others.

Here is a NPR clip on the Turkish Wrestling response… an example of reaction around the world

IOC, I believe you will listen to reason so long as it is delivered by your sponsors.  These sponsors are global companies most of which are based in wrestling countries as are their customer.  The global partners of the Olympics include (along with their twitter handle):

Coca-Cola   https://twitter.com/cocacolaco

P&G  https://twitter.com/ProcterGamble

General Electric  https://twitter.com/generalelectric

DOW   https://twitter.com/DowChemical

McDonalds  https://twitter.com/McDonalds

Panasonic  https://jp.twitter.com/panasonic

Samsung  https://twitter.com/Samsungtweets

Omega  https://twitter.com/omegawatches

Visa  https://twitter.com/Visa

#saveolympicwrestling

For the Friends of Wrestling:

Here is the petition to re-instate wrestling into the Olympics.. please sign it.

Sign the Petition

If you are really motivated, tweet about it, mention the sponsors on twitter and worst case if we do not get support, take your business to other companies who are not supporting the IOC and this short sighted move.

Thanks and Kind Regards,

J. Smoke Wallin

former Cornell Wrestler, Bayshore HS Wrestler

Freshman Year Wrestling at Bayshore High School

Cornell Wrestling Team 1985

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