Thursday, September 15, 2016

Why Celebrate Joe Paterno?

Joe Paterno’s self-professed grand experiment, to treat major college football players as regular students, created an impressive legacy of Penn State Student Athletes over his coaching career. Paterno’s public image, highlighted by his blending academic (tweed jackets, ties, oxfords, and khakis) and athletic (white sox and black athletic shoes) attire was embraced by the public.

The Joe Paterno I experienced in private as a Penn State graduate assistant football coach was much different. That Joe Paterno was a bully who threatened players and staff, made offensive comments, and twisted bad and manipulative behavior to appear good in the media. Staff and players denounced him. His true behavior, behind closed doors, contradicted his public image. And worse, Paterno’s false appearances, his cognitive dissonance, his power and control, enabled Jerry Sandusky’s evil to flourish.

I know. I am a healthy survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). I am a big advocate of what makes teams and organizations great. The positive aspects of football helped me overcome the abuse and trauma I experienced as a child.

I played on three consecutive undefeated high school state championship teams and was a captain and an all-state player for the top team in NJ as a senior. Also during this senior season, my mother succumbed to her eight-year struggle with Melanoma. Our success allowed me to be recruited by all the Ivy League Universities, Service Academies, and I received several Division One football scholarships. In college I was named to the All-Ivy League Team twice and then had several, failed, NFL tryouts.

Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort humans feel when they balance contradictory opinions or manifest behaviors inconsistent with their beliefs. And there’s a lot of that going on right now with Penn State’s decision to honor Joe Paterno this Saturday, September 17.

Penn State alumni and athletes who shared classrooms and victories have every right to celebrate their cherished memories. For me, rather than Celebrate Paterno, I choose to celebrate the great Penn State players and to recognize the impact his deceptive and controlling behavior had on me and others, how he allowed an evil assistant destroy young boys’ souls, and how my disdain for him and power and control dynamics motivate me and others to encourage good people to:

Trust your instincts when sensing or seeing any signs of child abuse. Report this to local authorities. I addressed Sandusky when his lack of boundaries; his pinching, head-locking, and grabbing PSU Football Campers made me uncomfortable. He laughed and said he “just loved kids”. I wish I’d known more about identifying, reporting, stopping, healing from, and overcoming CSA.

Signs a child is being abused and where to seek help

Predator signs and signals

Responding to Child Sexual Abuse

Impact of sexual abuse on a child

Overcoming a bad childhood.

My experience at Penn State

When the Sandusky scandal broke, Paterno and his supporters were in a pivotal position to be true leaders and to exercise the Athenians’ intent for sport; to elevate human thought and conduct and, in turn, to benefit society. They could have made a positive difference, to bring awareness to the vile epidemic of child abuse, to do what Paterno always claimed was most important – to teach and to learn.

They dropped the ball, and with Penn State’s plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Paterno’s first game as head coach on Saturday, it’s a good time to reflect on something that only gets attention when there’s a scandal.

For targets, victims, and survivors of childhood sexual abuse, football season, and any time vulnerable kids are left alone with unsupervised others, offers a variety of threats and triggers and opportunities. I knew Sandusky and when I heard the charges filed against him, read the statements from his victims, and saw his hollow responses in the media, I got sick, and enraged.

I also felt great remorse for not being more aware and protecting his future victims from him. I never saw Sandusky assault a child. His evil was beyond my worst expectations, but there were signs. Since then, I’ve met a survivor Sandusky was molesting while I was on the staff in 1987 and 1988. I wish I’d saved this young man from years of torment.

I know, first hand, the suffering victims experience from this pernicious behavior. I also know pedophiles who assault boys average 150 victims. According to research, in the United States, 1 in 6 boys is sexually molested. Only a very small portion, 6.2%, of all male survivors of CSA choose to repeat the cycle of abuse. However, the majority of child molesters are victims of CSA, derived from this small group. Early intervention is key to stemming this destructive cycle.

This compelled me to do what I could to help vulnerable kids, those involved in abusive relationships, and survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I spoke out to offer support and counsel and to condemn power and control dynamics in organizations, like Penn State, facilitating abuse.

Sexual abuse is not sex. Sex is a consensual act between compatible adult peers. Sexual predators target, abuse, and attempt to control younger, smaller, weaker, poorer, disadvantaged, vulnerable people to fulfill a devious need for power and control, and to destroy. Abuse is the opposite of love.

The following effective processes are intended to free survivors from trauma so they can get started on the good life they have ahead.

First is to share secrets with a licensed, highly regarded, expert in CSA, trauma, and PTSD.

Second, identify cognitive distortions caused by the abuse and associated, negative, behaviors.

Third, in the moment, select new, healthier, responses leading to more positive outcomes, and

Fourth, integrate the new, healthier, sense of self with healthier people and organizations.

These are the steps I, and many others, took to stop abuse and to take ownership and to be empowered to live a healthy and fulfilled life. Unhealthy distortions and responses to abuse are learned when one’s a victimized child. More effective, healthy, responses can be relearned as a mature adult survivor. Peace is possible!

Survivors of childhood sexual abuse can come to realize the truth will set them free. For all, living well is the best revenge!

It's not your fault!

You are not alone!

Healing is possible!

Matt's SB Nation Radio Interview on Honoring Paterno

Matt's Interview on Honoring Paterno with Glenn Clark Radio

Matt Paknis is a senior management consultant with 6 years of college football coaching, ten years of playing football, 5 championship seasons, an MBA, and 25 years of experience working with organizations, athletic teams, and communities to implement tools and practices distinguishing thriving behaviors and performance influenced by great and healthy leaders and teams. Matt serves as Executive Secretary on the Board of Directors of Male Survivor.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

How to Thrive Despite Significant Setbacks | Matt Paknis | TEDxBrownU

From the lowest depths there is a path to the loftiest heights." - unknown

It was an honor to be nominated by Brown University to offer this TED talk on resiliency.

Please click the above title to view the talk.

I hope you enjoy it and share it with those it might help.

If I can help you, please let me know.

Peace, Matt

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Is Your Boss an Animal?

Recent witnessed behaviors showed me the best, and worst, in humans and made me think; "some people are like animals!"

A CEO threw a dart at work puncturing a worker's foot. This incident was reported.

An organization works like a finely tuned machine, reflecting its owner's pride and drive. The workers are grateful for their boss.

A manager threw a baseball at work and hit the head of an executive. This incident was reported.

A customer stated the workers and owners at a firm were like family. The customer is happy and demonstrates her satisfaction and loyalty by purchasing goods from this firm for over 20 years and made another, recent, $3-million-dollar order.

A general manager slapped a subordinate in the back of the head and made this subordinate cry. This incident was reported.

Upon being awarded a new $17 billion contract, managers described, with prideful tears, their respect for those they guide who produce the world's most complex and advanced defense initiative.

A general manager grabbed a senior vice president from behind, as if wrestling, while the senior vice president's face looked shocked and humiliated. This incident was reported.

An airline worker searched for a box to package items from an overweight suitcase to help the traveler avoid an additional $125 fee. A letter was sent to the airline, highlighting this great service.

It's ironic. Humans who demonstrate gross behaviors, or who underperform, are often called dogs.

Yet good dogs are depicted as heroes, considered more evolved, loving, and courageous than humans.

My sense is bad dogs, like children, reflect their corrupted owners' or parents' vices - hate, anger, and aggression. Most kids and dogs, by nature, are playful. Yet when maltreated or misguided by abusive or neglectful humans, protégés reflect their treatment.

The term "good dog" is often associated with animals trained to protect, assist, search, rescue, play, and comfort. Good dogs, and kids, are often influenced by good, (honest, selfless, and self-critical) owners and parents.

Extreme stress, or abusive owners, can change a good dog, or child, into a bad dog, or child.

Following please find four boss / parent / dog profiles with their respective, stressed, animal counterparts. It's hoped these styles help readers become more aware of their and others' strengths, and weaknesses, to better develop good dogs.

A poised German Shepherd reflects a healthy "directing" type of manager.

Positive traits associated with a directing manager included: strong willed, optimistic, determined, productive, decisive, courageous, independent, confident, straight forward and competitive. They are natural leaders who gravitate to executive positions where they can impact organizational direction.

They value winning and people who are quick, specific, and to the point; winners who help them win.

An angry badger portrays an overwhelmed, or dysfunctional, directing manager.

When these drivers are stressed, or when this type of manager's reality does not align with his or her expectations, strengths become weaknesses and he or she can become, like a badger; angry, domineering, inconsiderate, crafty, cruel, reckless, rude, pushy, offensive, arrogant, abrasive, and ruthless.

Like dictators, these leaders run roughshod over people and they avoid delegating. When demanding types want something done right, they tend to do it themselves. They also believe encouragement and recognition leads to complacency and slacking. In reality, the top reason (85% of the time) people leave a work place is due to not feeling appreciated.

A fluffy Golden Retriever puppy depicts a healthy "energizing" type of manager.

Constructive traits associated with healthy, inspiring, leaders include: enthusiastic, fun, friendly, warm, communicative, optimistic, involved, imaginative, and persuasive. They love exposure to people and to work while they play, so they gravitate to roles where they can get others excited about the organization's direction, services, or products.

They are great starters who appreciate others who are also responsive, positive, upbeat, fun, and enthusiastic.

A hysterical Hyena represents a stressed energizing manager.

When stressed these leaders can become illogical and lash out, like a whirling dervish. They become irrational, prone to exaggerate, to telling tall tales and they believe talking and doing are the same thing. They get bored quickly and don't finish things well. They can also be very moody and need self-discipline and goals to see objectives through to completion. They can be a bit self-absorbed. These folks need to realize subordinates respond best to consistent and steady leadership.

A Labrador Retriever reflects a healthy "supportive" type of manager.

These steady leaders are calm, practical, dependable, conservative, diplomatic, humorous, efficient, trustworthy, cooperative, easy going, reliable, good listeners, steadfast, single minded, amiable, and systematic. They value seeing jobs through to completion while assuring people are engaged, and safe, along the process. They gravitate to roles where they can help people accomplish objectives while sensing security by being part of a team. They are the salt of the earth.

A sleepy sloth depicts a stressed, supportive manager.

When stressed, a supportive manager can become indecisive, unmotivated, timid, shy, a spectator, dependent, lose initiative, inflexible, slow, resentful, and easily manipulated. They resist change and they are not in a hurry. They can be manipulated because they believe others are sincere like them. They are reluctant decision makers and this can lead to chaos, and a morale drop, on their teams. They need encouragement to get things started.

When approaching a supportive manager or parent, it's best to be kind, pleasant, patient, and understanding. They are utilitarian, so they can be influenced when goals include macro benefits. They support decisions impacting the greatest good.

A working Border Collie portrays a "calculating" type of manager.

Their strengths include being gifted, aesthetic, analytical, idealistic, thorough, orderly, intense, logical, teachable, precise, cautious, and curious. They love detail, perfection, consistency, and creativity, so they gravitate to roles where they can analyze data to determine how an organization can improve. They have good imaginations and they tend to have very high IQ's. So, they appreciate people who are prepared, accurate, analytical, and responsible.

A busy, compulsive beaver represents a stressed and calculating manager.

When stressed, these managers can become compulsive, negative, critical, rigid, impractical, unsociable, picky, nosy, fearful, doubtful, and revengeful. They are impossible to satisfy. They hate sudden interruptions, mistakes, and being criticized. So they can take this to heart and realize their subordinates don't respond well to too much negativity and criticism.

So, the next time your boss, an organization, a dog, or a child, acts up, if possible assess the respective stressors, owners, or parents. Organizations and people reflect different dog temperaments for a reason. It's up to us to respond and influence so they can then choose to be bad, or good.

Monday, July 13, 2015

What Defines Success?

When I played for legendary Coach Ted Monica and the Madison Dodgers from 1977-1979 Coach was celebrating his 25th year of commanding excellence.

Coach Monica arrived at Madison High School two years after my parents graduated. My parents met at Madison High where my mom was a cheerleader and the student body president. My dad played center and linebacker on the football team. He also played basketball and threw the weights in track.

By the time I attended Madison, Coach had developed an exceptional program. We never lost a game and we ended our high school playing careers with a record of 33 - 0 - 0 and, like Hoosiers, #1 in NJ's Final Star Ledger Poll our senior year.

Tragically, my mom died following her eight year struggle with melanoma and was buried the day before our State Playoff game vs. Orange during this senior season.

Orange featured a back named Sammy Seale. Sam went on to play in the NFL for 10 years.

The day after beating Orange, we took a special SAT makeup session and then we played Millburn, our traditional Thanksgiving Day Rival, on Thursday.

Coach Monica, the staff, and in particular Line Coach Jack Francis, and the team saved me.

I dedicated my life to studying and sharing the values, beliefs, and behaviors influencing successful and resilient teams, coaches, and leaders.

Earlier in his career, in 1966, a Madison team beat Verona by the score of 75-0 despite Coach sending in the deepest reserves early in the game.

Ironically, the seniors on this Verona Team never won a game. They were 0-32-0 over three years.

To explore the value of winning and losing in sports, some of these 1966 Verona players created a documentary

At 2:18 you will find me sharing insights on this trailer.

Was forwarded this yesterday. Hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, June 4, 2015


Eagle Scouts, Speakers of the House, 19 Ideal Kids and Counting, Department of Commerce, Ultimate Driving Machines, Ivy League Degrees, Parents, Counselors, Priests, Championship Coaches, Scout Masters.

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.

Marcus Aurelius

While in college I passed this statue of Marcus Aurelius at least once a day. Many years later, I discovered this quote of his. It resonates with me and applies to many of the horrific stories we are experiencing and reading today.

During the past year in particular and throughout my life, in the news and in person, I've witnessed people associated with the above positions, organizations, accomplishments, and status symbols assault, abuse, molest, bully, deprave, and sabotage. These predators project themselves as achievers affiliated with respected and admired institutions.

In reality, they are twisted, weak, feeble, spineless, and despicable examples of how our society rewards results more than character and values and decent behavior. These perpetrators use their power and position to exploit vulnerable children and subordinates. They project false images to perpetuate their ruse.

Based on the Staples Scalometer, 55% of a voter’s decision is based on how a candidate looks - his or her presence. 38% is based on his or her voice. Only 7% is based on what the candidate actually says. If he were to run for office today, our most admired President, Honest Abraham Lincoln, would not be elected using this criteria.

It appears we have lost the ability to separate bad people, or grown problem children - those with high ability yet deviant beliefs and behaviors, from positions of authority.

And, when a victim defends himself or herself, or protects himself or herself, the victim is often penalized, and often portrayed as the aggressor.

So, what can we do to filter bad people from powerful positions?

1. Let's focus on the facts. Just because someone works for an esteemed company or organization, has strewn together or led others to many victories, lives in a nice house, drives a nice car, has a certain degree, is in a position of authority or in a position where they are purported to express concern for, and help, others or has achieved some silly rank from a childhood organization, this does NOT make this person a success, or someone to be trusted (meaning vulnerable people become dependent on this person). These deviants are like foxes in a hen house and spend a good portion of their lives trying to determine how they can put themselves in position where they have access to vulnerable people while appearing like saviors and do-goods.

Good people are honest, transparent, selfless, and self-critical. They have a history of solving, not causing, problems.

Bad people lie, project false appearances, keep secrets, are selfish and self focused and narcissistic - they cannot critique themselves. Stay away, and keep your kids away, from people who are eager to tell you about their successes.

If anyone in your personal or professional life ever states: "let's keep this secret", this is a sign to get the hell out of the relationship and to report the "secret" to a trusted friend, relative, teacher, coach, or authority.

2. If you have been abused, my concerns are with you. There is a great organization called Male Survivor where you can receive sound guidance and support. The website is: You may also contact me and I will do everything in my power to help you.

3. Almost everyone has a phone today with a camera. "The eye in the sky doesn't lie" was a quote we often referenced in football practice while I played and coached to recognize good athletic performance and to correct problems. Granted, it is hard to access a phone when a predator pounces, but we have this technology, and setting up a camera when assault is anticipated and catching it on film can expose the truth. Think of the response to the video of Ray Rice knocking out his fiancé.

4. The five steps to recovering from abuse include:

A. Sharing Secrets with a trusted, certified, and proven counselor. Going public if needed.

B. Identifying cognitive distortions - separating facts from opinions and false appearances.

C. Identifying deleterious, reactive, thoughts and behaviors associated with these cognitive distortions and opinions.

D. Choosing healthy responses and the behaviors in the moment reflecting true values, leading to positive outcomes and change.

E. Choosing to surround oneself with healthy people and good people - honest, selfless, and self-critical.

It is not wrong to want nice things for yourself and the people you care about. However, when these accomplishments are used to disguise deviance or to incentivize secrets and abuse, the perpetrator must be exposed and brought to the public's attention, so we can learn to look deeper than appearances.

As always, if I can help you, please contact me at

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Courage and Truth Leading to Freedom and Happiness!

It's my hope you and your loved ones had a great year, and are anticipating a wonderful 2015!

With 2014's increased travel, my chances of experiencing unique circumstances multiplied. Two events showed me how courage and truth can lead to freedom and happiness.

May 2014: Providence, RI. 2:30 AM.

After Brown's Campus Dance, a group of 1984 classmates, wanting memories to continue, proceeded to old Theta Delta Chi's courtyard to share stories and relive the hope we sensed as underclassmen. When I entered the restroom I noticed a walker leaning on a stall. When I turned to wash my hands, the walker's owner was washing his face and hands. My heart dropped.

Thirty four years earlier, I was one of two early risers on my college freshman dormitory hall. The sense of duty, honor, discipline, and organization I'd come to admire, and thrive under, in my legendary high school football coach, Ted Monica, was displayed by only a handful of people I met at Brown. One was John "Bake" McBride, Brown's future Basketball Captain. For a majority of our first year, John was the first person I greeted early each day. Like clockwork every morning, in Perkins Hall's 3rd floor men’s bathroom, I'd say: "morning Bake" and he'd respond: "Hey Matty, what's up my brother?"

Little did Bake know his impact. My mom died the previous November and my dad remarried a month into my first year at Brown. Relationships I'd known were gone. Bake's steady goodness was like a streak of sunshine every morning.

And there he was! Brown's dormitories are available to alumni returning to reunions. Bake and his wife were staying in a room on the former fraternity's first floor. I said "morning Bake" he turned, smiled, and we embraced. His wonderful spirit, mind, smile and kind eyes are the same. But MS has taxed his once powerful and athletic frame. We spoke and I invited him to join us in the courtyard. He said he'd like to, but he was exhausted. I understood. Five minutes later, Bake was strolling down the ramp leading to the courtyard. I teared up. Despite his physical restrictions, Bake's courage and willingness to face his truth mobilized him to laugh and joke, to be free and happy, into the wee hours. More will come about Bake in 2015.

July 2014: Old Orchard Beach, Maine.

Sean McGrath, was the monster back during our high school senior year's Star Ledger Trophy Winning football season. A roving defensive back, he adjusted to an opponent's offensive strengths and used his body like a human missile to disrupt intended plays.

So, it was no surprise when Sean became a Special Forces Ranger in the United States Army. The battle of Mogadishu started during a 1993 city meeting when United States forces attempted to seize two high level insurgents. Shortly after the assault began, Somali militia and armed civilian fighters shot down two US UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. The subsequent operation to recover these helicopter crews drew the raid. Expected to last an hour, it grew into an overnight standoff. This resulted in 18 deaths, 80 wounded, and one helicopter pilot captured among the U.S. raid and rescue forces.

Sean was the acting 1st Sergeant with the 82nd Air Medivac Detachment Unit in Mogadishu during this 1993 rescue. He was in the middle of this military initiative made famous in the book and movie entitled "Black Hawk Down".

One of his most graphic memories includes Sean being wakened by rats nibbling on his feet in his make shift desert dwelling. Like Bake's physical challenges, these war traumas took a toll on Sean. But, they did not break his spirit. He fostered the courage to address his situation and to seek freedom, peace, and happiness. To maintain a peaceful perspective, Sean paddle boards a few hours a day, riding Maine waves year round regardless of the weather.

In addition, he fixes homes and restores, by hand, VW Buses, like this 1962 model he found in Colorado where it was functioning as a chicken coop. He transported its rusted body to Old Orchard Beach on a flatbed trailer. Last summer as we cruised Maine Beaches people took candid shots of us in the bus and asked to have their pictures taken with it. And, I understand he's been offered six figures for similar VW Bus projects. Sean stands second from the left. In order, here's Peter O'Donnell, Sean, John Dagon, Steve Doherty, and me.

Like Hoosiers, football style, the 1979 Madison Football Dodgers are the only team from a Group II sized NJ high school to win the Star Ledger Trophy, recognizing the state's best team. It was a unique time. As mentioned, coinciding with this extreme success I experienced a great loss. My mom was buried the day before our state championship playoff game against Orange. So, the friendships forged during this season are significant to me and we try to connect a few times a year.

This summer, we traveled to Sean's home to enjoy each other’s company, the beach, to learn paddle boarding, to laugh, and to eat lobsters.

While struggling to stand on the paddle board before learning I exceeded its weight limit, Sean coached me in the water and shared an amazing story.

A year before, he was enjoying huge surf generated by an approaching hurricane when an aged harbor seal approached his board and started barking: "HUP, HUP, HUP!"

Sean was surprised and amused by the seal, and he thought the animal was being playful, but the seal swam closer to Sean and was relentless in barking: "HUP, HUP, HUP!"

Once Sean focused on the seal it snapped its head toward the sea. The animal seemed to want to direct Sean's gaze with its nose. Sean's eyes followed the seal's guidance and Sean saw two distant dots floating in the water. He paddled to investigate and, as he approached the dots, he heard the screams for "help" and realized the dots were heads. A Canadian father and his son were being pulled out to sea by a powerful riptide, created by the hurricane.

Sean pulled them onto his board and paddled them to safety. The men rewarded Sean with a dinner and thanks.

It appears the seal sensed the father and son's desperation and notified Sean by imitating their screams for help. In order to save these men, Sean had to have the courage to explore, to trust his instincts, and to help.

And prior to this incident, I'm guessing Sean took a similar approach in dealing with his war memories. He fostered the courage to face the truth. This gave him the perspective and wisdom to free himself from horrific memories. It also gave him the freedom to pursue his happiness.

And Bake appears to have followed a similar pattern. His courage allowed him to honestly assess his situation; his strengths, challenges, opportunities, and threats. Focusing on the facts, and not believing limiting opinions, allows Bake to pursue his freedom, and happiness.

I've always had great respect for Bake and Sean. When I knew them before their respective challenges, their willingness to help their teams and pitch in, to focus on the needs of others while giving their optimal effort, was always evident. They were trustworthy. I always felt they had my back.

Since learning about how they've maintained happiness despite their challenges, my admiration has grown from an already high perch. Following please find quotes offered to reinforce the path to freedom and happiness via courage and truth, as demonstrated by these two friends.

1. Courage: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty

You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor. Aristotle

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. Winston Churchill

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. Nelson Mandela

Courage is grace under pressure. Ernest Hemingway

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' Eleanor Roosevelt

Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity. W. Clement Stone

....and the secret to freedom is courage. Thucydides

2. Truth: the real facts about something: the things in accordance with fact or reality. "a true story"

In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same. Albert Einstein

Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom. Thomas Jefferson

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth. Marcus Aurelius

If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything. Mark Twain

If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair. C. S. Lewis

I believe that it is better to tell the truth than a lie. I believe it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe it is better to know than to be ignorant. H. L. Mencken

"The truth will set you free." John 8:32

3. Freedom is the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint: exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.

Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes. Mahatma Ghandi

Freedom is nothing but a chance to get better. Albert Camus

The one thing you can't take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one's freedoms is to choose one's attitude in any given situation. Viktor Frankl

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms it will be because we destroyed ourselves. Abraham Lincoln

Freedom means choosing your burden. Hephzibah Menuhin

On the other side of fear lies freedom.

Freedom is never given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Man is free at the moment he wishes to be. Voltaire

We seek peace, knowing that peace is the climate of freedom. Dwight D. Eisenhower

The secret to happiness is freedom.... Thucydides

4. Happiness: feeling pleasure and enjoyment because of your life, situation, etc.

Happiness can exist only in acceptance. George Orwell

It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness. Charles Spurgeon

Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life. Omar Khayyam

Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions. Dalai Lama

Be happy with what you have and are, be generous with both, and you won't have to hunt for happiness. William E. Gladstone

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. Mahatma Gandhi

Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more. H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be. Abraham Lincoln

Happy New Year!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bully, Bully...

What would Teddy Roosevelt say about the state of football in America today? Ninety eight years ago yesterday President Roosevelt first likened crusading journalists to a man "with a muckrake in his hand" in a speech to the Gridiron Club in Washington. I'm not sure a muckraker is needed to dig up trash in today's NFL, NCAA, or even high school football programs. As a dedicated and devoted player, coach, and fan, I experienced, and continue to experience, the constructive and time tested values of brotherly love, teamwork, coaching, and leadership the sport culled in me, my teammates, and players I coached through triple sessions, four hour practices, four hundred and forty yard sprints, early morning agility drills on back hallway steps, and hours of lifting, training, skipping rope, practicing, and bustin' each others' chops.

At Brown, I remember hitting a two man sled and when the slight assistant line coach didn't provide enough resistance, our 260 pound plus assistant, who still coaches in the NFL, was asked to "take the ride". The sled held as our other starting tackle hit it and pinched a nerve in his neck. We switched back to the lighter coach and hit that sled until it broke. A player's skin color didn't matter as we exhausted our minds, bodies, and spirits and jelled into one unit. The repetition, challenge, and stress on our bodies and minds required discipline, devotion, and mutual support.

I struggle to remember ever hearing the "N" word while playing or coaching over a 17 year period. I did experience racist thoughts in a Penn State meeting when Joe Paterno stated Penn State wasn't ready for a black quarterback. This while Randall Cunningham starred for the Philadelphia Eagles. My teams were integrated and I'd like to think we embraced, in response to most of my coaches' leads, each other as equals. A player's background or heritage didn't seem to matter. If a player cared about others - demonstrated selflessness, integrity, loyalty, wore the uniform with pride and put in the effort, he became a brother, a teammate for life. I also grew up in a mixed race neighborhood and knew my first close neighbor, Nayan Lassiter, as my best friend before I realized his and his family's skin tone was different from mine.

Given my history and the relationships I have with African American friends, it is painful for me to read transcripts of Richie Incognito's and Jonathan Martin's text messages, where Incognito's demeaning texts, he claimed he sent to build brotherly bonds, bullied and harassed Martin to the point where Martin left the team and considered suicide. Martin shared in the banter, but was overpowered by Incognito's verbal assaults and physical threats. It was also suggested Incognito's coaches gave him the green light to bully Martin to make Martin more tough. Abusive behavior does not toughen. It's intent is to control. I always believed true toughness belonged to players who could funnel and control their power to dominate athletic events while treating people as equals while away from sports. They demonstrate control and restraint.

Bullying behaviors can be incorrectly associated with toughness when in reality it is a weak person who seeks to feel validated by attempting to control others. The original Ancient Greek athletic premise was to help the athlete reach one's whole potential with competition and sportsmanship. Controlling oneself and one's body to gain victory over another is celebrated in athletics, but athletics should also teach humility. There is always someone greater. The Olympic intent is to improve oneself while improving others, and society as a whole. A great athlete knows when and where to demonstrate power and control, and when to treat others as equals.

Granted, society has changed. On days when I was not with clients last year, I taught math at an alternative high school in Massachusetts. Most of the students have troubled backgrounds. It is a mixed race population. Before being addressed, reprimanded, and corrected, their street habits brought this communication style to the classroom and when African American students talked amongst themselves, they used the "N" word several times per sentence. White students would never use the "N" word.

My mother showed me how a person can choose to respond to, and use, words and force for power and control, or for goodness and justice. We had a helping hand sign in our home's front window. It indicated we had a "safe" home, where a trained parent was available for a child feeling harassed, bullied, or unsafe. When I was ten, as I entered my home after school, I heard commotion from across the street. I turned and watched a very strong, eleven year old black boy following an eight year old white boy.

My initial conclusion was the black boy was bullying the white boy, but as I listened and observed, I heard the younger and smaller white boy yelling this derogatory term at the black boy, who just followed, controlled his aggression, and seemed bewildered by the younger white boy's ignorance, hate, and taunting. My mother intervened and had a long talk with the black boy. I remember she told him kids learn behaviors and values from their parents and how not everyone acts or believes in such hateful ways. She then offered him some snacks. He grew into an exceptional athlete, teammate, and friend.

My high school coach is a decorated Marine, Korean War Veteran, who forged our team like a platoon with sweat, commitment, and compassion. We were brothers. Granted, we busted each others' chops, but it was a way of expressing fondness and this fostered a sense of unity and pride in our team and in each other. If they weren't teasing, something was wrong. Selfish players changed or left. Mean players were corrected, or shunned. I learned, and our record proved to me, how self sacrifice for a greater cause led to success and accomplishment. Right or wrong, I correlated our team's success with our ability to embrace each others' shared values and to put the team ahead of one's self. This truth of sacrifice motivated us, and over three years we never lost a game.

There were accepted lines my high school teammates did not cross while teasing each other. These included comments about family, race, and religion. Unique physical, personality, athletic, and mental attributes were open for game. At Brown, my team atmosphere was cultivated in position groups and, despite great individual talent, we missed the collective team unity, and success, my high school coach fostered.

Strong bonds and friendships were forged, in part, by teasing each other on the acceptable topics I learned in high school. Race, family, and religion remained forbidden topics. To this day, when I call my former Brown line mate, Jeff Trauger, at his Pennsylvania law firm, I use a pseudonym, reflecting a breaking news maker or Philadelphia sports figure, when introducing myself to the receptionist. Like clockwork, this person always broadcasts this news maker's or celebrity's name on my teammate's intercom. Today I was New York City mayor Bill De Blasio.

So, when I read Incognito claimed he sent racist, threatening text messages to Martin to foster bonds, I questioned his definition of friendship and team. My mom fought the love of power with the power of love. I've been fascinated with the impact of these forces on organizations, families, teams, and relationships since teamwork first graced me.

I experienced many gifted role models on my great teams and in the great organizations I've served; talented people who sincerely care about their impact on those they mentor. They work hard and set great examples. They encourage others. They celebrate great performances and good habits. They critique poor effort. They understand the power of compassion.

Average teams and mediocre organizations seem to share a common snare - bullies; average to inferior talents who belittle, abuse, threaten, contrive, control, and use derogatory comments to stymie others for power and to foster fear. They have great egos, but they lack the real talent to garner the rewards their egos seem to expect. My great teams were filled with selfless, fun, self critical, and honest people. Inferior teams and organizations seem to have an abundance of less talented, yet more selfish, deceptive, and narcissistic people who manipulate their placement, and are suspiciously celebrated, in leadership roles. Reality seems twisted in these organizations, like when Joe Paterno said Pennsylvania wasn't ready for a black quarterback or when he failed to report a soul murdering staff member to the proper authorities.

If you are blessed to be in a community, organization, family, team, or relationship where the power of love takes precedent, I encourage you to spread your talents and truths to bring this value to others. I also encourage you to use your bully pulpit, like Teddy Roosevelt, to fight those organizations and people who suppress others for the sake of their own power, egos, or wallets.

If you are trapped in a situation where the love of power undermines your freedom or true team goodness, I encourage you to ponder thoughts recently shared by George R. R. Martin whose work inspired the HBO series Game of Thrones. "Power struggles seem to be omnipresent in every field of human endeavor, extending all the way up and down society. We assume that power has a certain reality. Apart from comic books, where Superman has the power to fly, the only power real human beings have is the power they think they have. You see that sometimes in the collapse of a society. Why did the Soviet Union fall? Because one day the Kremlin gave orders and the soldiers said no, and the whole thing fell apart. It's a fundamental truth that I think Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., hit on, that power depends on the obedience of the less powerful. A leader is powerful only when he says jump and people jump. He has no actual power to make them jump. It's their belief that he has the power. It's an illusion, a shadow on the wall. And sometimes people stop jumping, and the whole world changes."

Stop jumping for people who don't have your best interest in hand. If I can help, please let me know.