Sunday, November 8, 2009

Updates and Uplifts


Everyday, it seems, the media exposes a famous person's character flaws leading to the demise of vaulted athletes, politicians, executives, clergy, physicians, attorneys, and educators. Outside of athletes, people in these positions are expected, and selected based on their abilities, to be trustworthy. We expect their expertise to protect vulnerable clients and constituents.

Are you ready for some good news?


In March 2008 my family faced great uncertainty regarding our seven year old son's thigh bone being cut, reset to reposition the femur's end in his hip socket, and then his being set in a body cast for more than three months. We were vulnerable.

Enter HASBRO (http://www.hasbro.com/). A week prior to Noah's surgery, Hasbro invited Noah for a tour of its Star Wars design facilities in Pawtucket, RI. Noah met with the Star Wars design team and talked about Star Wars and Indiana Jones with their chief designer.

He and Noah hit it off and I saw why this man is considered a luminary in his field. He could relate to Noah like a seven year old. I didn't understand much of their conversation, but they discussed Star Wars books, characters, weapons, and abstract trivia for over an hour.

Before we left, he asked Noah to select three Ewoks to present to George Lucas to become Clone Wars toys, released following the 2008 summer movie. Noah's recommendations were forwarded to Lucasfilms.

When leaving the office, Noah was asked if a huge bin of Star Wars toys, requiring two men to carry, might fit in our car. As we left the parking lot with this treasure in tow, Noah stated this was the best day of his life. His spirits were lifted and he looked forward to opening up to three toys per week during his ambulatory recovery.

Noah and his new Hasbro friends corresponded during his cast ridden quarter of a year and six month recovery. We learned in June 2008 George Lucas approved Noah's three Ewok suggestions. In December 2008, Hasbro's chief designer wrote and asked for Noah's permission to name one of these selected Ewoks after Noah, in Ewok speak, Nho'Apakk (http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Nho%27Apakk). We were stunned.

Nho'Apakk was released last month in Hasbro's Star Wars Legacy Collection toy line. It is available as part of a two-pack with fellow Ewok Paploo. In November, the design team treated Noah and his parents to lunch and gave Noah three boxes of Nho'Apakk and Paploo and the new wave of legacy characters. We are humbled by this corporation's selfless consideration and thoughtfulness for Noah.

Hasbro Inc. also underwrites Hasbro's Children's Hospital where the gifted hands of noted surgeon Michael G. Ehrlich, M.D. guided us through Noah's ordeal. In Noah's most recent evaluation, Dr. Ehrlich was very encouraged and allowed Noah to return to full activity less contact risk sports like rock climbing and football.

We are not out of the woods. Whether Noah's surgery proves successful in preventing life long physical limitations will not be known for several years, but he is trending and responding very well.

Football changed my life and opened doors for me I never fathomed possible, so when I see Noah's restrictions, my heart pangs a bit, but I realize each person's path is different.

Regarding my football blog on Madison, NJ High School's Championship Football Rings,
(http://mattpaknis.blogspot.com/2009/02/championship-rings.html), Bobby Irving, or Irvs, contacted me with the following message.

"Matt! I have an update that you are not going to believe. The Josten's lady could not duplicate a new ring from the pictures Bernie forwarded, so I tracked down Coach Monica. He put me in touch with Guida Jewelers. Mr. Guida is the gentleman that helped design and place the order back in '77.

After 8 months of pictures from Bernie Tiger and emails to Mr. Guida, Mark Monica loaned Mr. Guida his ring. They made a duplicate for me and sent it to me. It is BEAUTIFUL and is an exact replica of my first ring. I received this ring in June, but wait, there's more.

In July, our master bathroom shower leaked into out kitchen. It was a long hassle collecting the insurance money. After receiving the money we decided to buy new cabinets and update our lighting.

I found a gentleman to help me and we received the cabinets and went to work tearing out the old cabinets. One of the old base cabinets was wedged between the range and a doorway. In order to get the cabinet out I had to pick it up over range.

I loosened the screws, picked up the cabinet and sitting on the floor, under where the cabinet had been, was my original 1977 championship ring.

I broke out laughing and my buddy just thought I had gone off the deep end. When my daughter arrived home I showed her the ring and she was ecstatic. I am going to give it to her on her birthday next year. I think I'll put it on a necklace so it's harder to lose.
Best Regards, Irvs"

This fall marked the 30th anniversary of our Madison High Dodger Football Team's Hoosier like ascent to the Star Ledger Trophy, recognizing NJ's top ranked high school football team. It was our team's third consecutive undefeated, state championship season, but we were a Group II, or second to the smallest, sized school. Thanks to our winning, and beating teams starring the state's best and fastest athletes, we ended my senior season ranked number one. I was a captain and the lone three year starter.

Coach Monica turned 80 this year and I called him on his birthday. The pains caused by his war wounds, and recognized with Purple Hearts, give him little relief, but his voice picks up whenever he talks about the Dodgers and his teams.

My mom and dad met at Madison High School in the early 1950's where she was a cheerleader and he was a linebacker and center. During my 1979 senior season, my mom succumbed to her eight year struggle with melanoma. She was buried the day before we played Orange featuring Sammy Seale, the fastest schoolboy in NJ who went on to play in the NFL for over ten years.

We won in the last minute when Steve Doherty scored behind my block. This experience galvanized in me the value of team, compassion, resilience, leadership and goodness - honest, selfless, and self critical behavior.

These traits, demonstrated by great organizations like Hasbro, are what now send me around the globe for my clients, helping them identify, groom and transition new managers and leaders. Despite trying economic times, my business continues to grow.

It is shocking to read about public and professional officials who violate the public's trust. Athletes, like Tiger Woods, are not selected or elected based on their competency to demonstrate skills or good decision making. They are gifted and we choose to be entertained and uplifted by their transcending physical qualities.

However, for people like me, who have life long love affairs with sports thanks to the goodness and positive experiences they helped us experience and funnel in our communities, we associate good character with athletic success because these are the base principles sports are taught to teach; sportsmanship, integrity, trust, cooperation, drive, determination, humility, resilience, friendship, teamwork, leadership, community, and role modeling.

It is disheartening to see egos, self interest, cheating, narcissism, money and fame undermine the initial intent of athletic competition - to better man and society.

Perhaps it's time to recognize good organizations and to include character as a critical competence, and determinant, of success.

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for a Successful New Year!