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.