Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Friends don't let friends act like d-bags.

I'm thinking about having bumper stickers made that say that. The thought came to me as a watched a semi tailgate a car and start weaving aggressively. It was ridiculous and scary. Though I was not directly in the middle of that moment, nonetheless I backed off a 1/4 mile just in case.

Started thinking about something else. Everyone is very quick to condemn the professional athlete/celebrity who does things demonstrably wrong, e.g. Tiger Woods. "Doesn't he know he's a role model?!" Now don't get me wrong. I'm not giving him/them quarter here. (That was not good Tiger. K.I.P. dude.) My point is more "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." Maybe, "Physician heal thyself." "Start with the man in the mirror." Bottom line we are all quite possibly role models whether we know it or not, or honestly deserve it.

Years after I had finished coaching rowing, and moved to Rhode Island, I took a trip with Leanna to our old stomping grounds at the Dad Vail regatta in Philly. There I ran into a number of former rowers of mine but it was one in particular, one whose name I don't even recall, who said something I have not since forgotten. He reminded me of a cold and snowy February morning. We had a land practice, a run an such. A number of the kids, this individual included, showed up hungover or maybe still drunk and some a bit stoned. I was pissed. I did not drag my ass out of bed this early to deal with you losers. I then proceeded to drive them through the hardest set of hill repeats they had ever experienced. There was puke. There was quitting. There was payback (by me). As it turns out this moment was this person's "Ah ha" moment. He actually thanked me for what I had done to them and showed them. From that time he tried to live his life in a manner more like I was espousing. As a rower above all you respect your boat mates. An individual who shows up compromised is disrespecting his boat. Hell, in many ways it is better if the whole boat shows up loaded together.

Anyway, finding out years later you had a material impact on someone’s life, an impact of which you were not aware, is powerful stuff. His comments to me were my "Ah ha" moment. While the position of coach is one which by definition positions an individual to be an example, nonetheless for some reason you think you've only impacted those who were ultimately successful under you. My realization was that my "person" impacted not just those people I focused on. It impacted even those of whom I was possibly not aware. This is heavy stuff.

Some of you may be thinking "Oh, but I'm not anybody's role model." My point is you don't know that. My point is you are probably wrong. Especially with social media ("friends", "followers") the exposure of you and your message is at a level beyond what most people can even comprehend. People read what you write. People view what you post. And yes, someone probably thinks about what you would do, or at least about what your public persona would do, before acting.

So my message is this: Carry yourself as if you are a role model, because you probably are. Don't be a d-bag driving a semi.