In athletics and business, I've been fortunate enough to see the differences in Managers & Leaders. My best performance has come under the tutelage of great leaders and given an opportunity I would follow them anywhere.  

Managers vs Leaders

  1. Managers delegate. Leaders motivate. 
  2. Managers place blame. Leaders take responsibility. 
  3. Managers focus on tasks. Leaders focus on vision. 
  4. Managers take credit. Leaders praise others. 
  5. Managers explain how things are done. Leaders show you how things are done. 
What do you think sets a Manager apart from a Leader? 

 
 
In July of 2013, I set out on a journey that would lead me from my home state in Virginia all the way out here to the Hoosier state of Indiana. I didn't have a clue of what I was getting into but I just felt a compelling urge to do something!  In my first post on this site I write about my feelings during this time exactly and take a look at what I say here: 
" In two weeks time, I have driven over 3,500 miles, drank more coffee than is healthy for a single person to consume and met some amazing people along the way.  My latest stop was in Indianapolis and it was really a breakthrough trip for me.  The theme of meeting great people really rings true here! Some great people have helped connect me in the tech/startup community there and it may be the place where I begin my career.  I have suddenly gotten a burst of energy and I am regaining that feeling of purpose. "
That statement was extremely prophetic because as some of you may know, I actually ended up starting my career in Indianapolis at a great tech company called Compendium (recently acquired by Oracle) where I working with & learning from an amazing group of people.  

Recently, I've been doing some reflecting on my accomplishments in 2013, trying to understand exactly what events or moments caused me to be where I am today.  Although there are undoubtedly a wide variety of factors that have contributed to my accomplishments whether that be great advice or gracious people investing in me even though they didn't know me, I have come to one solid conclusion and that is: My accomplishments are directly linked to me discovering & playing to my strengths.  

One of the great people here in the Indianapolis tech community that I mention in my quote above is Jeb Banner (CEO at SmallBox), who met with me and gave me some of the best advice I've ever received and that was "Don't focus on your weaknesses, you have to play to your strengths".  Upon giving me that nugget of wisdom he gave me the Strengths Finder 2.0 book and encouraged me to take the test.  
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* If you haven't already read this book or taken the test I would encourage you to *  

This book and tool is designed to help you uncover your strengths & talents as well as give you a guide to how you can best utilize those strengths as well. 

Here were my top 5 strengths: 
Woo 
Strategic
Communication
Belief
Includer

You can check out the report here if you like. 

After learning these were my unique strengths, I played to them in every way possible and it worked! At the time of my job search, I was staying with a family that didn't know me but they were gracious enough to let me stay after going from place to place with all of my belongings in my Honda Accord. I didn't have a job or know of anyone hiring but I did know the things I was strong at.   

  • Woo - I used my Woo strength to make friends at all of the major events & meet-ups in order to create a buzz around me.  
  • Strategic - I used my unique Strategic abilities to map out all of the major stakeholders in the city and navigate how I would go about meeting them & getting referrals from them.
  • Communication - I used my Communication skills in order to create a compelling story around my journey to Indianapolis
  • Belief - My faith in God through previous experiences helped me understand that He would be with me through all of my circumstances, whether good or bad
  • Includer - Don't really think I used this one at all and don't know how it would fit. So there's that. 


At this point in the post, I can actually here you saying, "Great Dante, you're cool.  Awesome".  So the point is, playing to my strengths payed off huge for me and I ended up getting my job at Compendium in 2 weeks after playing to my strengths.  

Enough about me...Here's 3 reasons why should you play to your strengths 

I'm going to do this in a bulleted list if you don't mind...
  1. Being excellent in a few areas is much better than being ok in a lot of areas.  By focusing on the areas where you have natural ability, you're able to grow exponentially with much fewer resources than by trying to improve on your weaknesses. 
  2. By playing to your strengths you can be a greater asset to your team and empower others to excel in their strengths as well.   Championship teams understand this concept very well.  Everyone realizes that if they just play their role to the best of their ability,  they have a greater chance to win.  I'm not a Miami Heat fan but their players understand this.  LeBron knows he doesn't have to be a great 3 point shooter because Shane Battier and Ray Allen both know that's their primary role and they play to those strengths which helps LeBron focus on doing what he does best. 
  3. Will help you become a better leader because it causes you to become more vulnerable with others by allowing them to support you in your weaknesses .  Vulnerability is a common trait amongst great leaders.  Great leaders are often great delegators as well.  I know I'm inferring a lot, but I think that because great leaders understand their strengths very well, it allows them to delegate responsibility to others which helps them become more vulnerable in the eyes of their co-workers.  

Those are my 3 reasons why you should play to your strengths and stop wasting so much time focusing on what you're not good at.  I'd love to hear some of your comments on the subject matter.  

-Dante
 
 
I'd encourage scrolling back and forth between the video and the post while reading it.

I can't change even if I tried...even if I wanted to.

It's true, we can't change.  No matter how hard we try, we can't change on our own.  We all have a natural disposition to sin and to our own selfish ambitions and those all may be different for each person.  You can have a predisposition to be addicted to sex, you may be prone to greed, you might desire power and fame, you could naturally be angry, you might love to drink or even have (no don't say it) homosexual tendencies.  J Cole is right.  We are all born sinners, he just admits it.  We were all born into sin the moment Adam was disobedient to God and don't give me the crap that you had a choice because you didn't choose to be born, you just were.  You didn't choose to be born in America versus a poverty stricken country across the world, but you were.  So don't think for a moment that it's not possible that some people were born with a natural tendency to do the things that our society considers wrong, they could have been born that way.  Some may have been born crazy and for some it may have been a choice but is that really for us to decide? Does it really matter?  No one is better than another person, none of us are good and none of us are holier than another.  There is only One who is Good and One who is Holy.  News flash folks, ONE SIN IS AS INFINITELY FAR FROM PERFECTION AS 1,000 SINS because there's is no almost or very good with God, you are either perfect or you aren't and NO ONE IS PERFECT because we all have sinned once. We all have that thing, that no matter how hard we try to fix it on our own, we can't. 

All of our actions have consequences and I am not saying that stealing, rape, murder or same-sex relationships should be justified but by condemning these people we are making the statement they we are not sinners and we do not need a Savior.  If you condemn these people, I understand. I pray that God would change your heart like he has done mine because I used to hate those people too.  

The whole world was born sinners because of my man Adam, but the whole world can be made righteous through the perfect love of Jesus Christ.  He is the bridge to perfection and there is no other way to the Father except through Him.  It's not our good works.  It's not our righteous deeds, those are like filthy rags (used tampons) to God.  We must love others like Jesus loves us.  By condemning people for their sins, we are also condemning ourselves.  We gotta be connected to that "Same Love".  

If you consider yourself a Christian, ask yourself if someone would call you a Christian or is that what you label yourself?  The people in the early church were called Christians because they were like Christ.  They didn't bestow that name upon themselves, they were identified as that by how they lived.  They loved people like Christ loved them.  I will love everyone, no matter what they have done or who they are.  Whether they are gay or straight, a thief or an honest person, whether I think they are right or wrong because I know a God that loves me despite how much of a mess I am, so who am I to judge? Love is patient.  Love is kind. It does not dishonor others.  It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  We can't change even if we tried, even if we wanted to.  We need a Savior.  Jesus.  Period. 

 
 
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This is me in a few hours when we take off...
If you don't love this movie you don't have a soul.  In my opinion, UP ranks right behind Toy Story for the best Disney movie of all-time.  Yes that means Lion King but maybe not Lion King 1 1/2... The story is amazing.  It's great entertainment but it also has some valuable life lessons for anyone watching it. 
Life Lessons:
1) Life will have storms that you won't be prepared for.  You can't predict them and sometimes you can't understand them but you have to adjust, adapt and make the best of the situation you're in.
2) Goals, ambition and dreams are powerful.  Everyone should have them and strive to reach them. 
3) You will never experience everything life has to offer if you never leave your comfort zone, even if that means strapping the crib with balloons. 
4) Memories can hold you back.  They can have you miss out on life because you're holding on to "what was" instead of accepting "what is". 
5) It is never about the final destination but always about the journey.  The important thing in life isn't arriving.  It's about the things you accomplish, learn and overcome.  It's about the characters you meet along the way and the relationships you build.  It's about loving others and being loved. 

In a few hours, I will be hopping on a plane to Nicaragua for a ten day Mission Trip.  This trip will be special for me. It will be the last time I get to lead this great group of high school guys that I've been leading for the past 4 years.  We will soon all be going our separate ways.  They are going off to colleges all across the country from New Jersey to California and I'll be leaving Williamsburg and going into the professional world.  Who knows what's next?  I don't.  I won't let what I don't know effect what I do and I know I love these guys and we'll always be there for each other no matter where we go or end up.
Man!  I've experienced a whole lot with these guys and frankly I've gotten to do things that I never thought I would do.  I never thought I would snowboard because for some reason or another black people just don't do that stuff
#stuffthatblackpeopledon'tdo and I never would have unless I lead a trip with these guys.  I never thought I would spend more time hanging out with high school boys than partying in College.  I never would have gained the network of family and friends that are so special to me had I not lead them.  The most important thing I never would have gotten to do is: Understand a God that is patient with me even in my stupidity and immaturity.  I have grown so much spiritually over these last 4 years.  As I have watched them grow from boys to young men, I have also grown from a young man into a man both spiritually and physically.  I realize that God is patiently trying to teach us and speak to us. Give us advice and guidance and sometimes we just don't listen.  Sometimes, we just act like high schoolers.  In getting to lead them, I have been blessed to see how God deals with me in the same way. 

Ok, what does this trip have to do with UP? 

We're flying away to another country.  I truly love these guys.  I am not holding on to all of the memories I have ever had with these guys. I am embracing this next season of life as they go to College and I go to get a J-O-B, it is "what it is".  I am leaving my comfort zone.  Nicaragua represents a language barrierand a lower standard of living than most of us are used to.  There are ridiculous scorpions, horse spiders and bugs that you've never seen before in the US.  
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If I see this...It's a wrap.
I'm super excited for this trip and I'm expecting to SERVE, LOVE and SEE God's work internationally.  I'm asking for your prayers and support as we trek to Nicaragua.  I'm not sure if I'll be posting anything while I'm down there but I will write and blog stuff about the trip for when we come back but until then...............

Adios Amigos!

 
 





Vs.

You can't accurately predict how either of them will perform on a daily basis.  Josh Hamilton has been stinkin it up and killing a lot of fantasy owners who paid a high premium and drafted him high this season but who could have predicted his bad performance?  For his career his batting average is near .300 and he hits 25 bombs or more per year, the point is that you just can't predict future outcomes.  All of the so called smart analysts making over 100k per year at big firms like JP Morgan valued the car company Tesla (TSLA) anywhere between $35 and $45 dollars per share for 2013 and currently the stock is valued over $100 dollars per share just a few short months later.  They look stupid for not buying.  People who got in on the Facebook IPO feel a lot like Josh Hamilton owners.  Fantasy Sports is similar to the stock market and that's why it's a great training tool for any interested in the stock market.  Both of them require for you to do several similar things: you have to assess value.  Is  the company/player undervalued or overvalued currently.  You have to make decisions on whether to hold, buy or sell particular players or assets based on recent performance or the overall macroeconomic environment.  You have to trust your instincts and react quickly to any positive or negative trends because grabbing that free agent quickly or jumping on the Tesla hype could be the difference between you winning out and losing out.  You can't just sit back and rely on past performance and say my sheet that says X person/company should be valued here because the markets don't react rationally.  Be on your toes, be ready to move but also be smart.  I'm not saying that you should buy every player or stock that is on a hot streak because that can lose you a lot of money.  On the other hand you can't just sell some players/stocks that aren't performing well either. Some players/companies are just too valuable and eventually, you have to believe in a successful track record for a certain length of time. 

I didn't draft Josh Hamilton, but I traded for him a few months ago and he hasn't been performing well but I believe that he will turn it around.  The guy is too freakin good to stay in this funk. 
My Fantasy Team's name is I'm not Albert but I PULLHOES, and right now unfortunately I'm second to my boy BJ I can't get it UPTON.  He's getting real lucky right now and I have to believe with my horses that I will be on top by the end of the year.  A couple great players that I drafted/traded for this year have made me some Tesla money.  Just to name a few: Chris Davis.  He's leading the major league in Home Runs and 2nd in RBI's. I drafted him in like the 9th round, how is a guy who hit 26 home runs and 85 RBI's still around that late?   Patrick Corbin.  He is 9-0, enough said.  Jose Fernandez.  The guy is a strikeout machine, just check his 10k's from last night.  Francisco Liriano.  Liriano will lead the MLB in K'S/9.  Domonic Brown.  The Philly Slugger is a flat out stud, as simple as that, he was a free-agent pick up. Edwin Encarnacion was stinkin it up at the beginning of the year but he's hit .330 over the past month and a half. The list goes on and on but back to my point, I think that fantasy sports has really helped me learn about investments and the stock market as well because I have a better understanding on value. 

If you were like me, unsure about the stock market and getting really freaked out by all the charts and the numbers, forget about it.  Play some fantasy sports and get comfortable understanding value.  Overvalued versus undervalued, that is the first step into understanding how to more properly decide on the investments in your E-Trade account or whatever investment service you use. 

Comment on here about some sweet investments/fantasy picks that you've made over the years if you want...

 
 

People Go Nuts for District Doughnuts!

This is the first of my Startup of the Week Series!

Photos From: District Doughnut Tumblr
This DC based company has taken a different approach to the american classic that is the doughnut.  By adding fun and flavorful twists with gourmet quality and exceptional craftsmanship District Doughnut has positioned themselves as force to be reckoned within the DC area.  The small but flavorful doughnuts have been generating lots of buzz in the DC area and they were just mentioned in the Washington Post yesterday.  I recently had a great conversation with the CEO of District Doughnut Greg Menna while he was actually making a delivery, go figure... just look at those doughnuts!  When Greg was talking to me this morning, he bubbled with passion, excitement and anticipation for what comes next with the young company.  They are currently in negotiations to acquire a storefront location and from what Greg revealed to me, they will be in a DC location sooner than later so be on the lookout!  They have been catering and delivering their delicious treats since the fall of 2012 and Greg said "a storefront property may be the end of the beginning because everyone will be able to have our doughnuts."  The growth of this company is exciting and the recent press and buzz has been just as tremendous but what I want to highlight in my coverage of this startup is THE TEAM.  

In our conversation, Greg's focus wasn't on revenues, sales or even their recent growth but on the team that he considers to be special.  The District Doughnut team consists of three members, Christine Schaefer, Juan Pablo and as I have already mentioned Greg.  The three are extremely different but from what Greg described their different skills and abilities blended with their common desire to "reach new heights" has created the perfect storm that has lead to their early success.  
PictureGreg, Christine, Juan Pablo (From Left to Right)
Christine Schaefer is the creator, designer and from what Greg described she is the engine that makes District Doughnut go (you can read more about Christine here).  Christine studied at the prestigious culinary school, Le Cordon Bleu,  so she's got the skills but it is actually her work ethic and pursuit of excellence that causes Greg and Juan Pablo to elevate their contributions on a daily basis.  Christine provides the inspiration behind the masterful delicious treats and without her creativity District Doughnuts would not be where it is today.  

Juan Pablo is the visionary.  He has the business acumen and he provides the clarity and direction for the company.  Every company needs vision and not just vision, every company needs a leader that can articulate that vision in such a way that people will follow them.  Juan Pablo is talented and understands business.  He was getting his CPA while working at Deloitte before venturing to the creation of District Doughnuts.  Greg said that Juan has the charisma and personality that people will follow and that is what makes him special.  Juan is the guy with the vision and they say where there is no vision "the people perish".  In this case, so does our chances to experience their delicious treats.  

Finally at last, but certainly not least, there is Greg Menna, the CEO and "Go Getter".  Greg is the guy that just gets it done.  He solves and fixes any problems that the company runs into.  He provides the hype, he is the delivery guy and he is the face of the company because chances are if you have tried a District Doughnut the person you saw was Greg.  Greg was extremely humble and bubbling with passion.  Every startup needs a Greg.  They need someone who is a Jack of All Trades and they need someone who champions the cause and the product.  For District Doughnut that person is Greg.  

Together they have a well balanced team.  They have creativity and skill in the "architect", Christine.  They have the vision and operational expertise in the "business guy", Juan Pablo and they have the "problem solver" with Greg.  I believe this company is poised for success because of their great team.  They don't just have a great idea or a great product, but they have the pieces in place to take that great idea and make it a hit. They have had their fair amount of fortune as well.  A quote from Greg highlights this, he said "we have been extremely fortunate and things have just seemed to go our way" and sometimes that is all of the difference.  Some people say you create your own luck.  Some people believe that the ball just bounces your way sometimes.  From my conversation with Greg, I would say it has been a little bit of both but I'm sure you won't care once you try one of their delicious gourmet doughnuts.  GO GET A DOUGHNUT!

Follow District Doughnuts @DCDoughnut on Twitter for the latest news, deals and best doughnuts you've ever had :)

 
 

Team. Team. Team. 

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This dynasty run that the Spurs has enjoyed the past 13 years or so can be attributed to a "team" effort.  They win because they understand, embody and represent what it means to be a team. 
1) Everyone knows their role within the team. 
2) Everyone submits to leadership. 
3) People step up when called upon to make a play and
4) Most importantly, they are selfless. 
 
Yeah yeah they got super lucky in the 1997 draft to win the lottery and select one of the best players in the history of the game in Tim Duncan but if you didn't read section title, it's never been about Timmaugh (South Park Voice), it's always been about team.  I'm going to be looking at the model of success for a winning team through scripture and the San Antonio Spurs. 

On a winning team...
#1 Everyone knows their role within the team.

Tim Duncan is a great player, Manu Ginobili is a great player and so is Tony Parker, but apart from the team or the rest of the body, they are  useless.  The same principles that the Spurs use to embody "team" hold true for the church and the body of Christ as well. Here are some verses from 1 Corinthians 12:12-19 that help display my # 1 point that everyone should know their role within the team:
"Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized so as to form one body""If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be If they were all one part, where would the body be? As
it is, there are many parts, but one body."

Everyone has a part to play. There can be no one-man shows in the body of Christ if the church is to function correctly.  Sure, there are gifted people who have extraordinary gifts and talents like a Tim Duncan, a Manu Ginobili, a Judah Smith or an Andy Mineo (huge fan btw) but I promise you there is more than one part required to run an engine my friend. Tim Duncan is not more important that Kawhi Leonard folks. If Kawhi Leonard doesn't do a good job of defending Lebron then you know the rest...Just because you are not critically acclaimed or a Pastor of a church does not mean that you don't have a role to play, everyone has a role.  Get involved, find it and play your part. 

On a winning team...
#2) Everyone submits to leadership.

Who doesn't love Gregg Popovich and his ridiculous press conferences?  If you don't then you have no sense of humor and you should probably laugh more often, ok? Cool. Gregg Popovich is the strong leadership through which the dynasty of the Spurs has been created.  The players love him, respect him, submit to his authority and I believe that is one of the main reasons for their success. The same should hold true within the church.  We are called to submit to Jesus Christ, whom all authority has been given to in heaven and on earth.  As the church we are called to submit to the Head who is Jesus just as the Spurs submit to their Head Coach, Gregg Popovich.  1 Colossians 1:17-18  says: "And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.  And he is the head of the body, the church..." In order for the church to be the salt and the light we are called to be we must, I repeat must submit to our Head Coach Jesus Christ.  We cannot manage an organization that is to be presented without spot, blemish or wrinkle if we are dirty, crooked and sinful.  A perfect product cannot be created from imperfect management, it is just impossible.  So what should we do? Shut up and submit to the Head Coach, Jesus. 

On a winning team...
#3 People step up and make a play.

PictureDanny Green and Gary Neal killed Miami in Game 3!
Winning teams don't usually overwhelm people and win by huge margins, they always seem to have guys that make plays when they need them.  The Spurs always have these guys that just seem to be role players throughout the game and they make HUGE plays when they need them to.  Here's just a few guys: Robert Horry, Bruce Bowen, Matt Bonner and pretty frequently this season, Danny Green and Gary Neal.  Check out these Robert Horry highlights from their game 5 playoff game in 2005, you would think this guy was a superstar.  His buzzer beater was one of the greatest shots in NBA playoff history.  Their superstars also make big plays too, I'm not saying only their role players make HUGE plays, look at Tony Parker's shot in Game 1, HUGE.  The model for success in the early church was similar to the Spurs, they just had people step up when called upon to make the play.  One great story of someone stepping up and making a play was Ananias.  Ananias who was a seemingly irrelevant character to most people in their understanding of the Bible, was probably the reason for the most influential person in the early Christian movement in Paul.  If Ananias would have backed down from the moment when the Lord said to him: “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands him to restore his sight.” The church may not have ever experienced the leadership and teaching from Paul.  Ananias went.  Sure he had some doubt but in the moment he didn't think about the magnitude of the moment, he just did it.  The church needs people to not question or doubt but like Nike says, JUST DO IT.  The church needs people and leaders to step up and make plays in uncertain situations.  In the confusing time surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Peter the "dumb guy" stepped up and made a play.  We are all called to Go and Make Disciples so that means we are all called to step up and make plays. If the church is to build winning teams they need people to go out, disregard doubt and step up and make a play.

One a winning team...
#4 The team is selfless.

The Spurs are selfless.  There is no one person trying to hog the spotlight because they realize if the Spurs hog the spotlight then ultimately they are all winning.  Duncan, Ginobili and Parker all are superstars, but none of them are fighting for shots on a nightly basis, they are selfless and they sacrifice. As I mentioned before, in the church we are to submit to the leadership of Jesus Christ so that we can follow His example and there is no greater example of selfless sacrifice.  Jesus Christ died for the sins of you and I.  He paid the ultimate price by laying down his deity to die a painful and undeserved death on the cross as a man.  There is no greater act of selflessness or sacrifice.  The Bible even says in John 15:13: "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends".  In order to build a winning team in the church we must follow the model of Jesus Christ.  We must sacrifice our own fame, ambitions, goals and desires that we may fulfill His will and purpose in our nation today.  So the next time we are faced with a decision to honor self or honor Christ, we should choose the latter, because ultimately Christ has already won so we are just sharing in victory.   

Lets build winning teams together. 

Lets join forces.  Lets collaborate.  Lets communicate together on how we can be a winning team in the body of Christ.  Sometimes we need to learn a lesson or two from successful examples in front of us and see how we can also improve.  Jesus should always be the filter by which we view things but watching the Spurs dynasty has been a pretty good learning tool as well.  Lets build winning teams together. 
 
 

Sports are inspirational.

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I bet for most of us, in some way, shape, or form we have been inspired by sports.  Whether it was by an amazing athlete, an incredible display of  teamwork, or an improbable come from behind victory, sports has a way of captivating us.  When I have experienced great sports' moments both as an athlete and as a spectator, I am filled with a sense of raw, unadulterated passion and emotion.  If I were being filmed during these experiences you could see me jumping up and down like a little kid or getting teary eyed from the joy of seeing the underdog win. 


Here are just some events that bring out that raw emotion for me personally:
1) Vince Carter's 360 Windmill in the 2000 Dunk Contest-Incredible!
2) When the USA tops the Soviets in the Miracle Movie
3) When Simon Birch hits the ball for the first time and kills his friends mom-It is super sad and you will cry!
4) Wearing green and yellow, I represented the Tribe as I returned an interception 86 yards for a touchdown versus Villanova my sophomore season
5) Newt Shaw hitting the game winning PK in the Big Green

Great moments in sports have a way of bringing out a great deal of emotion for a lot of us.

Sports Unite Every Culture

Sports has this way of uniting people from every type of background and culture.  Whether you are rich or you are poor, whether you speak the same language or even understand your opponent's culture, you can put aside your differences briefly in competition.  In most sports there are only a few basic requirements necessary to compete and that is time, space, a ball and participants.  These are things that most people have access to. It really doesn't matter where you live or what economic climate you live in.

Athletes are cultural icons

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As I watched the Doctor J 30 for 30, I was amazed not only by his ridiculous dunks but what he meant to the game of basketball and to the Philadelphia community.  Paraphrasing a Lebron James quote from the documentary he said "If there was no Doctor J, there was no MJ and if there was no MJ, there is no Lebron."  Wow!  That's incredible to see the effect one man can have on a generation, a city, or on a sport.  I'm pretty sure Cleveland is extremely thankful for Doctor J because without Lebron, who knows where that city would be (God Bless the Browns!).  The accomplishments, feats, and abilities of amazing athletes can have a profound effect on our culture and society.  How many people will and have overcome leg disabilities because of Oscar Pistorius? How many people have ventured into unchartered territories and broken cultural boundaries because of Jackie Robinson?  I could go on and on naming cultural icons who have made such a tremendous impact as athletes. 

So wait...if sports are inspirational, they unite every culture, and athletes are cultural icons, then why aren't we using sports to build communities?

The role that sports plays in our society is tremendous.  A sporting event can bring revival to an entire city or inspire a nation to dream more.  The platform of sports has been lifted to the highest level in our culture but I don't think we have yet harnessed the influential power of sports to help build and rebuild communities in our nation.  I have been bouncing around ideas for a while and as an athlete I have seen the platform that sports has given me to speak and teach others in my community.  I am working to create and design a program combining corporate sponsorship, athletes, competition and community involvement that will revitalize hurting communities.  I have high hopes for the program and I believe the amount that can be achieved is tremendous.  We can revive dead and hopeless communities if we begin to use the common passion of sport as a way to help and inspire people in need. There are future leaders, world changers, and cultural icons that have yet to be discovered, but I think maybe, just maybe, I can be a part of something that will help uncover them. 
 
 
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May 12th, 2013 was a great day.  I felt a great sense of accomplishment and nostalgia from being a William and Mary grad.  It was amazing.  I had finally tackled the beast that I had been wrestling since a week after I graduated high school!  The road to graduating was hard and sometimes I felt like time was moving slowly at 25mph and other times it felt like it was flying by at an autobahn pace.  

The great thing about college is that you know where you are going and you know where the road ultimately ends.  There is a definite beginning with freshman orientation and a definite ending with graduation.  Sure there may be some unexpected road trips, parties and weekend plans that get in the way of starting those assignments you know you should be doing, but ultimately you still know what the assignment is and when it is due.  After I graduated, that sense of comfort was thrown out the window.  There was no one telling me what assignments to do, how I should do them or when they were due.  The road was unpredictable and I didn't know where it ended! 

PictureI felt like Dorothy in a tornado!
 In the first two weeks after I graduated, my identity as a student and a football player was shaken and for the first time in my life I was hit with feelings of purposelessness because I was without direction.  I felt overwhelmed by the enormous pressure of landing a job immediately and was so consumed with entertaining every possibility that I did nothing.  The problem was not the anxiety I was feeling it was the fact that I wasn't pursuing connections with people face to face. I sat around sending emails, posting my resume to every job posting that I saw.  I  waited for responses that weren't coming as fast as I hoped.  One rejection lead to another and this hopeless feeling set in.  Then randomly one day a mentor of mine reached out to me and invited me up to his place for a night and I got into the car and since then everything has changed for the better.   

That night that I drove up to Richmond and kicked it with my mentor, he really encouraged me to get in the car and drive!  Since then, I have made my trek to and through the great Midwest.  I have been creeping on LinkedIn looking for William and Mary grads, cold calling, emailing and meeting with anyone who would give me the time of day.  I have found that there are great people everywhere and people are willing to help you, even if they don't know you.  Make impressions, create relationships, start conversations. In two weeks time, I have driven over 3,500 miles, drank more coffee than is healthy for a single person to consume and met some amazing people along the way.  My latest stop was in Indianapolis and it was really a breakthrough trip for me.  The theme of meeting great people really rings true here! Some great people have helped connect me in the tech/startup community there and it may be the place where I begin my career.  I have suddenly gotten a burst of energy and I am regaining that feeling of purpose. 

I am no expert on the matter, who am I kidding but if I could give any advice to anyone struggling with "recentgraduitis"... I would say, get in the car and hit the road!  Good things happen when the rubber meets the road!