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“The unexamined life is not worth living.”  Socrates

I remember it like it was yesterday.   I carry it with me wherever I go.  It was the single most important challenge directly put to me.  Dr. Allan Ten Eyck, my sophomore professor at Grand Valley State University challenged me.  He was a professor of education and I was his student.  I enjoyed his class and especially respected his passion and love of teaching.  He recognized talent in me and treated me as an important member of the university.

He asked to meet with me after class one day.  He sat me down in his office and looked me in the eye and said, “You’ve pretty much gotten by on charm most of  your life haven’t you?”  I looked back and answered, “Yes,” and actually felt relieved.  Still looking at me he said, “That’s OK, you just better make sure you have something to back it up.”  WOW, a superslam followed by validation.  I think you call that a backhanded compliment.

It was like getting hit with a brick.  I was found out.  No one ever challenged me like that.  It stopped me dead in my tracks.  I knew that I used the charm to get by, but I didn’t know that anyone else knew.  Well it turned my world upside down.  I felt phony and insincere.  At the same time, he still made me feel that I had “something to give.”

It also made me examine who I was and where I was going.  Another important factor in my life at the time was my new faith.  I had recently become a Christian and knew that God wanted integrity in my life.   So these coinciding events created an evaluation of my life.  I found myself checking myself on everything that I did.  Now this can also make you paranoid and neurotic if you don’t have people to help you examine and re-examine your life.

That wasn’t the last challenge from him.  I was constantly seeking his wisdom.  Even though he called me out then, and continued to, he also kept encouraging me and allowing me to grow.   He made becoming a teacher a right of passage and a privilege, not a job or a career.  I was a C-D student at the time.  From that day, I became not just an A-B student but someone who was driven to “learn” how to teach and run a classroom in the best way.

It is only when you take your God-given gifts and add passionate expertise that you come alive.  I am so glad that I learned this at a time that allowed me to begin my life’s journey that I am on to this date.  The best part is that it still feels like I have just begun.

Thank you Dr. Ten Eyck

Proverbs 27:17

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

It is very intense to account for others and to be accountable to others. It is about vulnerability.  Vulnerability is defined as:   Arms outstretched tied to posts… and a charging rhino.  This simple definition seemed to always work in my many youth talks.

When you talk about accountability trust is the key.  Without trust you will not allow people to ask anything beyond surface, “Hey, how’s it going”– “Good, how about you.”   Count how many times a day you have this open and shut conversation.  If anyone ever really tries to answer the initial salutation they get the weirdest looks.  Try it some time.  Tell people how you are really doing after they ask and they will avoid you like the plague.

So how do you get sharpened?  You find a true friend.  Someone who loves you unconditionally.  This takes time and effort.  You can’t substitute this with facebook friends, texting friends, email friends, you need a face to face friend.  Someone you can sit with, talk with, and pray with.  Nothing sharper in this world than a friend that is looking you in the eye and asking, “How are you doing,” and he means it.

So pray that you can find that person who can make you slice through life and come alive.

A few years back I had a player that was almost perfect, a coach’s dream.  I know he wasn’t perfect, but he was 4.75 gpa, please, thank you, yes sir, great athlete, likable, etc.  One day we were in the gym just shooting around and shooting the breeze.  I had known Dave for 3 years.  We had developed a strong meaningful relationship through the coach/player experiences.

Out of the blue I said “Hey Dave, you drinking?”

“Na, Coach.”

“You smoking?”

“Na, Coach.”

“Drugs?”

“Na, Coach.”

“You having sex?”

“Na, Coach.”

I said, “OK.”

We kept shooting for a while and then put the balls up and went home. It wasn’t until about 5 years later that Dave and I were talking and he said to me, “Coach, do you remember when you asked me all those crazy questions in the gym that day?”

I said, “Sure do Dave.”

He said, “You were the only one in my life that ever asked me those kind of questions. Most people just assumed I didn’t have to deal with that stuff.  I wasn’t involved in those things but did have the opportunites.  Thanks for caring enough to ask.”

He is married now and has his own family.  We still are in touch.  We still have the kind of relationship that creates accountability through our common faith.  The questions might change but the attitude remains the same.  Now we talk about husband/wife, father/child, work, etc.  He gets to ask me some of the tough questions now too.

We want to be asked, challenged, and pushed to be our best.  We want those that are the closest to us to be the ones that put forth the challenges.  I constantly ask my own children these questions and many others like it.  It may be uncomfortable and you may get answers that you don’t want to hear.  But to grow you must be accountable.

It doesn’t have to start with the intense questions or the prying questions.  You might just ask a student, an athlete, a friend, a family member some open-ended questions that allow him/her to open back up to you.  This small step can lead to life long relationships that have meaning and depth.  All you have to do is ask.

180 Highlight- A Poem from Melvin Williams

Posted: August 19, 2010 in Uncategorized

the Seeker  

I have captured a moment, which will be cherished for life.

2010 taught me a lesson from a mistake I won’t make twice.

I’ve been so angry and confused, lost and unfound.

Blind but not beaten, lost out in sea, but I didn’t drown.

I ‘m still around, bruised and badly wounded:  Just broken.

All happy in the face but I feel down.

Walk with my head high, but I still see the ground.

I’m wide open when I used to be a closed book.

Capture the moment of that life you took.

Why? Cause I didn’t see… I couldn’t tell… It wasn’t me.

The past predicts my present, that’s not how I want it to turn out to be.

When I’m asleep I’m trapped in this cold dark place.

Nobody hears me calling out, and then I awake, just another day.

Until this day I still walk in those shoes.

Knowing what to do but not how to do what I got to do.

Misused, confused, loved, hated, BLESSED, but full of pain.

I’m the black cloud that makes it rain.

No source of light is helping me change.

Cause the light is within me to change.

But I can’t find the sun to stop the rain.

Melvin Williams Aug. 18, 2010

This poem speaks for itself of the struggle I wrote about in other entries.  I am always moved by the depth and vulnerability in his poetry.  I hope this helps you connect with him and his situation.  He also wants this to be posted in the event that someone else may be helped or encouraged.  Thank you Melvin for your openness.

180 Mentoring Motivator- August 11, 2010

Posted: August 11, 2010 in Uncategorized

“Never, Never, Never Quit!”    Winston Churchill

The most difficult part of these posts is that there are many, many people that I get the chance to motivate.  Melvin’s story is so hard to deal with because 4 yrs. later he is still struggling to succeed.  Many of his friends are in the midst of turmoil:  Jail, poverty, and pain.  He has always been a loyal friend and it is hard for him to walk away.  So he is pulled in every direction.

So staying the course is the challenge.  Not giving up on yourself or the people you are investing in isn’t easy.  Different challenges bring different strategies and which is why I will never give up on anyone I have the chance to impact.

180 Mentoring Challenge- August 11, 2010

Posted: August 11, 2010 in Uncategorized

Connect-Reconnect

Call, text, Facebook, email, etc. someone who you have or had a mentoring relationship with but you haven’t talked to recently.  You can be the mentor or the mentored it doesn’t matter.  Let them know what you mean to them.

I spoke to four different people today.  Two called me, one for a job I am helping him with (former player, 5 yrs.) and the other, to go to lunch before he goes to college (graduate I have mentored for 6 yrs. going off to play college football). The other two I called, one  just to see how he was doing (former student, 5 yrs.), the other,  Melvin (4 yrs.) challenging his present situation and getting him motivated.

You would be amazed how much it means to both to continue to connect.  It can be life changing, again.  Let me know how it went.

You can:

  • Facebook-Coach Pyper 180
  • Email-coachpyper180@gmail.com
  • Text-919-368-1499
  • Yell-Hey Coach
  • Call-919-368-1499
  • Twitter-CoachPyper
  • Google-Coach Pyper

180 Mentoring Verse- August 11, 2010

Posted: August 11, 2010 in Uncategorized

Philippians 2:4 Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.

Mentoring first takes unconditional love.  Love gives opportunity.  To truly mentor you have to sacrifice and commit to the long journey.  25 years ago I began a teaching and coaching career that opened doors for wonderful lasting relationships.  This summer I am working with one of my former 4th graders (1987).   He is 31 and I am older.  We both lived in Ohio then and now we both live in North Carolina.

I had Mark in class in 1987.   We first connected through our love of sports.  I did not have my own children yet so all of my students were considered family.  I would use recess as a motivational tool and go out with the students and play whatever game was in season.  It was usually me and the girls against the boys.  The girls won most of the time.  Mark went on to play high school football at a different school.  I got to go to a few basketball games he played in and his state championship football game.  We stayed in touch through his college years with letters and phone calls.  He played college football for 4 years and then he began his teaching and coaching career.

He now coaches my son in football at the school where we teach together.  The benefits of mentoring are priceless.

180 Life Connection- Mentoring- August 11, 2010

Posted: August 11, 2010 in Uncategorized

I needed you when I was 14.

“I needed you when I was 14,” said Smoke, (Melvin Williams).  That sums up our relationship.  For the past 4 years I have known and loved Melvin.  He was standing in the gym of the high school when I first saw him, baggy pants, Tims, gold chain and a long decorative t-shirt. He was standing with the head coach of the basketball team, trying to get in the pick-up game during what is called open gym.  Smoke watched as the basketball game was going on, not able to participate because he wasn’t eligible.  Not eligible to play in an open gym because his grades were not good enough.

Ninth grade 3 times, drugs, dealing, absent……

He goes to a great suburban high school. Most students are on the college tract.  Coming from Macon, GA, he is in his junior year and 18, struggling with “school”.  Not the thinking part, but the how to “do school” part.  Lost his dad a year earlier to a violent death, mom struggling to make ends meet, Section 8 housing, plenty of distractions in the neighborhood.  He is bussed into the cross-town school, not necessarily buying in to the “suburban style” system, in fact not understanding the culture of that which is called “Suburbia High School”.

Anger is written on his face as he stands nearby trying to play, he asks and is denied the opportunity. I walked up and stood with coach, Melvin, and a few others.  I walked over and introduced myself with, “I know who you are”. Through the anger ridden face I could see what he should’ve been:  A young vibrant student enjoying the high school life.  But instead there is frustration, bitterness, and contempt written all over him.  He is not alone.  There are many more students like him, they are lost in a world that doesn’t work and a life they didn’t choose.

Melvin is an example of someone who needed an anchor.  He is now 20.  I continue to mentor him.    It will be a lifelong relationship.

I had a Facebook chat a couple days ago.  It was from a former student who left the high school where I had been working.  She didn’t have all her credits, she had drama all around her and finally just gave up.  Home, school, and social life, it all was unsettling for her.  She didn’t know how to give “This Much”.   She had connected with a few teachers and we encouraged her and pushed her.  The distractions won and she quit.  Before she left I told her when she went to college I would pay for her books.  I never stopped believing in her.

We kept in touch after she dropped out.  I continually challenged her to return to school and finish.   She floundered for a while and then went to an alternative school to finish.  She graduated recently and let me know that the books are on order.  She knew I still believed in her.  She was determined but distracted.  Some of the distractions were her fault, others brought about by life’s circumstances.  Either way she fought through and is now attending college and looking into nursing as a major.

It might take a long time for some people to figure out.  Our anchors (God, family, teachers, coaches, etc) are the key.  But deep down it comes back to what we choose, because only you can give “This Much”.

Have you ever tried to go “This Much” ?

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Thomas Alva Edison

It isn’t until we look back that we realize what would have happened if-

Don’t let doubt, Don’t let people, Don’t let friends, Don’t teachers, Don’t let money, Don’t let anything get in the way of your “Coming Alive”.