Part of a Team

February 25, 2010

Team Hall

There are all kinds of teams.  Some are organized like football and basketball teams, church groups, civic groups, book clubs or sewing circles.  Others are a little more amorphous like neighborhoods, fans of a similar person, team or group, or those who share a similar talent/interest.  Regardless of what brings teams together, there is every kind of team everywhere you look

Whether you are a member of the Dallas Cowboys, attend the Methodist church on the corner, are on the PTA, live in Crofters Cove, love Frank Sinatra, are a Scrapbooker (or all of the above) you are a part of a team—and that’s good.

We all want to belong.  We all want to be a part of something, and that’s why we gravitate together.  It’s why we try out, volunteer, or set aside our precious time for teams.  We crave that commonality and community.  No matter how busy we are, we often find ourselves willing to throw our hat in one more ring in order to gain one more connection.

As members of these different groups we need to remember that desired community.  It will help us remember to be continually inclusive, instead of answering the primal instinct to exclude.  Regardless of how many groups knock at your door, it’s important to remember everyone isn’t quite so busy.

There are many people who are looking for anyway to be a part of anything—so much so that sometimes they’ll do whatever it takes to be “in.”  Even when people are included, when times get difficult, they want more—they need more.

When I broke my neck, I needed any inclusion I could get.  Even though I was fairly well liked, and a part of numerous groups, my new situation had me longing for more contact—more teammates.

Luckier than most, I had people who were willing to not only let me in, but actually make the effort to “recruit” me.

Growing up, one of the teams I wanted to be a part of was the BYU football team.  I spent nights dreaming of me in the locker room or crossing campus proudly wearing my letterman jacket.

Obviously, my new disability made both seem impossible.

One day, lying in the hospital, there was a knock at the door.  As it opened, I nearly went into cardiac arrest.  There, in the hallway, was Steve Lindsley—quarterback at BYU.  He spent a half hour of his time with me and before he left gave me his jersey and an invitation to join him in the locker room.

BYU QB Steve Lindsley visiting me in the hospital

I wore the jersey every day, and a few months later, I was in the locker room with all my heroes.  I was no longer a 15 year old learning to deal with his disability.  In that room and with that jersey on, I was a part of the BYU Football Team—a Cougar.

The letterman jacket came later.  I wasn’t struggling to find my place, that 15 year old boy scared about his future was long gone.  However, that didn’t mean my desire to be a part, to be included was gone too.  Just like everyone, I still wanted connections.

The Dean of Students and her Associate Dean, Maren Mouritsen and Tammie Quick (two of the wisest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing), understood that.  Just before my graduation from “The Y”, they presented me with my letterman’s jacket in front of my peers.  They had overheard me talk about my dream once and being the proactively caring people that they are, called the Vice-President responsible for athletics and got the ball rolling.  As far as I know I am the only non- athlete to be a Letterman from BYU—a part of BYU’s letterman’s club.  It was one of the proudest days of my young life.

A letteman at "The Y"

Our challenge is to follow the example of these three good people, Steve, Maren and Tammie, and look for ways we can change the lives of others by making them our teammate.  Whether it’s people around us who are struggling like I was in the hospital, or just someone looking for another meaningful connection, like I was at the end of my tenure at BYU, it’s our duty as a member of  “Team Humanity” to let those around us know we want them on our side.

Make it your goal this week to target someone and invite them to be a part of one of your teams.  Ask them to a church luncheon, or a neighborhood party.  Take some time to talk with them about a shared interest, or give them a CD from some artists you both like.  If you give it some real thought, you’ll find something that lets someone know you have something in common—and more importantly, that you care.

Watch the difference it makes.  Watch their confidence soar as your friendship builds.  I’m willing to bet it will have a bigger impact than you ever imagined.  But, what will really amaze you is how good the effort will make you feel.  Gaining more teammates will shore up your confidence as well.  For, working to let others know that they belong, you’ll find yourself feeling more accepted and loved as well.

For, really, at the end of the day, we all want to be part of a team.

Jh-


Pick a Direction and Go!

October 16, 2009

Football Victory

When I came into the life insurance industry, I was blessed with great success—success that many never thought possible.  Much of that success was due to mentors who took a direct interest in my dreams and goals and worked hard to help me see them to fruition.

One of those mentors was Chuck Cutler.  In college, Chuck was a great wide receiver for BYU, and as such had already won my adoration.  But, it was in his personal interest in me, and my success during my work at Mutual Of New York, that he won my respect.

I learned many things during my time under Chuck’s management, but one of the things that had the most lasting impact came from a story he told me on our way to an appointment.

Now, this wasn’t your regular “across town” appointment.  This sales meeting was at seven-thirty in the morning in the little town of Montpelier, ID—just over three hours away from our offices in Salt Lake City.

I picked Chuck up at our offices at 4:00 a.m. so we could be on time and prepared for the appointment in Montpelier.  We had both been working into the late evening the night before, so in an effort to stay awake we tried to keep the conversation lively.

As we made our way, the conversation eventually turned to his football days at BYU.  With him being a former athlete at the Y and me having been a Brigham Young fan from essentially birth, neither of us was surprised. We both knew it was bound to happen.

Reminiscing about his time playing ball, he came to a story from the early days of his career at BYU.

It was the middle of practice, and what with him being a young wide receiver in a program filled with great receivers, he wanted to make sure to make a statement from the get go.

He lined up in front of one of the team’s senior defensive backs, the quarterback called the signal, the center snapped the ball, and Chuck was off.  As he ran his appointed route he worked hard to juke left and right in an effort to lose the defensive back.

The longer the back stayed with Chuck, the harder Chuck worked to lose him.  He pulled out all his best moves, shucking and jiving down the field. Eventually all this work brought forth some results.

As Chuck moved back and forth, he eventually slipped and twisted his ankle.  The play ended, and the coach walked over to where Chuck was on the field—an embarrassing situation that Chuck had in no way intended for.

The coach pulled him up from off the ground, and simply said (as much as any football coach can simply say anything), “Pick a Direction and Go!”

I think often about this story and it’s message.  Sometimes as we work to gain success in our lives, we end up doing just what Chuck did; we shuck and jive our way through life, trying to go in too many ways at one time, leading to a lot of movement, but little progress.  When try to focus on too much all at once, everything just ends up blurry and we end up with little more than an embarrassing story and a twisted ankle.

Conversely, when we pick our direction and go, our chances for success increase exponentially.  We become dedicated to one destination and with that in mind we are more likely to complete our routes and catch the ball.

Try it; pick one area of your life, then pick a direction—and go. If you will, your ability to succeed will increase, your life will be littered with achievement, and you’ll end up with an “All-American” attitude will make you unstoppable.

Jh-

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Go With What You Know

April 1, 2009
Jason Hall and Kolette Coleman Spring 1992

Jason Hall and Kolette Coleman Spring 1992

Seventeen years ago today my life changed. Seventeen years ago I asked Kolette to marry me. As I think about this day and what it means to me I think about what led up to that day and how decisions I made then make me the luckiest man in the world.

In 1992, as we approached mid-March Kolette and I were in two different places when it came to marriage. We spent every open waking minute together. I picked her up every morning for school and from that point to the point I dropped her off at night we are together. This togetherness brought with it an ample amount of kissing. As far as I was concerned all was well with the world. I liked seeing Kolette and loved kissing her and figured we could just stay put in our little bubble of time forever.

Kolette on the other hand had enjoyed our time dating but felt that the time for moving on to the next step had come. Both then and now Kolette has been a woman of checklists. And as far as engagement went, her pencil sharpened and she was aching to fill the empty box.

As has usually been the case she was right. Not that there is any specific timeline on how long a couple should date, or that we had dated for an excessively long period of time, but we had spoken often about how marriage was our next step.

On a side note, I think it’s interesting how this subject gets broached by most couples. It seems like generally it happens the same for everyone. First, in conversation you start saying things like, “If we were ever to get married, not that we ever would, but if we did then we would…” Then it begins to turn to “If we were ever to get married, not that we would for a long time, then we would…”

Not long after this is a part of regular conversation, the sentence seems to evolve further to something like, “When we get married, not that that wouldn’t be for a long time, but when we did, then we would…” For me, this was the sentence that seem to have the shortest lifespan. As before I knew it, we were saying just regular old, “When we get married.”

The first time we went to look at rings I was so nervous I didn’t even set one foot in the store. Kolette looked at rings with the salesman who, knowing that I was the buyer, shouted through the store so that I could hear him while I was sitting just outside the doorway.

This went on until one day I dropped Kolette off at school and she had a look on her face that broke my heart. Her eyes told the whole tale. They said, louder than any words ever could, “We are never going to get married.”

That was it. I knew I had to make a decision. I had to decide whether I was going to ask her to marry me and move forward, or simply break things off. Staying where we were at and causing her that kind of disappointment was not an option.

I packed my bag full of books written by wise men on the subject of living life well and headed to a local hotel. I checked into the hotel with the help of a bellman. The bellman took my bag, unpacked the books, helped me order dinner through room service and left. When he did, I shut the door so I couldn’t leave, and dropped the remote on the floor so TV was no longer an option. This way, it was just me, my books, my God, and my big decision.

(In case you’re wondering, my cousin who had a date that night with his future wife, agreed to come to the hotel and lay me down around one o’clock. I know there are some out there thinking that if he was locked in his hotel room how did he ever get out. My cousin also stayed the night and help me get up the following morning.)

I ate my dinner and began some deep reading and heavy prayer. Not long into the evening I called my dad to get his advice. He said he couldn’t understand what I was doing since it seemed to him I already knew the answer.

I remember thinking, “Thanks a lot, Dad!” and went back to reading and praying.

The more I read and the more I prayed the more I realized my Dad was right. I already knew the answer to my question before I even went up to the hotel. As I thought about it I knew she loved me, and I knew I loved her. But, I let doubt and nerves get in the way of that knowledge. Luckily, what my fear questioned, my heart had figured out a long time ago.

I loved her.

I called the bellman, had him bring up some dessert, open the door and hand me the remote. My decision was made and all that was left was the asking.

I returned home put together a plan and with the help of a lot of family and friends pulled off this extravagant plan. I was able to rent a place at Sundance, convince Kolette that we had a meeting with the president of the University (I had just been elected BYU’s Student Body President), get her to wear my favorite dress, get a candlelight dinner set up in the room at Sundance, and get the ring (a few weeks earlier I had actually found the courage to go into a jewelers with Ko).

On our way up the canyon, from Provo to Sundance, Kolette asked me if I had made any headway on getting the ring. She knew that there was no way I was going to be able to afford the ring we had looked at without some help. I was just a poor college student. I told her that I was going to meet about financing on the following Monday. Her face got all sad and frustrated because she knew that once I met with the people about financing it would take at least a week to get the money for the ring.

She told me that she had a conversation with her Dad earlier that day and he was beginning to wonder if I had commitment issues. What she didn’t know was a miracle happened just days before and not only had I ended up with a check for nearly the entire cost of the ring, but that the ring was waiting for her up at Sundance (I knew I wasn’t going to be able to pull the ring out of my pocket when I asked her so when they set up our candlelight dinner I had them set the ring box open on the table).

We got to Sundance and it was great. She was right with me believing the whole thing. She had taken the bait and bit hook, line, and sinker.

We opened up the door to the room and with romantic music playing in the background I led her to the table and in front of the candlelight dinner took her hand and said, “Kolette, will you marry me and make me the happiest man alive?”

She looked at me and quizzically asked, “Are you kidding?”

I remember thinking that this was not the response I expected. My mind raced and I wondered if I’d read the whole situation wrong. I thought maybe the best answer was, “Yeah! Ha Ha! Funny Right?” But, as often happens my mouth got in front of my brain and I exclaimed, “No, I’m not kidding. the ring’s right there.”

She looked at the table and saw the ring that she had missed before and said, “Yes.” Immediately after I started to breathe again and we kissed.

If I remember right, we kissed so long the food got cold. But, we were in love and none of that mattered. The next day we went to school and told all of our friends that we were engaged.

There’s not many days that aren’t good ones for asking the one you love to marry you. But, the 31st of March is one of those days. For, the day that follows is April 1st more commonly known as “April Fools’ Day.” This made it difficult to convince many of our friends that we actually were engaged. But on April 2nd everyone knew we were telling the truth in nearly three months later we were married.

It’s been the ride of a lifetime. Any happiness that has been a part of my life since that day is in some way or another a direct result of Kolette. She is the love of my life and the joy of my journey. She is my best friend and my heart is hers forever.

When I think about all the good that has come into my life because of Kolette I think about how it would have all been lost if that day in the hotel room had I decided to doubt things I knew were true. It’s like I was over thinking and under feeling–so worried I was going to make the wrong decision, I was making no decision at all. Fear that I might fail, or be wrong kept me in a holding pattern. Those emotions of anxiety and apprehension cause us to hesitate moving forward with answers we know to be right.

We have to do all the we can do to get the best information out there. We have to study and learn to gain wisdom and understanding. But there will always be more to learn and more to understand. We have to get all the knowledge we can crammed into our head, but at the end of the day that won’t be enough. Our gut has to be included in the conversation, our heart has to be given a place at the table. Along with the knowledge we gain we have to have the courage to act, the courage to trust what we know in our heart is right. There is a reason God gave us not only a head, but a heart to go with it.

There is little question that we’re at our best when we use all the tools at our disposal. When we use our heads with our hearts we gain the courage to go with what we know.

Jh-

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