It is often said that there is no faster path to change than great pain, and Jack Burton has no small share when it comes to his own. Driven by frustration and failure, a chance meeting with an unlikely mentor propels Jack toward three extraordinary people that plant the seeds of discovery he must now nurture and grow to find the remedy to his misfortune. Like all great endeavors, the path is unexpected, and Jack soon finds himself body and soul deep into the mystery of personal philosophy and how it is inextricably woven into the fabric of success for all.
About the Author
John Brubaker is the award-winning author of The Coach Approach and Seeds of Success. He was named to Forbes’s 10 Consultants Who Avoid the BS list. Brubaker has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, the Huffington Post, on NBC News, ESPN Radio, Fox, and CBS.
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A SEED PLANTED
It was meant to be just another workout. A three-mile jog around the Burlington County Park athletic field followed by a dozen wind sprints and finished up with a hundred shots on the lacrosse goal. It was the standard workout I had performed variations of for the past 10 years. The solitude of training in the country was a welcome change of pace from the pressure-packed days of graduate school and the stress of the daily commute into Philadelphia.
Lacrosse was the perfect outlet for me in high school and college, and now I just couldn't let go of the discipline of being a student-athlete. I was never considered the Michael Jordan of lacrosse, but I certainly was a student of the game. It was my first true love and always would be.
The game centered me and grounded me in a way nothing else could. When everything else in the world was going crazy or going wrong around me, the lacrosse field was the one constant in my life where everything went right. The world didn't make a whole lot of sense to me except on the lacrosse field.
Little did I know an unexpected visitor was about to plant a seed in my head that would quickly change everything.
"Hey, what's up? My name's Ben. Mind if I join you and shoot around a little bit?" the stranger asked as he walked onto the field, duffel bag in hand.
"Not at all, Ben. I've been coming here every evening at this time, 6 days a week for the past 2 years, and you're the first person I've seen."
"Yeah, it's a well-kept secret," replied Ben, smiling. "Let's try to keep it that way."
I didn't quite know what to make of this lanky, 6-foot kid with bleached blonde hair and a headband. He looked, sounded, and dressed more like a surfer dude than a lacrosse player. With his board shorts, tank top, and sweatband on his head, he could have passed for a product of the seventies.
"You've got some sweet lacrosse equipment there. Play competitively?" I asked.
"Yeah, I head back to college in a few days, so I'm just trying to work myself back into playing shape before I have to report for preseason training," he answered.
"Where do you play?"
"Oh, it's a little Division III college you probably never heard of," Ben said, somewhat sheepishly.
"Try me, Ben. I'm a fountain of obscure facts."
"Uh, Radnor University, it's on the ..."
Before the stranger could complete the sentence, I blurted out, "... west end of the city. Of course I've heard of Radnor."
"Wow, Jack. I'm impressed. How'd you know Radnor? We ain't known for much," Ben replied.
"Probably the only way anyone has heard of that little school, Ben, is because Morgan Randall coaches lacrosse there. He started that team from scratch just a couple of years ago, and you guys have built a real solid program," I responded.
"Yeah, Coach is a living legend. Don't know that I have a whole lot to do with 'the build.' I'm really just a role player. Of course, Coach says everyone is a role player. It's one of his edges," Ben said.
"His what?" I asked.
"Oh yeah, sorry," Ben said. "Coach has a list of things, things that our program does differently than others, that sort of work as competitive edges over the opposition. At the end of practice each day he shares one edge to remind us who we are and what we're about. Some of the rookies think these are just little things, but little things make a big difference. When you add 'em up, there's your winning edge. At least that's what Coach says."
Now I was becoming intrigued with Ben's "Coach." For years I had known about Morgan's reputation as a highly regarded tactician and an elder statesman of the game, but I'd never gotten a behind-the-scenes look like this.
"I couldn't agree with Coach's philosophy more! Send me a schedule when you get back to school, and if it doesn't interfere with my team's schedule, I'll come check out a game. I'd love to meet your coach."
Ben jumped in quickly asking, "Wait a minute, Jack, what team do you coach around here?"
I was a bit embarrassed. "It's just a middle school team," I explained. "It's my way of giving back to the game, but I'd love to coach at a higher level someday. You know, maybe high school."
Ben got really animated. "Jack, someday might be today. We just got word that our assistant coach left to take a head coaching gig over at Valley Forge State College. You should give Coach a call. He loves to have a young, energetic assistant on staff. I know you'd get a ton of valuable experience, and just think, you'd get to learn from a legend."
The gears started turning in my head. I knew it could be an incredible learning experience. Kind of like an MBA candidate getting to serve as Warren Buffett's assistant at Berkshire-Hathaway. Coach Randall had probably built as many successful teams as Buffett had successful companies.
"I won't bug you about it anymore, Jack," Ben said. "Just tell me you'll at least think about it. Maybe give him a call. Mention my name, and tell him we spoke," Ben insisted.
"Well, when you put it that way, okay. Hey, it's worth exploring. Now, can we get back to shooting the ball? I mean that's what we came here to do, right?"
Ben was a man of his word and didn't say another word about Coach during the 90-minute shoot-around that turned into a game of one-on-one, with a few coaching pointers thrown in. His silence didn't really matter. The seed was planted and my mind was racing about this great opportunity.
We finished up our game and agreed to meet each evening at the same time until he headed back to school.CHAPTER 2
THE RECRUITING CALL
The next day, after a night of tossing and turning, I got up before the sun, fired up the coffee pot, and began drafting a cover letter to accompany a makeshift coaching résumé. As I typed furiously, I could hear my father's stern voice, "Son, if you're really interested in working for this guy, for God's sake don't tell it to him in a letter. I didn't fax the Air Force my résumé with a note telling them I wanted to enlist. I marched down to the recruiting station. And I sure as heck didn't propose to your mother by mailing her a letter."
While I had heard this story hundreds, maybe thousands, of times growing up, the message still rang true. Important things need to be done directly. And with that I picked up the phone and began dialing.
A rough voice on the other end said, "Coach here!"
I stumbled over my introduction. "Hello, Coach Randall, my name is Jack Burton."
The coach jumped in right away, "You a midfielder, Jack?"
"Uh, no. I'm actually not a student-athlete, sir. I am calling to speak to you about your assistant coaching position."
"Dadgummit, I'm looking for a lefty midfielder, about 6'2" and 200 pounds, who can shoot the lights out of the ball. You know anyone who fits the bill, Mack? Oh, and good grades. He's gotta be a serious student. Can't be a knucklehead either, character counts around hee-ah," the coach explained with a heavy Long Island accent.
"It's Jack, my name's Jack. Sorry Coach, I can't think of anyone off the top of my head. I'll let you know if I see one though."
"Well, if you want to work for me, you're gonna need an eye for talent," Randall shot back.
After a few minutes of exchanging the usual pleasantries and then sharing background information, I had gotten my foot far enough in the door for Coach to invite me for an interview the following afternoon.CHAPTER 3
As I pulled up to the field house the next day, my Honda Prelude was nearly run off the road by a madman zipping around the corner in a charcoal grey Ford Escort. The car had enough decals plastered all over it to make a NASCAR driver envious. Upon closer review, I noticed the decals were all lacrosse related. A Nike swoosh, a Spartan logo with crossed sticks, equipment manufacturers like Brine, Warrior, and STX all occupied space on virtually every panel of the car. Smack dab in the middle of his bumper was a sticker that read "Sticks and stones won't break your bones but a cross check to the ribs just might." I thought to myself, uh oh, this had to be the coach.
"Good, you're early!" Coach shouted as I stepped out of my car. "Early is on time, on time is late, and late loses you games. I tell my kids that, but they don't usually believe it 'til it happens to them. Sometimes kids today are a little too into that 'experiential learning.' You know what I mean?"
It looked like a sporting goods store had exploded inside his car. As he emerged from the vehicle, I wasn't sure if this man was crazy or crazy like a fox. He was dressed like the stereotypical old school coach: Bike brand coach's shorts, a grey t-shirt that read "Property of Radnor University Athletics," and black sneakers with bleach white laces. With his sense of humor, silver hair, sly grin, and sparkle in his eyes, he could have passed for Rodney Dangerfield's stunt double for sure.
I greeted the coach as he extended a hand, "Hi, Coach. Jack, Jack Burton. It's good to meet you."
"Glad to meet you, too, number 22," Coach said with a sly grin.
"How'd you know that was my number in college?"
"I might be old, but I ain't blind, Mack. Read it on your license plate — LAX-22. From the looks of that, we're gonna get along famously. You see, I'm a big believer in advertising. Promote the sport. It's our product. More importantly, promote your personal brand."
"Personal brand?" I said, a little confused.
"I guess you never heard of the McDonald's Theory, huh?" he countered.
"Can't say that I learned that in grad school," I replied, shaking my head.
"Why do you think McDonald's has served billions of hamburgers? Because they're so healthy and good for you? Heavens no! Because it advertises everywhere. Same thing with my car. I wanna be a billboard on wheels for Radnor University. Every high school game, recruiting showcase, and any other pit stops I make, people will know the ole coach is in the house. Making those brand impressions has been especially important for us as a relatively new program."
As we made our way across campus, I learned in short order that Coach was a master at differentiating his brand. From the bright green argyle blazer and white suede shoes he wore on the road recruiting to his voicemail greeting recorded by what sounded to be an attractive co-ed, lacrosse gear displayed all over campus, and his famous "pope-mobile" as the kids called it. His preferred method of transportation around campus was via his personal golf cart, custom-built for him by a booster.
It was probably nicer than most people's cars. It was painted Radnor blue, gold, and white, had glass windows on all sides, and probably the only thing missing was an espresso machine. On this day he used it to show me around campus, but usually he used it to drive recruits around. What a not-so-subtle differentiator and status symbol! How many recruits got driven around campus in the coach's personalized golf cart at the other colleges they visited? I would venture to say none, and I'm sure Coach found a way to slide that in during their campus tours.
"McDonald's Theory. Smart thinking, Coach. You're right. Its advertising is unavoidable. I never looked at it that way before. How else do you differentiate yourself?"
"Well, it's not differentiating me, but it certainly shines a huge spotlight on the program. Does that count?"
"Sure, Coach. What is it?"
"Jack, would you believe me if I told you little ole Radnor lacrosse is the most widely watched amateur sporting event in the entire state?"
By now, I was starting to think he might be a little over the top, even for me (and that was saying a lot).
"No way. That I'd find hard to believe."
"Well, prepare to be amazed, my young friend. See that satellite dish over there on the hilltop?"
"Over there by the communications building? Yeah, I see it. What about it?"
"We've got a small broadcast journalism program in the communications department, along with a public access television studio. Usually they just videotape monthly city council meetings, some boring chamber of commerce event, lighting of the Christmas tree, stuff like that. The rest of the time, which is most of the time, there's just a scrolling community billboard listing area events. Well, I convinced Ozzy, that's what I call Professor Osborne who heads up the department, to videotape our games."
"I get it, so you could have game film to break down and show the team, right?" I said, realizing this guy just might have a method to his madness.
"Well, that's the obvious part, and we do use it as a teaching tool for our current players. That was part of my motivation, but the bigger part was to create a buzz about our program in the community. Here's the deal. Two broadcast journalism majors get internship credit for doing the color commentary and play-by-play of all our games. One of the video production students gets the same deal for producing our highlight film each year."
"That sounds good, but how does that make you the most-widely watched amateur sporting event in the entire state? I mean Penn State has a pretty good football following outside of State College."
"A couple of Penn State's games air nationally, but the rest are just televised locally. Our games, going back to that satellite dish up there on the hill, get sent via satellite feed to every public access channel in every town and city across the entire state of Pennsylvania. And the best part is that it's free!"
"How on earth did you negotiate that, Coach? Do you have an agent?" I asked in absolute amazement.
"No negotiation necessary," he laughed. "Remember I told you there wasn't enough interesting programming to air on public access stations, so stations just run that boring scrolling community billboard? Well, I hope you don't think that's unique to Radnor. Every community in the state has the same problem, not enough manpower to produce local content. I just gift-wrapped them a solution. Our lacrosse games air on 54 different stations in every corner of the state. That's 53 more markets than that Division I football team you mentioned."
"Amazing, Coach. How do you leverage that?"
"Really, Jack, it just leverages itself. I just make sure when I'm scheduling home visits with recruits that I schedule them for the same time our game is being shown on their stations."
"Let me guess. When you visit them, you make sure they turn their TV on and see the team playing while you're sitting in their living room."
"Bingo! You guessed it, Jack. That's the leverage. The funniest part of the whole deal is that there are four other colleges we compete against who have the same resources we do, and their local station airs our games, not theirs, because their coach never bothered to approach 'em about it."
"Coach, that's amazing and hilarious, but I kind of actually feel bad for those coaches. They either aren't creative enough to think of how to market their programs or they aren't motivated enough to ask the station."
"Jack, don't feel bad for them. It's their own fault. Did you know John F. Kennedy's nanny didn't vote for him years later when he ran for president of the United States?"
I thought for sure that Coach was pulling my leg this time and wondered what this had to do with anything. "What? No way!!" I said skeptically.
Getting defensive, Coach replied, "No, really. You can look it up. He asked her later who she voted for, and when she said 'not you,' he asked why. Her answer was simply, 'I would have but you never asked me to.' You see, Jack, just like Kennedy, these other coaches did that to themselves; they didn't ask. I did. All it takes is asking. You ask often enough, and you will find the right people."
I needed to start writing down this stuff. As I took out my notebook, I got to thinking that Coach was making great points about marketing and branding. So I wrote down the following: "You will always get 100 percent of what you don't ask for, but if you only get 30 percent or 40 percent of what you do ask for, you're still far better off."
I could already see that I was going to have an interesting day (in a good way) and maybe learn some useful things.
"Coach, those are fantastic stories, both about JFK and your television coverage."
"Don't worry, kid. There's plenty more where that came from. You can either read my book or see my movie!" Coach said, giving me a wink. As he parked the golf cart in front of his office, he asked, "Are you ready to talk some lacrosse?"CHAPTER 4
We made our way into the administration building. I could see my reflection in the door as we passed through and realized my tie was crooked, so I scrambled to adjust it, buttoned my blazer, and hoped Coach hadn't noticed. I wondered what the coach's office would look like, where I should sit, and what his first question might be. I began to feel in over my head and grossly underprepared. At least I was dressed appropriately, I thought. That ought to count for something.
I was expecting Randall's office to look like a lawyer's with leather furniture and a big mahogany desk. Hardly. His office was an oversized cubicle in the corner of the admissions department. The desk looked like someone had organized it with a leaf blower. The walls were a walk down memory lane, covered with team photos and award plaques. His bookshelf was an oversized cubicle in the corner of the admissions department. The desk looked like someone had organized it with a leaf blower. The walls were a walk down memory lane, covered with team photos and award plaques. His bookshelf was filled with history books and books written by every military leader from Sun Tzu to General Norman Schwarzkopf.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Seeds Of Success"
Copyright © 2016 John Brubaker.
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 A Seed Planted
Chapter 2 The Recruiting Call
Chapter 3 Brand YOU
Chapter 4 Little Tests
Chapter 5 Reflections
Chapter 6 Which One Are You?
Chapter 7 Building Thanks
Chapter 8 Success or Significance
Chapter 9 The Two Greatest Days
Chapter 10 Sociology 101
Chapter 11 The Invisible
Chapter 12 Semper Fi
Chapter 13 Faith
Chapter 14 The Debrief
Chapter 15 History, Heritage, and Tradition
Chapter 16 Uncharted Territory
Chapter 17 The Opening Face-Off
Chapter 18 Everything Matters
Chapter 19 A History Lesson
Chapter 20 Pyramids
Chapter 21 Sower of Seeds
Chapter 22 Two Kinds of People
Chapter 23 Leave a Legacy
Chapter 24 The Phone Call
Chapter 25 Rewards, Not Awards
Chapter 26 The Answer