The Power of Words


Do you have someone who is a positive influence in your life?  Someone who is your cheerleader, coach, or relentless supporter?  We all need to have at least on person we can count on to say just what we need to hear at the right time.  I had a coach who made a very positive impact on my life. He was a master at motivation because he took the time to genuinely get to know me and what mattered. He knew what made me tick, and what made me ticked off!  He was hard on me when he needed to be, but he always found a way to focus on the positive, which led to my willingness to run through a wall for him.  Sometimes he would just listen, and other times he would offer advice.  His words were always empowering.  Regardless of my ability to put points on the scoreboard or rebounds in the stat sheet,  I knew he truly cared about me and wanted what was best.  We went on to have an extremely successful 4 years of basketball together, culminating in a state championship my senior year. To this day, he is still there for me if I need him.  He has transitioned into a successful business man, and raised a beautiful family with 3 amazing children who will continue his legacy of spreading positive energy and empowering others.

Empowerment.  That is the ultimate benefit of our words…

Words can lift others to heights they never dreamed they could reach on their own. Unfortunately, words can also do irreparable harm.  As wonderful as my high school coach was at empowering others, I also played for a different coach who was quite the opposite.  Her words cut like a razor sharp machete.  Every negative word & angry attack left me & my teammates feeling like we were somehow defective and not worthy. Needless to say, the longer we endured this type of treatment, the more unmotivated and defeated we all became. I could go on and on about the pain her words inflicted.  It took me years to overcome the negativity that seeped through my veins.  It was like a virus waiting to rear it’s ugly head when I was facing a challenge or big decision.   Words like, “you’re not good enough”, “you don’t deserve it”, or my personal favorite, “you’re just a loser” came ringing back through my head like she were standing in front of me berating once again.  I think she was trying to do the best she could with what she knew at the time (it has taken me years to be able to believe that), but those words cut me to the core, and it took a very long time to mend those wounds.

We all have a responsibility to empower one another.  The bible says, in Ephesians 4:29  “When you talk, don’t say anything bad. But say the good things that people need—whatever will help them grow stronger. Then what you say will be a blessing to those who hear you.”

Every encounter we have provides us the opportunity to help someone grow stronger, or make them weaker. How can you empower those around you, and be the blessing they may need?

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What Is Your November?

I recently gave a presentation on the importance of having a purpose, and more specifically, knowing your “why”, or as I like to say, “What is your November?”

How many of you woke up this morning with a purpose? Knowing why you are here, or what specifically you want to accomplish? Even more importantly, how many of you know what lights you up? Some people refer to this as knowing your “why”.
For me, my main “why” is to serve the Lord in anyway that I can, using the gifts and opportunities he has provided. One of those opportunities is through the game of basketball. If you are a basketball junkie like me, you know that November is almost as big as the anticipation of Christmas morning! There is an excitement in the air, and energy buzzing all around.

My love of basketball has also been transferred to my children. In fact, my daughter has also been blessed to play Division I college basketball. The day my daughter signed her national letter of intent, to play for the Iowa Hawkeyes, was an exciting day for all of us. I think the one person who may have been more excited than anyone, was my dad. He too shared our love for basketball, and was beaming with pride and joy over the fact that he was going to get to watch his granddaughter play for the Hawks. I don’t think he wore anything other than Hawkeye attire from that day forward. For him, watching his grandkids play sports was something that lit him up. It was one of his “whys”. He had worked extremely hard all of his life, and was finally to the point where he could do the things that he wanted to do.
In March, just 4 months after signing day, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. While we were all shocked and scared, the prognosis that was given seemed as though we would all manage to get through this together. He was told that surgery, followed by radiation treatment, typically allowed for a 10 year remission period. So, we proceeded with his treatments, and drove him 170 miles round trip every day for his radiation.
Sometimes my entire family would hop in the car, and other times my two sisters, mom, and I would take turns. On a day that was my turn to go solo, we were sitting in the exam room anxiously awaiting the doctor to come in and explain to us why my father’s neck, where he had the tumors removed, was so swollen.
The doctor entered the room and proceeded to inform us that the tumors had returned and they were much more aggressive than anything typically seen with this type of cancer. She began to explain the treatment options, which included adding chemotherapy concurrently with his radiation treatments. She was very quick to point out that anything they did would be for palliative care. I remember the look of confusion on dad’s face. I’m sure he didn’t even know what the word palliative meant. As the doctor continued to discuss technical terms, treatment options, and other services, she finally stopped to ask dad if he had any questions. After all of that information the only question he had for her was, “Can you get me to November”? All he cared about was being able to see his granddaughter play in her Iowa Hawkeye jersey.
The doctor looked at him, somewhat perplexed, and shook her head no, then said he didn’t have that much time.
Dad’s head dropped down to the floor. In that moment, his spirit was destroyed, his reason to fight, his purpose, his why, was gone.
Less than a month later, on May 14th, my dad lost his battle with cancer. Sadly, he never got to experience the joy of seeing his granddaughter take the floor as an Iowa Hawkeye.
Although I cannot scientifically prove it, I believe that without something meaningful enough for him to look forward to, my dad’s spirit died the day the doctor said he wouldn’t make it to November.

As I ended my talk to this large group of influential people, I challenged them to be very clear about their purpose. Your purpose matters. Your purpose is what guides you and motivates you to get up and live life to the fullest no matter what challenges or obstacles come your way.
So, I ask you…
What is your November?

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Much More Than a Layup

In a world of media frenzied stories about super star athletes, sport scandals, & multi-million dollar contracts, most people have no idea where Division III Mount St. Joseph college is located, nor have they ever heard of Lauren Hill.

Well on this day, Lauren Hill made her voice heard across the land as she accomplished her dream of starting in her first collegiate women’s basketball game, and making her first official basket; a layup from the left side block.
But the game was secondary. For those who haven’t heard the story, Lauren Hill was diagnosed with DIPG (diffuse intrinsic potine glioma), a terminal cancer of the brainstem that primarily affects children.
Earlier in the year she petitioned the NCAA to move up the first scheduled game so she could fulfill her dream and step on the court before this awful disease takes away her ability to play, and ultimately takes her life. The NCAA granted her wish, and the nation took notice too. Within 45 minutes 10,000 tickets were sold for this division III women’s basketball game.
Her mission is to promote awareness and funding for research to find a home run cure for cancer in collaboration with the Cure Starts Now Foundation. (
As Lauren said, “DIPG is the most complicated brain tumor. I may not be around to see it, but I think there is a cure to cancer. I hope this isn’t it (referring to the support of today)… I hope people keep donating to find a cure.”

How do you explain her never give up attitude?
In Lauren’s own words, “I’ve always had a never give up attitude.  I decided to face this challenge, I’m not going to let it stop me from doing what I love… From playing basketball or working hard in college & trying to get good grades, or from spending time with my family and loved ones. This is who I’ve always been. I’ve always had a never give up attitude.”

I wept as I watched this young 19 year old woman filled with courage, determination, and zest for life.  A life that she knows will end soon.
Her attitude to live life on her terms is an inspiration.  It would be so easy for her to be bitter or sad, and to say I’m too tired to play basketball or go to college, and all of us would understand. Not Lauren, instead she chose to focus on the positive, and to use her time to live life on her terms. To do the things she loves, and to make a positive impact with the time she’s been given. As play by play announcer, Brad Johansen, referred to this as her last game, she replied, “Let’s not call it my last game, let’s call it my first collegiate game!”

Talk about a never give up attitude!

So, Lauren Hill, I thank you for inspiring the NCAA to grant you the opportunity to play this game today, for bringing awareness to this horrible disease, for creating positive change to continue the awareness and fund-raising for DIPG.  And most of all, I thank you for inspiring all of us to live life with a never give up attitude.
I also want to personally thank you for inspiring me to call this MY first official blog post! Your courage has inspired me to write this today. It may seem trivial, but this is something that I’ve wanted to do for a very long time, and have always found an excuse not to, or been too afraid to “put it out there”.
Ironically, my personal story is also inspired by basketball and cancer, but that will be shared next time.

This one is all about Lauren Hill!

Until then, to support Lauren Hill’s mission to cure cancer, please go to:

Twitter: @LayupForLauren


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