Why Allstar Cheerleaders are Really Really Weird.

We have all heard it, or better yet we have all been subject to the “side eye”. It comes up frequently this time of year. The time where we as an Allstar Cheerleading community begin to re-emerge into society for last days of school and graduation parties. Old acquaintances and parents from school utter the inevitable words. “Where have you been the last 8 months?”

That is when we proudly go into our “defense mode” and share what we have been doing the last 8 months. It normally follows with a valiant attempt to share how passionate we are about what we do, and it typically fails miserably. Then the judgment follows or at least the pity or typically the statement. “Ohh my goodness, I know so and so who does that and I can’t believe that they do ALL THAT just for Allstar Cheer.” out of being humble and kind we normally respond “I know it is kind of weird huh?”

Let me take a minute to explain how weird “ALL OF THAT” is. In a world where the Millennial generation is vilified for being “entitled” let me explain some of the typical traits you will find in a WEIRD Allstar Cheerleader and their family.

At the graduation party or end of year party, you will find that us WEIRD KIDS will end up in the top third of our class routinely. You will find that we will end up going to fantastic colleges. You will find Facebook timelines full of children winning awards and superlatives for extracurricular achievements. You will find many of the WEIRD traits listed below on a regular. We are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but we are on the right path in more cases than not. We display many of the items below everyday because it is what we do.

TEAMWORK

We have understood for years that nothing can be accomplished without surrounding ourselves with amazing teammates and wholeheartedly believing in them to help achieve one goal. We are taught from day one to believe in each other and work together. We are some of the most loyal people you will ever meet and if we trust you, we will give you the shirt off our back. We learn to trust in others and have faith because we have no choice.

WORK ETHIC

Our coaches teach us we will never be outworked… ever. That translates off the mats and carries over into school and in every other extracurricular activity we participate in. Not only do we work hard but we strive for absolute perfection and execution in practice and in competition. When we tighten our bow get outta the way. It’s about to go down.

HUMILITY

We are normally very quiet and respectful. While we are extremely competitive we know how to lose. We are graceful in defeat and show encouragement and respect even if the judges did not see it our way in competition or in life. We do make mistakes but will immediately start to improve on them both on the mat and off…..vigilently.

WE WEAR A LOT OF MAKE UP

Just kidding.. we actually hate it. Only on occasion or at competitions. In the odd event where we actually go to a dance or formal, it will be accompanied by our beloved Nike Pros under our dress, and our heels will be chucked in the corner after about 10 minutes of arriving.

WE TRAVEL IN PACKS

True Story. Go ahead and test this, I dare you. The most heated rivals in Allstar cheer will unite and become one in the event that someone tries to bully or make fun of anyone in the sport. Not kidding, do not test this theory. Everyone has each others back. Parents included.

FOCUSED

We sacrifice a ton. All to be the best at what we do. We focus on achieving that next skill for the betterment of the team and for ourselves. Idle time is non-existent and we would rather be in the gym instead of hanging out at Starbucks ( well sometimes). While we strive for perfection on the mat, that also translates into the classroom and everything else we do. Allstar Cheerleaders are trained to be extremely focused because they have to be.

MULTI-TASKERS

Juggling school, practices, tumbling, stunt, and a travel competition schedule is no joke. We often lead our school cheer teams as well. Not to mention we excel in track and field, band, choir the list goes on and on. We become multi-faceted at a very early age and we do it well. We excel in most everything we do.

CLOSERS

While many people have no idea what we do, we know how to prepare for success and execute. We do it for the teammate standing next to us. Later in life that will go a long way in the workforce. When the bright lights and the music begin to blare, we can stand up in front of thousands on that stage and nail that routine. Sometimes it does not go our way and things fall apart. When that happens we never EVER quit. We push through no matter what even under dire circumstances.

Yes, I know in this day and age that all of this is REALLY REALLY weird.  There are so many other traits I could list but I could go on and on. As I mentioned in If you are in Business…. NEVER hire an Allstar Cheerleader. these traits are very hard to find in the workplace. It’s ok, we have learned to embrace our WEIRD lifestyle, but as a wise man once said. “Live like no one else, so later in life, you can live like no one else” Thank you for your unintended judgment and amazement at what our children and coaches do. We are pretty proud of them as well.

 

 

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Because of Allstar Cheer, When you fall in love… I will know..

 

So when did it happen for you? Was it age 11? Was it age 4? Was it 6 or 7? When did all this madness begin? As a parent, we want our children to try new things. We want them to flourish and latch on to fun hobbies to help build character, skills, make friends and build lifetime memories. We want to teach our children values built through goal setting and hard work. All of this is achieved through the learning process and discovery. As a parent, I hope you know when special moments happened. Let me explain.

As a father of two daughters, the discovery process for activities started early for us. We started with the Little Gym as we found our daughters loved the engagement and activities involved. The motor skills and the early tumbling drills sparked an interest in both of my daughters. I could tell they “liked it”. We moved on to try dance. It was fun, they did their little steps and routines they learned coordination, timing, and 8 counts. They “liked it”. We then moved on to gymnastics. This really began to move the needle for them, they watched as the older kids flew through the air with such grace and practiced hard to learn each skill. We went to gymnastics for quite a while, they did ok. They “liked it”.

It was suggested that we take a look and try a gym that was relatively close to us. A gym that was known locally as a really good gym. That incorporated Cheer, Dance and Tumble. As I plotted along, I agreed to go visit the gym down the road from us. We were generously offered a free tumble class to see how my daughters liked the program. My oldest daughter wanted to cheer, so we signed her up to be on a team. At the time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. While my oldest went to practice my little 4yr old went out to the free tumble class. She went out for about 30 minutes and the coaches worked with her. After about 35 minutes I noticed something very different, a look I had never seen before from my young daughter. An effervescent glow. She was high fiving the coaches and was completely amped up. The next thing I know, one of the coaches walked upstairs to talk to my wife. The coaches said they were very impressed with her skills and think she would be a great addition to the Grape Rays. I had no idea what that meant, but I could not get over the glow my daughter had. I agreed we could try out for the team and the coaches agreed to let her attend one of the early practices. We came back later in the week and within 10 minutes of being on the floor the bases had her up in the air in a “half” and she popped right up and hit her first “High V”. After that night, something drastically changed.

She “liked” everything. The tumbling, the structure, the dance, the stunts, the coaches. A few months later the Grape Rays would enter their first exhibition for the season. I was scared out of my mind for her. They took to the mats started their routine. They began with a flawless opening into the pyramid sequence. The bases hoisted her in the air. The crowd erupted in cheers and it was then I knew. The face a Father will never forget. The face of a little girl that just fell in love.

My daughter is too young to read and comprehend this article now. In twenty years she may stumble upon this blog post about the amazing Grape Rays that she was a part of. You may find a time in your life that you will find it in your heart to come and tell me you have found someone very special to you. When that time comes around, please know this. When you tell me about this special someone,  I will know the moment you mention the name of this person if you are genuinely in love. I will remember the little girl who I saw instantly fall in love with something special. It will look a little something like the picture below. The very moment, in this exact picture is when I knew.

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Grape Rays 2013 Circus Jam

Here we are three years later with an opportunity for your magical team to make a bit of history together. The friendships, bonds and experiences I know you will hold in your heart forever. Things will change and your passions may sway to other things. I will never forget the first forward roll, cartwheel, front and back walkover and back handspring. The elation in your face will be forever engrained in my heart. The lesson I am most proud of is that you are learning to be a great teammate.

In Allstar cheer you are unable to do anything without your teammates you are forced to work together to have success. I only hope one day you realize the amazing feats your coaches have trained you to do. They have believed in you and you have believed in your team. What makes this so serendipitously beautiful is that you do not even realize you are doing it together as a team. You just do it.

In whatever your future holds in Allstar cheer or anything else you choose to fall in love with. I hope you remember everything about your season. They say that Tiny cheerleaders do not get it. I can easily say that after watching your teams for the past three years I would take the heart, work ethic and fundamentals you have been taught and hold them as high as any other team out there. Your team has transcended “just being cute”. Your team is truly something special.You know what you are fighting for and you have been given the skills and  have earned the right to achieve your goals together with your team. I hope you wish upon a star and all of your dreams come true together as a team, if that does not happen I can honestly say you have done your best. Most importantly, you have had a ton of fun.

Things will begin to get harder and life will change, but I will never forget the heart and pure joy you display with all of your friends for the past three years on the amazing Grape Rays. So below I will share a little memento of your teams final journey. Your team did the impossible, you earned the prestigious Varsity Triple Crown winner for Level 1. As a Tiny team. I hope you enjoy!

 

 

 

If you are in Business…. NEVER hire an Allstar Cheerleader.

In speaking with so many new people recently. I must say, I am never surprised by the things that come out of peoples mouth. In full disclosure, I have been called a funny guy from time to time. I like to joke and have fun with people. Simply put, I like to keep things light and humorous but as we all know sometimes humor can cross the line. I know most people who I chat with are just trying to be funny, but some things just hit home.

A recent conversation I had with a “Business Professional” that started out cordial and fun; ended up taking a bit of a turn after they found out the book I wrote was about a group of  Allstar Cheerleaders. The comment that the “Business Professional” made “Why would you write a book about Cheerleaders they can’t read.” Ha Ha Ha.. The joke was intended to be funny but after the Crickets..my response was a bit awkward in that I responded by saying. “My nine-year-old has read every volume of Harry Potter twice in the past two months.” I think she got my drift. But it got me thinking.

Early in my professional career, I was lucky enough to land with a company called Circuit City. The company is now extinct but was featured in the book Good to Great by Jim Collins the book is a best seller and basically outlines 11 out of 3700 companies that were extremely successful and why. To make it quick, it basically outlines how to get the “Right People on the Bus and then figure out where to drive it.”

While I was at Circuit City I spent a ton of time training on how to direct recruit people to join our team. Part of our job was to go out and identify people who exemplified specific traits. The traits we always looked for while observing people on the job were:

  • Being Coachable– Observe people taking instruction are they modifying their behavior to maximize performance?
  • Resilient– Can you observe the candidate overcoming personal and physical challenges to get the job done.
  • Focus– Do you observe specific behaviors of an individual overcoming repetitive challenging  situations even if they sometimes don’t want to.
  • Passion– Can you feel their excitement in what they are doing.
  • Competitive– Do they stand out, and do they strive to be the best in everything they do.
  • Smart– Do they work hard and do they work smart?
  • Driven- Do they collaborate well with the team and if needed do they take charge to lead and push through.
  • Organized– Can they manage multiple responsibilities in a day and prioritize to accomplish great things.
  • Trusting– Can they be trusted and can they easily build trust in others.
  • Loyal– Do they stick with their team? Do they have each others back?

In a previous post, I outlined the Importance of Strong mentors and Culture  .To summarize, I wrote about the importance of identifying the leaders in the room and working hard to model or benchmark performance around those leaders. Observing so many young athletes over the past 4 years, they have opened my eyes to a promising concept. Capturing all of these gifted and talented people that exemplify every one of the specific words bulleted above should be very exciting to business professionals.

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An Allstar Cheerleaders biggest fear when their time is over as an athlete is, “What they are going to do when the busy schedule and the National and World championships are over?” My advice to my “Business Professional” friend would be to NEVER hire an Allstar Cheerleader. I will hire them all. Then I will take my chances in transitioning all of the traits listed above to the business world and we will see who wins!

 

Overcoming the fear of failure and accepting accountability…..

failure-300x243In previous posts I have eluded to the scary part about joining a startup company. Playing entrepreneur is one thing,  jumping in head first and going all in is completely another. Knowing the failure rate of an early stage startup is something a person needs to understand before making this jump. Many cities have a challenge finding good talent in the startup world. Recently the CEO of Rivalry Jon Birdsong eloquently described the situation in Atlanta HERE. With the mix of tight funding, a talent crunch for tech and environment of the unknown makes for a serious uphill battle.

Understanding the risks is one part of the equation. Accepting accountability for the success or failure of your product or efforts is also part of the deal. What happens when you start hearing about the realities of your baby (product). Failing Fast is important and shifting the direction of your concept is vital to the survival of the company. Even if that means the demise of a role within the company. Typically, the person on the front lines gathering intel and feedback from customers is typically the person who can figure out the direction of the product the best. Most of the time this should be the CEO or Biz Dev person.

When your company feels it is ready to take the product to market, do so aggressively do not be passive. Get the product in the hands of everyone that will use it. There will be many opportunities for feedback either from what customers tell you or more importantly what they don’t tell you.  The devil is always in the details. If you run into to many barriers of entry it may be time to go back to the drawing board. One major signal is a pricing objection. If you are getting in front of a bunch of people and never get a price objection, that is a strong signal that you need to pivot .

Let me elaborate, when you are consistently arriving at the price negotiation stage with your customers it means you may be on to something.  If you are not getting here this means the customer does not see enough value in what you bring to the table or they have a similar solution that they do not see the value in changing from. Overcoming objections and learning from them is one thing. At some point, the product needs to sell itself. Keep in mind that potential customers are eager to get to the price stage if they want the product. It is typically the only stage in which they have control of the situation it is a very important stage that will tell you a lot.

Accepting accountability in any organization is a big part of personal and professional growth. With limited seed funding available, that may mean making some tough choices as development costs will take priority over everything else, as they should! If you do not fit in to developing a better product (technically) for the customer, this may mean you need to step away or your position will be eliminated. This is a reality, as it should be in any position in a startup or in the corporate world.  For many people this is a tough pill to swallow. I have struggled with this portion for years. For me, if you are stagnating at a cube in a corporate environment and not adding any value collecting a pay check I would challenge you to step up.

This means many things for many people but you will know your boundaries, try to cross them. Ask a question in a meeting, take on that new challenge that you know you could do but don’t think you will be called upon. Do Something! If you fail, good for you. Learn, Grow and know that you tried to make a difference. You will be much better for it, trust me I fail a lot.

What else is involved with the fear of failure? What are some of the factors that are in play? How much risk is too much risk? How do you hedge the risks you take? I would love to hear from you.

Cheers,

Eric

Finding myself in Atlanta…..New Digital and Culture challenges

Moving from Chicago to Atlanta was a very cool experience. Don’t get me wrong I absolutely loved Chicago and still do. Atlanta has something about it that feels like you are a part of building something. It is kind of hard to explain. Atlanta to me is still trying to find it’s charm and has yet to define itself. It is a city of transients and transplants. The explosive growth of the late 90’s has completely changed the landscape of the city. When I first moved down to Atlanta I found a new career outside of advertising. the company was a physician recruiting firm. It was a very exciting role. Basically I would go into hospitals and larger universities in the Northeast to educate CEO’s and VPMA’s about what they needed to do to recruit physicians. To sit in a board room at Harvard and Yale and educate them on why they could not get physicians to come work for them was fascinating. I learned a ton traveled alot but with the news of my first born on the way traveling three weeks out of the month was not going to cut it.

I was looking for a culture where I fit in. I loved the team environment. I truly enjoyed coaching and teaching people new things. The best part of leading a team is finding what makes people tick and pushing them beyond their boundaries. I was really looking for a new challenge in the digital world. It was something I was very passionate about and had a knack for teaching people the digital world with relative ease. Even the most hardened legacy salesperson proved to be my biggest challenge. I sought out those folks to convert them into believers. I figured, if I could get them on board the rest would follow.

I started a new role at the Atlanta Journal Constitution. I really did not know what to expect as the group recently went through a pretty tough re-organization but wanted to build out a digital revolution. The group was very upfront with me that this new role would be a big challenge as customers as well as the salesteam were very resistant to change but they both needed to be converted. I jumped in head first into the challenge….. one of the most exciting times in my career was about to happen and I had no idea where to begin… the rest to be continued….

Learning the Art of the Pivot

I am going to suspend the history lesson for a moment. I wanted to share some comments on the art of pivoting . In the corporate world being able to pivot can take years if not decades. Notable exceptions are of course Apple , IBM etc.. In a startup you sometimes will have to pivot and pivot quickly. A very good example of recent pivot came from Groupon. Basically a pivot is to change the course of a product or service based on the needs of your potential or current customers. This modification may take place based on feedback from customers or a new feature added to an existing product that changes the course of the business model.

I found many times in the corporate world people would often times get frustrated when an obvious opportunity evolved from changing a legacy business model. Often times senior management was unwilling to “rock the boat” or try new things. This typically leads to a slow and painful death for the company or its growth and often times leads to employees leaving.

I am learning that it is ok and very necessary to pivot. I have been fighting the urge to hold on to an original business model and try new things to see how they resonate. It was the way I was raised in the corporate life. It is ok not to pivot sometimes for a tried and true proven model. There is certainly something to be said for holding to your core values as a company, but not in all cases see Kodak and many others.

We recently may have stumbled on to a potential home run at Flashissue  by listening to our clients needs. One thing to remember about a pivot. Not all pivots are successful. Listening to the clients needs are paramount that will typically lead you to a successful product change. Holding on to an old inefficient business model never serves the client or the company well. Learn to listen, learn to change and be nimble or you in turn are learning to fail. Not all great ideas succeed but you will have a better rate of success by executing on the needs of your clients.

Any other thoughts I may have missed? Have you ever observed a pivot in the corporate world that worked?