Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Disability Employment Awareness Month Speech (City of SD): Oct. 26, 2011

Celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month
Thank you, Susan, and City of San Diego. Thank you, Mayor Sanders, Bruce, and Louis for being here. I am so blessed to be here today. Today is really two things. It is a celebration of how far we’ve come in our struggle for equality. But also a reminder of how far we still need to go. It is a celebration and a call to employers to join us in this solution.
In my role with the Padres, I am granted many things. The opportunity to work with community organizations and see how the Padres can make their lives better. The opportunity to work with our players in taking their passion for various causes and turning that into charitable support. The opportunity to play a role in this game and city I love so much.
But what it grants me, above all, is opportunity itself. You see, I know that as a triple amputee with three prosthetics, working in a full-time job for a highly visible organization, is an anomaly, and a rarity. Normally, all too often, someone with a disability this “severe” – quote, unquote – and even less severe, never gets a chance. Too many employers still look at the disability rather than the ability.
For me, it all started with a chance. Myself and all of San Diego lost a great man this year when Mr. David Nuffer passed away. David was a great business leader and pioneer in the public relations field. He was also the ONLY person, after my graduation from college, who would even think of offering me…not even a job…but a job interview. Unlike so many others, who seemed nervous if I walked in their door or inquired about an opening, Dave had an opposite view. He would often GROWL when he talked so I’d hear Let me give you an interview…and then let me give you a writing test…and then finally let me give you a job. It is what we, like any job seekers, long to hear.
It was like getting a passport to a fantastic journey. Working for his PR firm led to working for The Access Center, now known as Access to Independence, and then the Hispanic Chamber, and the Padres. It’s been a journey of struggle and adversity, triumph and determination, accomplishment and dreams fulfilled.
In those Access Center days, my first full-time job, we did a study with Dave’s firm, in fact. We looked at the unemployment rate for persons with disabilities in 1997 and it was a whopping NINETY-ONE PERCENT. The reasons were many. But we also looked at statistics of businesses who hired at least one person with a disability and THOSE numbers were staggering. Satisfied employers: ninety-five percent. Employees who stayed at that company a long duration: eighty-nine percent. Companies who said they’d hire a disabled person again: 99%!
And yet here we are, in 2011, and the economy is slow. And disability unemployment rates are high. And what I’d like to convey to every employer out there is give this segment of the population what Dave Nuffer gave ME: a chance. To those that are seeking employment, I commend you. And I assure the Directors and Managers here, you can find some great employees among us. I urge you, when looking at how to fill your office with hard workers, with brand loyalty, and a tireless work ethic, to look our way.
We must look at WHY this gap exists.  Transportation is a major issue. So is the reality of people feeling it’s more beneficial to stay at home rather than haggle with Social Security and red tape.
Now, I recently was able to take two of our Padres players, Heath Bell and Ernesto Frieri, to Casa Familiar in San Ysidro for a ribbon-cutting and donation of a teen center to which the Padres made a contribution. And as I was there, right in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month, it struck me that the best thing we were giving these kids is opportunity. Our players and broadcasters even told them that: what you are receiving today is opportunity. Just like we received as kids from working-class families. And I was only able to participate because the Padres gave me an opportunity.
To look past my challenges.  To move past my barriers. To get assistance when I need it. And to contribute to a team that contributes to society. If you are a person with a disability, never give up; as we say in baseball, always keep swinging. If you are an employer, grant that opportunity. Your business will be better for it, as will our city. We have much to celebrate but much, much more to do. Always keep working and always, always Keep Swinging.  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Commencement Speech to United States University

United States University is a small college in San Diego specializing in nursing, health sciences, and liberal arts degrees and certifications. Its curriculum and structure attracts many working adults and also immigrant communities. This is the speech I presented.

United States University Graduation – October 23, 2011
Thank you and I am so blessed to be here today. Today is a day for two things: celebration, and moving forward. Congratulations to the United States University class of 2011! You have come so far and overcome so much.
In fact, you have overcome more than your average graduate. With the program here emphasizing health sciences, and nursing, and management, and liberal arts, it is a rigorous program. It is also designed to reach OUT to the Latino and Asian communities, including those new to the United States.
That is why I love the name of this school, United States University, because that is what the United States does: reaches out, grants opportunity, and empowers you to make the world a better place.
In order to graduate, you needed intelligence, and smarts, and hard work. But you needed one more thing, all of you: you needed the ability to overcome adversity. You needed the ability to push forward if times got rough or it looked like you couldn’t make it.
I can relate. I face a certain level of adversity every day. You see, when I was born I had a birth defect. I was born in the era where a medicine called Thylidamide led many babies to be born with birth defects. I was born missing both of my arms and my right leg.
When I was four I moved from my native Medellín, Colómbia to the United States. I moved to California and received free prosthetics and physical therapy from the Shriners Hospitals. I’ve endured multiple surgeries and would not have made it without the help of caring, informed nurses and health professionals.
Let me show you how my prosthetics work. <Demonstrate>  Just as these arms Stay Connected, you too must Stay Connected. To your faculty and classmates; to the lessons learned here in classrooms and labs; and to your families who have supported you Every Little Step of the way. How about a round of applause for your family and loved ones?
But as you celebrate, you also move forward. Stay Connected to the spirit that helped you overcome sleepless night and tough tests. It’s a PART of you, it’s in your makeup, it’s in your DNA. It’s who we are as a people. We know struggle. We know adversity. Our heritage is a HISTORY of rising above challenges and succeeding in the United States. Carry that with you and become the next great American leader.
Now, I know that wherever I go publicly people may stare because they’re not used to seeing prosthetic arms or a prosthetic leg. That’s ok. You know why? Because it’s good to Stand Out. You should Dare To Be Different. While most people are out having a good time, or complaining about society, you’re working. You’re educating your MIND. You’re becoming a LEADER.  YOU’RE the one people are going to look to for help or when times get tough. Dare To Be Different – help solve society’s problems and be a leader in your world.
And finally, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t. As an infant, the doctors told my family I can’t live a normal life. I moved to America. As a boy I was told I could not participate in a sport I love, baseball. I got a job as an usher with the San Diego Padres and worked my way up to Manager of Latino Affairs. I was told society is too cynical and doesn’t like feel-good stories anymore. I wrote a book called Swinging for the Fences and in three years we have sold over 1,000 copies.
I say all this not to impress you but to impress UPON you that you can do anything. One more thing. In my job I am so blessed because the Padres care about the community and look for community causes to support. It’s my job to look for those groups and organizations within the Latino community. What we find is while there is a great need, there are also many opportunities.
 Opportunities to serve and make an impact. You will all be successful.  Take those same traits – Staying Connected and Daring To Be Different – and use them in giving back. Find an organization or even a person who can benefit from your knowledge and talents. Make it your mission to help make their lives better.
Today we celebrate and we also move forward. It’s the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. You can do anything at all. Never let them tell you ‘no’ and ALWAYS, Always Keep Swinging. God bless you and thank you.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

USC vs. Notre Dame: Watching with the Enemy

For tonight's big match between USC and Notre Dame, I didn't go to our alumni club gamewatch because many of my friends were in South Bend for the game. Plus my buddy Joe Quiroz was downtown for an afternoon wedding so we agreed to meet up somewhere and watch the game.

The only place guaranteeing they would have the sound on was my beloved Tilted Kilt. Problem was, that's where the Trojan Club of San Diego holds their gamewatches. We definitely wanted to hear, as well as see, the game so Joey Q. and I decided to muster our courage and go behind enemy lines.

I arrived an hour before the 4:30 kickoff to secure a good seat and saw that every table had cardinal and gold pom-poms. Long banners proclaiming Trojan loyalty were stretched out and hung on opposite sides of the room. Gulp.

Then I heard, "Alex!" and it wasn't a long-lost Kilt waitress. (Hey, I haven't been there since Friday lunch.) It was Mark McCord, the USC alumni club president, who I know through my co-worker Scotty Baird. Mark is a terrific guy and he greeted me warmly.

Not every fan who started arriving was happy to see a guy with an IRISH t-shirt in their midst. An older lady with dangling 'SC earrings said, "Ugh! You probably like that little troll on ESPN, Lou Holtz." I was ready to break a chair over her head for insulting Dr. Lou like that. Then a man seated next to her replied, "Ah, she's always giving us a hard time." He obviously knew her and was an ND fan.

I soon enough had some back-up as Quiroz and our friend Vernetti rolled in. Then I got a text from my boys Pablo and Andres, who are SDSU guys but like ND. They wanted to come support and arrived shortly thereafter. On the opposite end of the rooting interest, but still a welcome guest, was my friend Cheryl and her friend Melissa, both of whom are big 'SC fans. So we had a full table and Cheryl took this picture:

As I gazed lovingly at the Kilt servers, the game began. It was the first home night game at Notre Dame Stadium in 21 years (because of the NBC contract) and Rockne's House was, well, rockin'. Mark says to me, "I think tonight you guys are gonna give it to us pretty good." He offers up a lunch bet, though, and I agree to it.

The Irish start horribly and as 'SC piles up a 17-0 lead, the cheers from their fans are squeals of surprise. I've heard squeals like that before, I've made squeals like that. No one talks any smack, however, except Cheryl looks at me smugly because her and I have a lunch wager too.

I see my man Chuck Fox walk in. Chuck handles PR for the Kilt, along with his wife Sheila, and was an offensive lineman for USC in, I believe, the 1960s or '70s. He's told me before that as an Irishman, Notre Dame is his second-favorite team. At their table is a lady who's apparently a devout ND fan because when George Atkinson III returns a kickoff to the house to make it 17-7, she dang near punches Joe and me with excitement.

The Kilt has their A-Team here tonight. In particular I really like Lisa, a Hawaiian-Hispanic-I-think, really pretty girl.

One older gentleman comes up and says, "I've heard you speak before. Thanks for joining us, Eric!" Uhhhh...

Cheryl now has her pom-pom in her hair and when ND fumbles at the goal line after clawing back to within 17-10, I have my heart in my throat. So pissed. On that fumble, which was returned 98 yards, every Trojan fan naturally jumps up and down and screams and goes ballistic. The place is bedlam, 100 or so Southern Cal fans losing their mind. Never have I felt so mad amid such surrounding joy.

Lisa walks by and smiles. I feel better.

There is one Trojan fan, seated with three others, who I notice claps on every play. Loudly. USC goes up 24-10, he claps. We respond with a TD, he claps. The Irish stuff a running play and the Trojans lose three yards, he claps!  This guy is insane!

ND makes it 24-17 and Joe and I are hollering and high-fiving the other, few like-minded supporters. One blonde chick seated up front turns around and gives a dirty look. Otherwise no one boos or shouts anything.

Lisa walks by. 'Sup, girl?  The guy claps.

Matt Barkley, who had a perfect night until Melissa jinxed him, caps a sensational night with his third score and we are done. Of course, the guy claps.

I notice one 'SC fan has shorts that are way too short. Dude.

The game winds down and it is obvious USC will win it 31-17 so their fans assembled here get a free victory shot on the house. Our table is just watching the clapping guy because every play, good or bad, he stands and claps. We start clapping for him too and his friend laughs.

Time expires and Trojan alums file past our glum table (glum except for the two girls) and offer up: "Good game" and "you made a nice comeback" and "good luck the rest of the way".

This was college athletics at its finest, just knowlegable fans enjoying a good game, and being cool toward each other. Often times, fans love to villify the 'other' but we're all the same. When 'SC scored, their fans were delighted. When they screwed up, their fans threw their arms up and shook their heads.

Most interesting to me was when NBC flashed a graphic of the athletic program's ongoing sanctions (thanks, Reggie Bush), they just quietly sat there. Not a word. And like all sports fans do, when the ref made a call against USC, someone would yell, "South Bend home cooking!"  And when the call went against the Irish, a Notre Dame fan would yell, "Pac-12 refs!"

It was fun and was exactly what all sports, especially college, should be. The Trojan Club of San Diego members didn't make us feel unwelcome or ostracized and, in fact, were friendly and classy throughout.

I'm just ticked that I owe several lunches now. I was sad at how my team's four-game win streak ended but it was enjoyable watching "behind enemy lines". 

Bye, Lisa. Call me.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Of Malcolm, Magic, & John and a Visit to a Community Garden

Last night I checked my work e-mail before I went to bed and I drowsily stumbled upon a message sent by my friend Malcolm in L.A.   Malcolm and I lived in the same dorm at Notre Dame, where he was a couple years behind me and a member of the football team. He is now a banking vice-president with his wife, who he met at ND, and two kids.

His e-mail was completely out of the blue in that it wasn't about our Irish's big matchup this Saturday vs. USC or anything about sports, except to say that his son really likes baseball and therefore was intrigued by my job.

The gist, though, was this: apparently on a quiet night in his household, Malcolm and his children, both under ten years of age, were clicking through his friends' various Facebook pages. When for whatever reason they reached mine - probably because I post more than Mark Zuckerberg himself - the kids started asking questions. I presume about my arms, though Malc didn't say that. They then told him that I "probably have a lot of friends".

Malcolm said, yeah, even in college he had lots of friends. But then he asked them, how can you tell Alex has lots of friends?

According to the e-mail, his son said something to the effect of, 'because he is smiling and in his pictures all his friends are smiling with him. That makes people want to be around him.'

For Malcolm, this was liberating. He actually called it "one of my proudest moments of parenting." I am guessing he has tried to tell his kids that how they treat others will be how others treat them. And boys, instinctively, kind of go the other way in that they try to be big and bad. When his children saw that I try to treat people well and am indeed blessed with many friends, something registered.

Well, I wrote him back the next morning, thanking him for sharing all that with me. But there were two things I wanted to elaborate upon as well. The first was that my happiness, my joy, my peace, stems from my faith. My relationship with God helps me to appreciate the good times and endure the bad. I can't take credit for being joyful unless someone knows why I'm that way.

The second is on my desk sits a picture of me with Hall of Fame basketball player Earvin "Magic" Johnson. I keep it on there not because he's a legendary Laker. But because when I was a kid I wanted to be tough like Malcolm's son's peers probably do. There's nothing wrong with being tough and standing up for yourself. But in everyday life, Magic was unafraid to just be happy, smiling, carefree, and good to others. It was refreshing in a world of spoiled and surly athletes. So I took a cue from that growing up because I felt like my nature was closer to Magic Man's rather than cocky Larry Bird or even - as much as I love him - trash-talking Michael Jordan. People responded when Magic smiled and laughed so I figured I'd try the same. Somehow they listened to me too.

So THAT, I told Malcolm, is why I'm known as a pretty happy person who loves people and is blessed to have people give love back.

I say all this because it underscores a cool experience I had today. My friend Pedro and I toured the Olivewood Garden and Learning Center in National City, where they have a self-sustaining garden for community kids to keep and preserve. It was really cool and the centerpiece of this plot of land is a Victorian-style mansion formerly owned by the Waltons of Walmart fame.

Two of the Walton offspring wanted their young son to live in a normal neighborhood, not a secluded and ritzy one, so they lived here for many years. The house is now a museum and community center and the garden is a community entity and is next to the International Community Foundation, which funds many causes on both sides of the border.

I bring all this up because Sam Walton wanted to make a difference in this world and that influenced his son John. That influenced John and his wife Christy into buying this house, smack dab in National City, for their son Lucas. The Waltons, in many ways, have positively impacted this country.

It's all about knowing who you are and not being afraid to make a difference. Magic did it with a smile, a basketball, and later a spirit to help inner-city entrepreneurs. The Waltons did it with an old house and a plot of land. People can make an impact simply by showing their true spirit.

Know who you are and don't be afraid to show it. That is the first step in really making a difference in this world.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I Love Sports. Obvi.

I love sports. That's about as obvious a statement as I love El Pollo Loco.

It's my passion, my entertainment, and my profession. This weekend illustrated how sports really has impacted my life in myriad ways.

Friday night began with a happy hour at McCormick & Schmick's at the Omni across from beautiful PETCO Park. They have this great deal with cheeseburgers - for me, hold the cheese, please - for $2.50 and select beers half off. I went with Rossi and boy Joslin and as we watched the Brewers-Cardinals postseason game, we ruminated on work, relationships, and life. I love and respect these guys.

From there Shawny and I went to Horton Plaza, where we met up with D-Hanse, and saw Moneyball. I remember when my buddy Candy gave me the book in 2004 when I was desperately trying to break into the baseball biz on a full-time basis. She thought this may help me learn more about the industry. In a sense it did because it introduced me to Sandy Alderson and Paul DePodesta, who at the time were with the Oakland Athletics, and two years later all three of us were working in the Padres front office. The movie is not as statistical as the book but it is marvelous. In watching Brad Pitt (who was terrific) depict A's GM Billy Beane and Jonah Hill (equally sensational) play a character based on DePo, it reminded me how much I love and miss baseball season. It reminded me that I am blessed to work in this field, in this sport, in this cradle of memories and dreams fulfilled.

Shawn and I finished the evening with a nightcap at the new Tilted Kilt in Mission Valley, which neither of us had visited yet. It's cool, very spacious, and more sports bar-oriented than the downtown one. The chill of fall began to cloak the October air and Shawn and I took more time catching up.

I got home and eagerly looked forward to sleeping in. Let me be real. When you're younger, you want to hurry up and go out. As you get older, you want to hurry up and go out so you can return home and go to sleep. Mmmm, sleep.

The next day, with my Irish having a bye week, I really had no plans except to get a Fresh Fade. So at home we fired up a monstrous breakfast of eggs, sausage, toast, and fruit and watched the close Michigan-Michigan State game. It took me back to days as a kid when I'd wake up and you'd smell bacon wafting and football blaring. As a kid I'd also devour the sports page and on Saturday I was doing the exact same thing, reading every article while checking on other college games on the tube. This may not be a thrilling or unusual story, but I loved it.

Now, after going to get my fade, I passed a Hispanic grocery store in National City and instantly my mind flooded back to 2008. It was at this store parking lot, on a gray early August day, on East 8th Avenue that we took Adrian Gonzalez for an autograph session. 1,500 people showed up - screaming, cheering, even crying if they couldn't get his autograph (and only about 500 could because of time constraints) and the dawn of Adrian as an MLB rock star began. It was weird to remember all that as soon as we passed by the now-tranquil parking lot.

Later yesterday evening I hopped on a bus, trolley, and bus to Pacific Beach for Colleen McDonald's birthday party. It was a wonderful night at Bub's Dive Bar, full of laughs, beer, college football on TV, and snapping pictures. I really appreciate McD because we've been friends since our Sport Management grad school program, where we met in 2006. Back then, I recall, we'd chat about her grandfather being a huge Notre Dame fan and how she and I had a mutual desire (as all the students in that program did) to have long careers in sports. Now our conversations are about marathons we've participated in (and she's worked), cohort mates getting married, and life's unpredictable journey. Just like Rossi with the Pads, I'm grateful athletics has given me this good friend.

After the night of fun I retreated to Garnett Avenue and walked a few blocks just to enjoy the revelry. Before flagging down my ride I did some posting on Facebook, plus Colleen was texting me saying to inform her that I got home safely. As I did all this on my beloved BlackBerry, kids were walking past, then stopping, to watch me text. 

One girl OMG'd. Another guy in a blue flannel shirt said to his friend in a red flannel shirt, "Bro, that guy with hooks is texting. No way, huh?"   Two more guys walked past and one said, "Yo, dog, check out his arms." 

Finally, a bare-chested kid with a tattooed necklace and a blue SD cap was walking with a group of guys and girls. The chicks giggled and the inked-up guy stopped and told me, "Excuse me but we noticed you texting with your, um, things. I just want to say, that is sick, bro. Can I ask what happened?"  So I told him and it was all good. We fist-bumped. I love PB.

Today was the ideal lazy Sunday. We just sat and chilled and watched NFL football while I simultaneously read the sports page, Blue & Gold Illustrated, and Sports Business Journal. When the Niners and Lions coaches had a postgame tussle, I was tempted to blast Jim Harbaugh online because I really don't like him. But I thought back to just Friday, when my ripping of the Occupy Wall Street / Occupy San Diego movements caused such rancor - Slick Nick was pissed off and other people chimed in angrily on both sides - and I realized I didn't like causing such negativity. I stand by my comments, and I'm an opinionated guy, but I need to deliver them in better fashion to where it doesn't cause such friction. So I abstained from posting about Harbaugh, which is ok because every other sports commentator has opined all day.

The weekend ended smoothly. I read, I napped, I lifted, and followed all my fantasy and pick 'em point totals. More important we just relaxed and watched football, along with the Cardinals advancing to the World Series. At night we scarfed a pizza and watched the Bears rout the Vikings. It may not sound much to you but all this meant a lot to me. It was a good weekend. I have sports to thank.

Friday, October 14, 2011

No Purple

Today reminded me to expect anything. Sometimes you have your day planned in a certain way and things just veer differently from what you had in mind.

I was hoping Marky would want his birthday lunch to be at a burger or pizza joint. But he asked us, his boys, if we could go to a Thai restaurant. Ok, chicken and cashews for me it is. No problem.

I was thinking the lady friend and I were making good progress. Apparently her definition of dating is not the same as mine. Not happy about that.

I had to go to a work event at the Chula Vista Nature Center and hoped to network with civic leaders and split within an hour. Two hours later I'm still there among reptiles, owls, and snakes. And that was just the politicians.

Actually, this is where it gets interesting.

One of the reasons I stayed so long is Rudy just announced on Facebook that's he's engaged. <Sighs, rubs eyes.>

Ok, man, so how far out is the wedding?

Oh, a month from this Saturday, at 2pm? Alright, brother, I'll be there. Who else do you want me to invite?

Meanwhile, as we're talking, people are coming up to say hello, which is great but this is a heavy conversation, man. My boy's getting married!

The surprises kept coming. One friend tells me he got a divorce. Another tells me she was laid off. In brighter news, another one got a new job. But I had to chuckle when he didn't recognize me until he looked at my arms. Rudy loved that moment.

Finally I left and I told my buddy Pedro, "Hey, man, if you give me a lift home, I'll treat you to some Pollo Loco."  Pedro enthusiastically obliged.

UNsurprisingly, that was when I was the happiest. Sitting in my favorite chair, watching USC rock Cal, SDSU thump Air Force, the Brewers win Game 4 of the NLCS, the NBC Thursday night lineup, and Jersey Shore (which is kind of boring me in season 4).

Interestingly, ESPN interviewed Brian Kelly, my Irish's head coach and he poked a little fun at himself, saying, "No purple, that's my goal!"   Meaning, I can't get frustrated and blow up like I did in September when cameras caught me reacting so angrily to player mistakes that I turned purple.

Wouldn't you know it, as I'm watching this halftime interview and checking my texts and e-mails, my BlackBerry freezes. It was so freakin' slow tonight! But, hey, no purple. So I went and lifted on my Bowflex.

Some days things just go differently. It doesn't mean it's a bad day. But today it took everything within me to remind myself: no purple.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Meeting Marshall and Floating Away

Now that baseball season is over, I hope to write more frequently. What I'll do today is take some recent experiences I've had and describe to you some realizations that have occurred within them.

As you know I think a lot about life and who I am and where I'm going and for what purpose. One thing that has struck me lately is that life is a journey - we've all heard that analogy before - but often times it is different types of journies. Sometimes you choose where that journey is headed. Other times it's best to sit back and, quite frankly, let the journey take you.

For example, it was tough recently saying goodbye to a spate of co-workers, each of whom continued their professional journies elsewhere for a variety of reasons. Peanut (see last blog), Big Wull, Joycey, Gerry, K-Mo, LEvans, CoCo - I will miss seeing each one every day. Especially for a guy like me who treasures relationships and is resistant to change, it's - like Boyz II Men sings - So Hard To Say Goodbye.

But when life gets frustrating and sad sometimes you need to just stop and let whatever happens happens. This dawned upon me when our staff was treated last week to a three-hour cruise <insert Gilligan music> on the San Diego Bay. It was cold. It was drizzling. It was really quite miserable weather. But you know what? We were relaxing, there was a cash bar and some munchies, and it was a chill day to just sit and laugh and talk with your close friends or people to whom you don't get to talk to much. We had two choices: keep looking at your BlackBerry at e-mails rolling in or just live in the moment and enjoy an afternoon off from the bustle. I chose the latter. It felt great.

Then sometimes you need to just start anew and clear your mind and life. For me that was best represented by teaming up with K-Mad and tearing down the monstrosity known as my cubicle. I'm a hoarder and a pack rat. So I finally had to either give away memorabilia or take it home, clean out files, and reorganize my work space. It took two evenings and one almost full work day but we did it. And it feels like a brand new start.

And yet, finally, there are times you gotta just be aggressive, b-e aggressive. Over the summer you may recall I blogged about meeting Marshall Faulk at Drew Brees' charity event and asking him for a picture. Mr. Faulk's response was that he'd "be right back to do it."  He left to handle some biz and did indeed come back to my area. But he didn't say anything so neither did I - I have my pride. Well, this past week my buddy Adam Kinowski invited me to a fundraiser Marshall was holding. I could've easily said no way am I asking him twice. But he is a Hall of Famer and I do like that my job affords me the opportunity to interact with athletes, many of whom I grew up watching. So I didn't want to let pride become foolish pride.

I went to the event. And on a glistening October evening at the SDSU Alumni Center, I watched Marshall make his opening remarks and then planted myself to where he'd be departing the stage. I asked for a pic, he granted it, he looked away, and when I raised my hook to shake his hand, he looked at me like, "Oh wow. This is different." I said God bless and went on my way. It was a cool moment for me and hopefully a bit of an eye-opener for him. I don't have the picture on this blog but do on my Facebook.

One more story. The day after that awesome event I did a 5K with K-Mad, Suebie, Katie, Jackie, A.T., Kawachi, and his brother Kyle. Pad Squad and Friar came to support too. Represent! It was at the old Naval Training Center in Point Loma, which has many zig-zagged pathways. On this warm morning, my teammates broke away but my friends Michao and Andres were there so we walked together. Well, somehow we either made a wrong turn, or went too far on the second leg, because we completely went off course. We went around the NTC and by the time we were back on the path, the finish line was on the horizon. I missed probably a good mile out of the 3.1. Of course, my walk teammates and work teammates have ribbed me ever since. I'm a cheat, I'm a liar, I'm a shortcut-taker. All I can do is laugh. And wonder where in the heck my internal GPS failed me.

Sometimes you have to be alert to stay on the right path. Sometimes you need extra aggressiveness. Sometimes you overhaul and clean as a means of moving forward. And sometimes you just float and let life and God guide you. The key is to learn which one applies at which time. That, I think, is the secret to happiness.