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January 1- Choosing to Start Your Year in the Right Direction

Posted by on January 1, 2014 at 4:55 PM

Sitting in a crowded Barnes and Noble cafe this New Years Day 2014, I am, as usual on the first day of the year, reflecting on the year just past and setting new and exciting goals for the year just arrived. 2013 for me was a year in which my direction remained positive and productive. I started the year at Kay Jewelers and ended up January with one of the most productive sales numbers of my retail career. I had a jarring experience in June when I re-learned the lesson that retail sales is very much a “what have you done for me lately” experience. At the time, I faced the first time without a job in 30 years. I had other offers in retail, but something in my mind and prayers told me plainly that this was a transitionary time for me in life. It was a time where, for the first time in a long time, I had to “market” myself and sell my strengths and leadership skills to potential employers. I will not sugar coat and paint that period as stress-free or even doubt free. There were days when I was unsure what God had in store for me.

In late July I applied for a sales position with Lincare, a respiratory company with an excellent reputation, and locations nationwide. Upon my second interview, I was asked if I would be interested in a management job rather than a sales position. Management, or more importantly helping teams reach their full potential, is my passion. So setting self-doubt aside, I went through three more interviews and four and a half weeks of waiting for background checks to process through their nationwide system. Just after Labor Day I was offered the managerial position. To say I love what I do now, is an understatement. God is so much wiser than I am in what He knows is best for me. For the first time in years I look forward to Monday mornings. I don’t mind coming in early, or staying late. I have an incredible team working with me who understand, or are at least beginning to understand the amazing potential our team has to make a difference in the quality of life of the many people we serve. I truly believe that at age 47, I was given a new “mission” for my life.

And so today, as I sit here with the day off, I realize that everything that happened in 2013, the days of uncertainty, and even financial fear, all transpired for a reason. I realized we serve a God of second and third chances. In Proverbs 24:16 it says “for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again”. That verse could be the life verse of my adult life and I am sure the lives of many of my friends. I am looking forward to serving not only those that work with me, but those whose lives I touch in my daily comings and goings. But I am also thinking about direction, times like today where I feel like I am heading in the right direction, and times in my life where I feel like I was either stuck with no direction or heading in the wrong direction. That brings me back to January 1st and the anniversary of Roy Riegel’s infamous wrong way run in the 1929 Rose Bowl.

Here in Michigan, many are excited that today’s Rose Bowl game pits Michigan State against Stanford. Not only has it been a long time for Michigan State but with the recent failures of the University of Michigan in its bowl game and the Detroit Lions late season collapse, Michigan State seems to hold the best hope for the fans of Michigan sports. This year also is the 100th Rose Bowl Game, a New Years Day tradition steeped with pageantry and its very own parade through Pasadena, California. 85 years ago today, back on January 1, 1929, the University of California played the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

66,604 people watched the Rose Bowl that day and were amazed when in the second quarter Cal player Roy Riegels, an All-American, picked up a fumble by Georgia Tech’s Jack “Stumpy” Thomason, and after getting turned around, started heading 66 yards in the wrong direction. Benny Lom, the speediest player on the Cal team finally caught up with Riegels at the three yard line, before a group of Tech players tackled him on the one yard line. Rather than risk a play so deep in their own territory, Cal attempted to punt. The punt was blocked and Georgia Tech scored a safety. Riegels was so upset that it took a big pep talk by coach Nibs Price to get him out on the field for the second half. According to accounts from the Georgia Tech players, Riegels played one of the best halfs of football they had ever seen, even blocking a Georgia Tech punt during the second half. Unfortunately, despite each team scoring a touchdown in the second half, the ultimate 8-7 victory by Georgia Tech happened largely because of the first half safety caused by Riegels play. After the game, Roy’s coach defended him, saying that “ it was an accident that could have happened to anyone.” He also called Riegels one of the smartest men he ever coached.

How many times has it happened to you. You start down one path of action and find yourself going exactly the opposite way from where you want to go. You seek to have your best sales month ever and a huge return happens. You plan on fixing that relationship with a family member and a big fight ensues. You plan to turn over a new leaf of better health and the holidays bring food binges. Roy Riegels certainly wasn’t the only one to get turned around and head in the wrong direction. In the Bible, God directs Jonah to go to Nineveh and speak to the people. Jonah reacts by running away, heading the opposite direction to Tarshish. You can read the book of Jonah and see how God gave Jonah, as He gives us, multiple chances to change direction. What inspires me about the wrong way New Years run of Roy Riegels is the way he handled it throughout the years. He parodied it on the vaudeville circuit, joked about it, defended it, and when in 1957 a young high school player did the same thing in a game, costing his team a safety and the game, he wrote to that player. He echoed his encouragement in 1964 when in an NFL game, Jim Marshall of the Minnesota Vikings did the same thing. Even though the Vikings overcame Marshall’s blunder and won, Riegels still consoled Marshall. Riegels became a successful California businessman and lived until 1993. He was posthumously inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 1998.

So what do you do when you discover that you are heading in the wrong direction? Do you go all the way back to the starting line? Author Stephen Covey notes that a commercial airliner going from Los Angeles to Boston is off-course 90% of the time. It is only through constant small corrections that the flight lands at Logan airport in Boston. What is the cost of not correcting? For every 60 miles an airplane flies off by just 1 degree, it will miss its destination by a mile. For a flight from Los Angeles to Boston, that plane would land somewhere 55 miles away from the Boston airport. Fortunately, it is not necessary to go all the way back to Los Angeles and start the flight over, just as it is not necessary for you to go back to square one to correct your wrong direction. What those course corrections look like for each person is different, but needless to say, making them will be much less painful than ending up in the wrong destination.

January 1st. The 85th anniversary of Roy Riegels wrong way run in the 1929 Rose Bowl. The first day of our new year. A great date for reflecting, adjusting, setting goals, revising goals and even removing goals that are no longer relevant. Take some time this week to celebrate the accomplishments of 2013, stretch yourself for 2014 and beyond and most of all, be thankful that we have a God of second, third and fourth chances. No port of call is beyond your reach with proper course corrections and vigilance to where you are at all times. Don’t wait to land at the wrong destination before you seek the change in direction that you need.

Happy New Year. I wish the best of health, love and learning to all of you in 2014.

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