Does Football Make You Violent?

I played football in fifth grade. I was the only girl on the team, the Vikings. I dropped out before we played a game, but I made the cut. I liked flag (or was it touch) football in college too. We played in Central Park a few times. It was always a great work out.

I am so sick of what I am hearing about football these days.

A few weeks ago, I heard the first disturbing fact: that 30 percent of professional football players will have some kind of early onset dementia.

The other disheartening news — the uber aggressive nature of the sport. I can’t watch it without wincing or groaning. My son, friends and students are in fantasy football leagues so I hear about teams and players. And you can’t help but hear about the players’ aggressive playing. On and off the field. And aggression is different than violence.

The excessive violence of the players — and the way it spills over into their personal lives — is disturbing. Are you kidding me? It’s 2014 and some huge professional athlete beats his little kid with a switch? This is fricken’ nuts. A football player beats his wife and before it’s revealed, he’s suspended for only two games? Ugh.

But at least we’re hearing about it. We’re talking about it. Maybe that’s good. Domestic violence is too quickly shoved under the rug.

We care too much about professional athletes.

I wish people cared as much about actors and artists as much as athletes. I wish we cared about teachers. I wish we valued public servants and sanitation workers. Nurses. Bus drivers. Astronauts. I don’t know. Anyone.

It is so crazy the amount of money that these professional athletes, teams, managers, leagues make.

It’s also this brotherhood thing — that women cannot play. It’s a closed society. I found it creepy when the whole Penn State scandal was uncovered. Male fraternal organizations and any male-dominated groups (churches, boards) creep me out.

not caring

There’s a meme going around: “This is me not caring about football.” The thing is, I used to care about football. Growing up in Chicago-area, you had to love the Bears. Plus I liked playing. I liked being a part of a team.

A few years ago, I met this Ph.D. candidate — a friend of a friend’s at a party. She was a coach at UVM. She did a study surveying collegiate athletes — to find out if they were more aggressive than other students. They were. She was surprised — perhaps, she was hoping to find more examples of teamwork and positive group dynamics in sports. Me, too. We can do better.

As a girl who played football, I know the sport can be fun and a great work out. But, let’s face it, I’m not going to be playing any more.

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I wrote this from today’s prompt at the Daily Post: Today, write about anything — but you must write for exactly ten minutes, no more, no less. 

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Presentation Skills

One of my recent ad hoc jobs has been assisting in the Columbia University graduate business school, coaching on presentation skills and strategic messaging.

I don’t want to give away all of my tips and tricks. But here’s some of what I’ve learned and taught.

  1. Plant your feet to make a point
  2. Make eye contact
  3. Breathe
  4. Be prepared, but not memorized
  5. Put it in a story form
  6. Show the benefits to your listener
  7. Use emotion

Let me explain what I mean by all of these. I’ll use myself as an example.

  1. Plant your feet and make your point. Don’t wander around. Don’t fidget with a pen either. I need to remember this. I’m a passionate person, and so I like to really emote! That’s fine (see #7). Sure, move out from behind the podium, but move on the pause, and stop when you speak. Plant your feet. You can move as you think. But stop when you talk.
  1. Look ’em in the eyes for several sentences. Six (?) years ago, when Hilary Clinton was
    Barack Obama
    Barack Obama (Photo credit: jamesomalley)

    debating Barack Obama, I noticed Hil scanned the crowd as she talked. Her eyes hopped from person to person. Not Barack. No, he spoke several sentences to one person, then moved his gaze to another person. Like #1, don’t wander – not even with your eyes. Fix your gaze on one person. Make sure they get your point and then focus on another person’s eyes.

I sometimes look up when I’m thinking. I do that on the pause. Then, I have to remember to look down and make eye contact when I talk.

  1. Breathe. A breath brings inspiration. Take time to think things through. I tend to talk fast. And so I get breathy and soft-spoken. When I take time to breathe, I’ve got fuller authority. I’m more centered. When you’re making a presentation, take time to inhale. Then, speak on the exhale.

4. Know your stuff. When I’m watching Shark Tank, I can tell that people who have memorized their whole pitch. If they lose their place, they’re lost. They only really need to know the salient points – their numbers, their benefit to the user, their unique factors. They don’t need the verbatim script, they need to speak just the basics.

5. Make a story. Everyone loves a beginning, middle, and end. Put your presentation in a story form — perhaps, a context of overcoming great odds. Or making the story about a heroic journey. You were lost and now you’re found. These story types are so primal and so inspiring. Everyone loves a narrative arc.

6. Show the benefit. I realized people were a bit self involved the first time I had skin cancer. I blogged about it. In conversations, people would ask me, “Does this mole look like yours looked?” People weren’t asking, “How are you feeling? What’s the latest?” No, they were telling me how they were feeling. All people are basically self-interested.

If your presentation is relevant to people, they will be interested. If you can help people learn about themselves or help them make money, then they’ll be into your presentation. I love inspiring people to learn about themselves. It’s why I love coaching writing.

7. Emote. Don’t be afraid to laugh, cry, admit that you don’t know something in your presentation. It’s all part of the human experience. People will remember what you say when you are passionate, but they may not remember your dry facts and figures.

Give yourself away. Go deep and don’t be afraid to be human. Get real.

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How To Talk About Your Business

Everyone loves a winner. So talk up your winning biz. You can take several routes.

The humble way – Shucks, we’re just ordinary plain folk who got lucky.

The hardworking drudge – Well, sure we’re a success, but all we do is work, work, work. And we never see our kids, spouses, or mothers.

The boaster – I’m pretty fricken’ amazing. That’s it. I kickass.

The passionate soul – I love this work. Man, I’d do it for free. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. And it’s a labor of love.

I suggest when you talk about your biz, mix it up and use all four routes. Go the humble, hardworking, boastful and passionate way. “We got lucky, we work it, we’re awesome, and by the way, we love what we do.”

Mary Beth Coudal and Cheryl Sandberg exchanged a few laughs at BlogHer in Chicago.
Mary Beth Coudal and Cheryl Sandberg exchanged a few laughs at BlogHer in Chicago.

Note: I say “we” because, sometimes people appreciate the ‘we’ better than the ‘me.’ Or at least, we think so. Who’s we? Me and Cheryl Sandberg of Lean In. I think she said something like this at BlogHer last summer in Chicago — how women are more powerful when we’re collaborative rather than competitive.

Even though I’m pretty much a shop of one, I feel like I bring a team with me on my assignments. Ya know, I get by with a little help from my friends.

This post was inspired from a post by Seth Godin, marketing guru.

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Lean In

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I felt so happy to meet Sheryl Sandberg at BlogHer

Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook and the author of Lean In, talked about how women can step into their rightful place as leaders.

Sheryl Sandberg
Lisa Stone interviews Sheryl Sandberg at the BlogeHer Conference in Chicago

Sandberg said she was inspired by Mellody Hobson, a Chicago businesswoman, who said she was “unapologetically an African American and unapologetically a woman.” Sandberg said she was “unapologetically a business executive and unapologetically a feminist.” Me too!

Sandberg’s blunt truth is that “men rule the world. Ninety-five percent of big companies are run by men.” We all have biases so let’s not be afraid to talk about them and fix them.

As women, we must do a better job of believing in ourselves and stepping up as leaders. And we don’t have to be titans of industries. This applies to women as leaders in our families, school boards, small businesses, classrooms, and hospitals — wherever we find ourselves .

I love this message. I’m glad people are hearing it. I’m glad women are lifting each other up.

I stayed for a small group session. That’s where I briefly chatted with Sandberg. I told her I, too, was a COO of a small biz.

“Really?” she asked. “What’s your business?”

“I lead writing workshops.”

“That’s great!” She said. She seemed genuinely excited and interested in Boot Camp for Writers

As a workshop leader, I’m always trying to improve my game. So I wondered what kind of workshop does the most powerful woman in the world lead. Turns out it’s not so different than mine. Yes, the introduction part of the workshop is EXACTLY the same as mine. It’s a way for people to get to know each other and it’s an exercise I learned from my mother.

Professor Carole Robin from Stanford University led the small group exercises. She told us that we are “three to six times more creative in a group than we are alone.” The power of the peer group can be seen in study groups, weight loss programs, and I would add, church groups. We are challenged and encouraged in small groups. We learn best when we move out of our comfort zones. In fact, “it’s impossible to learn if you remain comfortable,” Robin said.

In our group of six we talked about times when we were brave and times when we were unable to take risks. I can’t disclose more because we agreed to anonymity. We learned that disclosure begets disclosure. And I made a few new friends and cheerleaders!

Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, is a bestseller and it’s my book club’s choice this month. We meet on Monday night. And you know I’ll have a lot to talk about when we get together.

I’m going to check out LeanIn.org, which is the fastest growing and most engaged internet community . I’m going to value and encourage the leadership of the women and girls in my life. I’m not afraid to push back on sexism and the pay gap. I’m not afraid, even when I feel myself shrink from taking my rightful place at decision-making tables.

I have Sandberg on my side. So do you. So go ahead. Lean in. We’ve got your back.

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Getting Quiet and Slowing Down

Leaves of Grass. Boston: Thayer and Eldridge, ...
Leaves of Grass. Boston: Thayer and Eldridge, year 85 of the States. [1860-61] page. Creator: Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892 — Author. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
On the Adirondack writing weekend, we walked along the shore of Lake Champlain. For most of the way, we chatted. I love words and filling my world with words.

Honestly, I can speak or write extemporaneously on any given topic. Yes, I’m a know-it-all (and I come from a long line of know-it-alls, of which we are proud!)

For three days in the Adirondacks, I did yoga with Michelle Maron (Lake Champlain Yoga Arts @ Live Well). Now back in the city and with the kids back to school, I’m doing guided meditation in the mornings. I’m finding benefits to being still, keeping quiet.

I LOVE Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.

“Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,

We stopped and waited and listened.

Missing me one place search another, I stop somewhere waiting for you.”

I first discovered the joys of Walt Whitman and in overstimulation in college when one of my friends liked to study, watch TV, blast the radio at the same time. I tried it back then and found I liked it too. I found it relaxing. I liked cacophony.

I like the adrenaline of rushing, so New York City’s energy is perfect for me. But so is the quiet of the country.

In light of my husband’s gradual slowing from Parkinson’s Disease (he was diagnosed nine years ago), I know I must, regularly, slow and quiet myself and the kids down too. Chris needs to take more time. He stands frozen. He cannot respond quickly to a question.

Walking in the Adirondacks.

In those instances, words don’t matter but slowing down does. Stopping to wait matters.

As we walked in the Adirondacks, the other writers and I stopped talking for a little bit. We said nothing.

When I wasn’t talking, I could listen. I could hear our footsteps, our breathing, a bird on the lake. I could hear a breeze through the leaves of grass.

NaNoWriMo

All my online friends are doing it. Here it is November and that means National Novel Writing Month. I have won NaNoWriMo in two out of the last three years. That is, I’ve written 50,000 words and completed a novel in 30 days.

I am NOT joining the writing frenzy this year. Even though I feel a tug to start. When a crowd takes off running near you, you feel like taking off too. My problem is I love to start stuff.

As Beth in writing class said the other night, “You’re a sprinter, not a marathon runner.” (That’s a bad analogy since there are no NYC marathoners this year. And that’s a lot of disappointment from my fitness friends here in NYC!)

I love starting stuff so much more than I love finishing stuff. I love creating new characters in NaNoWriMo. I love running out of words and then writing up crazy, surreal dreams for my characters. I love weaving their dreams into plot points.

As Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWrMo, said, “No Plot? No Problem!”

I am using the NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program curriculum for teaching my middle school creative writers. Kids love conflict. They love creative characters. They need to know the arc, or plot, of a story.

The national novel writing month curriculum for my middle schoolers is fun and gets kids talking about the best way to tell stories. I feel so lucky to have this resource (for free, no less)!

No, I am not running the marathon known as NaNoWriMo this year, but I plan to start it and win it every other year for the rest of my life! I am cheering those nano marathon runners from the sidelines.

Wait! I feel lonely and eager to join from the sidelines. So I plan to join another online competition or campaign. I am going to join NaBloPoMo. (National Blog Post Month).

So far, I’m on track. I have posted on this blog every day of November. And the theme is: blogging for blogging sake.

Now, team, get out there and write!