What kind of man are you?

People ask me all the time where I get my ideas for posts.  “How do you find things to write about?” they are always asking me.  To be honest, I really don’t know how to avoid them.  If you fully engage in life, which I ultimately am trying to do (I’ m certainly not always successful), everywhere you look, there are things to write or talk about.  Everything that touches us in one way or another is the potential source for a topic.  Your work environment, your home life, and how you are struggling with this or that habit are all things that are both common to and unique for all of us.  Different things make us angry, sad, excited, or confused.  Writing is a way to not only share those with others, but to learn more about ourselves in the process.  And I find inspiration for writing in books and articles, from successful (and unsuccessful) people, and believe it or not, in movies and on television.

A case in point is the movie The Express,  the movie that’s currently in my car’s DVD player to keep my kids occupied so I don’t drive off the road.  The movie is a wonderful story about Ernie Davis, the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy, given to the best player in college football each year.  The story is set in the 1950s and 60s, so it’s filled with racial context, a great opportunity for me to share with my children some of the ills that have plagued this country.  It’s also a movie about relationships. The one between Ernie and his grandfather, who raised him early in his life.  The one between a successful white college football coach and Ernie, one of very few black players on the team.  And the relationship between Ernie and Jim Brown, the man whom he succeeded as the star football player at Syracuse.  And it’s a heart-wrenching tale of a man who had his football career and life cut way too short, dying of leukemia at the age of 23.

But the most riveting part of the movie for me was the scene where the Syracuse head coach, Ben Schwartzwalder (played by Dennis Quaid), was recruiting Davis.  He brought along Jim Brown to help the sales pitch and as is often the case, the two had to ultimately convince Davis’ family that Syracuse was the best fit.  In this case, the gatekeeper was Davis’ grandfather, whom he affectionately referred to as “Pops.”  And just like many other “parents” with children who are coveted athletes, his focus was not on Ernie’s performance on the field or chances at a professional contract.  He was focused almost solely on his grandson’s academic growth and overall development as a young man.

The few minutes of dialog that follow are what inspired this post.  Since there are several colleges recruiting Davis, including several in attendance on the same day that Syracuse has chosen to visit, Pops asks the simple question: “What makes you different?”  The coach begins to explain all that Syracuse University has to offer, but is quickly interrupted.  “No,” Pops says, “not Syracuse.  You.”  Looking perplexed, the coach replies “I’m not sure I follow.”  So Pops explains, and with the conviction and strength that only Charles S. Dutton can provide (See: Roc, Rudy), he tells Coach (paraphrasing) “My grandson is going to be spending the next four years with you. Listening to you.  Learning from you.  So I guess I’m asking, [pause], what kind of man are you?”

“What kind of man are you?”  Wow.  What a question.  It got me thinking.  Actually, my son asked me “what kind of man are you, Dad?” so maybe he got me thinking.  Either way, I thought deeply about it for the rest of the drive.  And I came up with a laundry list of items that included integrity, hard-working, loving, courageous, strong, God-fearing, and humble.  What I didn’t include was overly protective, sometimes insecure and hesitant, and often times anxious and worried about my life and how it impacts those around me.  But I realize as I write this that what I left off the list, but maybe should have included, is as important as the ones I included.  Some might say the former was a ‘wish list’ and the latter a supplemental, more realistic, component.  The truth is neither list is right.  That’s because ultimately perception is reality.  The way people view me, the impression I leave on people, and the way people feel having been around me are the true measure of me as a man, of me as a person.  Simply put, the kind of man I am is what the world sees me, knows me, and understands me as.

Truth be told, if someone who really knows you has to ask you what kind of man (or woman) you are, then you are not living life the way you should and probably not living life the way you want.  Life Coaches and Self-Improvement Seminars have the gist when they put clients and attendees through the simple process of writing their own eulogy.  The exercise is meant to provide a powerful message that we should all live life the way we want to be remembered.  And while we ultimately can never directly answer the question–because, again, perception is reality and what we say is easily and completely overshadowed by how we act– we can at least remember it, so that thinking about it and working towards our ideal selves helps us all become better people.

At the end of the day, when my son and daughter are older and understand more about life, I don’t want them to ask me what kind of man I am.  In fact, I hope nobody I meet and get to know ever asks me that.  Because if I’m living my life right, living up to the standard that I continue to set for myself, they won’t have to.


About bbluford
I am an executive finance professional with a love for process and application development (MS Access, Excel, Quickbooks), mostly as it relates to Accounting and Business Functions. I also love to write and share ideas with other people in this world. I'm an admitted Gym Rat who works out excessively. The best summation of me is that I love to teach and to learn.

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