Thursday, November 17, 2016

It Doesn’t Cost Anything To Be Nice!

At one time or another most of you have seen Scott Siepker.  Perhaps you do not recognize him by name, but recognize him as the guy who does the Iowa Nice video.  After that he went on to do Cyclone Nice, Hawkeye Nice, and even appeared regularly on ESPN producing spots for College Football Daily.  He continues to promote Iowa, as well as pursue his career as an actor, writer, and producer.  At the root of the Iowa Nice campaign is the fact that our state has capitalized on the perception — sometimes negative — that people from other parts of the country have about people from our state.  Apparently for some there is something negative about being nice, or that we Iowans have something to be embarrassed about by being nice.  Oh yeah, I’ve heard that "nice guys finish last," but I can show you a number of instances where that isn’t true.  When you watch Iowa Nice Siepker doesn’t apologize for the people of our state being nice, rather he points out many of the other things we have to be proud of.  But it’s clear to me, we do not need to feel any shame for being nice!

Treat others as you want to be treated.  The Golden Rule is a tenant in one form or another in all major religions of the world.  Every one of us wants to be treated respectfully and with kindness, in other words we want people to be nice to us.  I admit that when I was a kid growing up saying that someone was nice didn’t fit in with what was popular.  I even recall (embarrassingly) a conversation our school librarian had with my mom after the National Honor Society Induction my sophomore year.  The topic was “why doesn’t Todd have a girl friend” (yes, embarrassing that a teenage boy’s mother is having a conversation with a teacher about girlfriends) and the librarian answered her own question by saying, “Well, Todd is too nice for the girls in this school.”  Thank goodness that story was not overheard by another walking by, or passed on by my mother to any of her friends!  Geez!  

Today, I constantly encourage teenagers and others to be nice to one another.  I am not embarrassed to give this advice, nor to I choose to use other references.  Nice is good, and if more of us treated one another in a nice manner, we would have a lot better place to live and go about doing the things we do.  Today I am disgusted by the lack of civility modeled and demonstrated by our political leaders, and honestly, by many of us.  Never have I been witness to the polarity that exists in our country.  Apparently we have outgrown another pearl of wisdom imparted by our elders:  If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything at all!  Right now politicians don’t seem to hesitate to call others names, threaten, or accuse them of horrible things, often without facts and purposefully deviating from the truth.  There seems to be a mentality in our country that if you don’t see it my way, then screw you!  No one apologizes when they are proven to be wrong, and rather than admit to a lie, the book seems to say that one should keep lying until people either believe you or something else comes along to district people’s attention.  

Leading up to the election in November we hear that a lot people in our country are angry.  The image that comes to mind is the two-year old stomping their feet and throwing a tantrum in the grocery store because a mom won’t buy the cereal they want.  We have been told by one side of the aisle that “compromise” is a four-letter word that really means accepting defeat, and the other side responds with other ways of obstructing progress toward middle ground.  When people live in a world of extremes, negotiation is nearly impossible and common ground becomes elusive.  And like the world in the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s and into the 1980’s, there is no trust, and fear causes anger and frustration.  I get that people are angry about a variety of different things, and I have been upset by a few things that have transpired over the past ten years, but anger takes a lot of energy, negative energy, and that is not how I want to live life.  Nor is it how I think life should be lived at North Fayette Valley High School.

The beauty of a public high school is that regardless of how homogeneous the community, what diversity does exist is amplified in a school.  A school is a laboratory in many respects, as well as a model of the larger community.  There are disagreements on a daily basis, and at times strong emotions expressed.  School is a safe place as well as a place to learn, so not only do we honor the opportunity to express an opinion, we also have the chance to learn how to deal with the emotions that come when people disagree. It is a place to take risks and take a chance to express individuality, which often elicits a response.  And, it is a great place to see and learn about differences that exist, learning to appreciate that fact that we are not all the same in our likes and dislikes.  Within this melting pot, or pot of stew, life goes a lot smoother when we are nice to one another.  None of us likes to be run down or degraded, and that isn’t necessary when people recognize each of us has a right to express an opinion.  Being nice means saying nothing rather than criticizing.  Being nice means keeping an opinion to oneself about a hair cut or a clothing choice rather than giving a cutting remark.  Being nice means hitting Cancel rather then Send.  Being nice means sitting by that boy at a table who is alone, or smiling and saying “Hi!” to the girl walking down the hall with her head down.  Hey, we live in Iowa, and Iowans are nice!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Personal Branding: Something Important For All Students

The term “branding” has become a popular one in recent years, generally in reference to marketing done by businesses and institutions.  The purpose is to plant an idea or an image so that people will immediately recognize it and think about a specific company or school.  The Golden Arches immediately remind people of McDonalds just as the yellow Tigerhawk on a black surface symbolizes the University of Iowa Hawkeyes.  In some instances significant money is spent not only on the development of the image, but also on the impact that it has on the public, such as the subliminal impact of hidden images in the logo, such as the arrow in the Fed Ex logo.  However, branding is much more than the image or the logo.  And, branding goes beyond corporations and universities.  According to Jerry McLaughlin, “brand is the perception someone holds in their head about you, a product, a service, an organization, a cause, or an idea.  Brand building is the deliberate and skillful application of effort to create a desired perception in someone else’s mind.”  Today, the brand that each of our students is developing for themselves is very important for how they are going to be perceived in the future, and it goes much further than a logo.

Let’s take at look at what the NCAA shares with student-athletes because it can easily serve as a guide for all young people today.  From the NCAA on personal branding:  As a NCAA student-athlete, be aware of your actions in public and on social media (i.e. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, etc.)  You build your personal brand from the moment you start communicating.  Think for yourself.  Ask a lot of questions.  Keep the big picture in mind.  And always remember: You represent your university first, your team second,  then yourself last.  

We have talked a number of times with students about making smart choices as to what they put out on the Internet about themselves, from postings on Facebook to images on Pinterest or Snapchat.  In the past couple of years lessons have been provided to help them better understand how to create a positive image of themselves online, and in a sense market themselves.  In essence, this is what personal branding is all about.  Through social media students have the chance to promote themselves to colleges and future employers, and rather than share pictures out partying with a beer in hand or forwarding on memes or messages that might be perceived as negative, they can build a picture that focuses on the positives.  

At the beginning of each school year we tell students to “clean” all of their social media.  About five years ago a former student of mine had mentioned to me how the University of Iowa had told students who were planning to apply to medical school to go through and get rid of all pictures and references on their Facebook page before they start the application process because admissions folks would go through everything on their background check.  In conversation that I have had with admission counselors from a couple of state universities, I was told that every potential student-athlete is vetted by interns who do extensive online searches to get an idea of what they may have posted so they can get a better, more thorough idea into the character and background of the students they are recruiting. If things show up, they are flagged and in some instances, are no longer recruited.  It is not just athletes that colleges look at.  With the simplicity of online searches, all potential applicants are vetted.  And it doesn’t stop with college.  Recent conversations with employers confirm that they are doing the same thing.  One of our largest local employers share how they go through social media, specifically asking potential employees to open their Facebook page and other social media sites for them to view.

Social media is an important part of many student’s life, with many pro’s and con’s in terms of the impact it has on their daily life.  It is very powerful and it makes sense that it is used to create every student’s personal brand.  There is a tremendous amount of positive information that a student can share out that they can use to market themselves to colleges and employers.  Tiger Woods, Prince, Triple H, and many other celebrities have logos that have contributed to their personal brand, and they are easily recognized by fans and others.  But it goes so much further than that, and today our students can use incredible resources to develop the positive image they want to project.  Their brand is important!