Happy New Year
By stern on Jul 01, 2008
For all things financial -- sales attainment, spending, goal progress, or annual giving contributions -- those of us who roll on July 1 reset the counters to zero today. It's a bit auspicious, but it's also exciting because the new year also brings new strategies, new tactics, and new challenges. The NHL free agency season is always a time (for me) of thinking strategically: who do my beloved NJ Devils need, in what role? What missing ingredient will make them hungry, hard-hitting, and perhaps even more prolific goal scorers? It's a clean slate for general managers, coaches and marketing organizations. That sense of building a team and refocused energies on the next season's goals is precisely what permeates the next few weeks at Sun.
The Princeton University July 1 fiscal year never really mattered to me until this year: as of midnight last night, I'm a member of the 25th Reunion Class, the semi-official "parent class" of this year's annual giving campaign, punctuated with what is typically the largest post-graduation gathering of classmastes in June. It's another sign that I'm officially an adult, but it's also refreshing. I began thinking about a variety of 25th anniversaries: the first NJ Devils game that I attended was in 1983 (I sat with my cousins under the scoreboard and we heard the non-stop click-click of the relays turning the scoreboard bulbs on and off for three hours) and my son won his first NJ state ice hockey tournament medal on the 25th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice. Both involve hockey, but both also involve putting some element of perspective on events -- I now go to games with my son, and rather than cheering for Chico Resch in the Devils' net, we cheer for him in the Devils' broadcast booth to the left of our seats. And by seeing the parallels, we have another bit of history to share as another parent class another 25 years hence.
I'm looking forward to renewing old friendships, to meeting my classmates' kids, and to participating in my class' capital campaign. I'm not the guy who calls and asks for large sums of money (too close to the day job); I will be leading a "participation team" whose goal is to get classmates to give at any level, just to show support and connect back to the university. I explain my motivation for this work derviative by re-telling a story I've rarely dusted off. 27 years ago, while attempting to complete the freshman physical education requirement, I decided to sign up for "athletic conditioning" not realizing it was a euphemism for "spring football camp." The first eight weeks weren't too bad, but the first day of actual "conditioning" involved running, up-downs, more running, rolls, sprints, more running, more up-downs, and somewhere along the way I think my left lung decided to go on strike. There was no actual blocking involved, or my insides would have liquified. What I remember vividly was Billy M, a guy I vaguely knew from our dorm and a class, telling me "point your head up, breathe in hard through your nose, blow out through your mouth." I cannot vouch for the medical authority of this aerobic guidance, but it worked. I've used that breathing trick when I'm exercising (rare), stressed out (less rare) or need to focus (frequently). Each time I do, I think of Billy M putting an arm around me so that I wasn't trampled by 300 pound offensive tackles, and I'm thankful that even though I was never on his team, he considered me enough of a teammate in some context -- classmate, fellow wheezer, survivor of multiple papers on modern European authors -- to offer advice.
Good teams and good teammates can even overcome even the obstacles posed by an asthmatic nerd, without anybody getting hurt. Happy New Year, Billy M.