The year was 1999, the big issue was Y2K and how computers would not effectively make the date change to the new century, causing a shut-down of the world as we knew it.
My challenge was not computing, my challenge was finding a way to stay connected to my young son and daughter, post-divorce, and find a way to support myself and my kids doing something they’d be proud of. My first attempt started with promise, but ended on a sour note. I helped find funding for an educational center in the North Georgia mountains, focused on sustainable agriculture, alternative energy and holistic health practices. We obtained funding for the land, but there was nothing left for my expenses and family commitments.
I returned to Atlanta and began coaching small businesses focused on environmental causes. Using my High School and College basketball experience as a Branding idea, I started On-The-Court Coaching, using the tagline, Life is not a Spector Sport. I quickly discovered that Green businesses often could not afford a coach, so I expanded my target market to include business owners passionate about their work, hoping to take their life and work to the next level. One of my mentors suggested I find a niche market to distinguish myself from other coaches. I’d done some work in Six Sigma (a corporate approach to driving results using statistics, teams and change management). In 2004 I kicked off the Six Sigma Leadership Forum – Atlanta, bringing together some of the top corporations in Atlanta including Coca-Cola, Home-Depot, Delta, Newell Rubbermaid and others. The format that emerged was a roundtable of 15-20 executives facing similar challenges, meeting every other month, where they could learn from each other, and from outside experts.
In 2008, through discussions with members of the Six Sigma Leadership Forum, I discovered a need for a similar Forum in the arena of Corporate Sustainability – an emerging discipline focused on the impact of corporations on the environment, society and the local economies where they operate. I kicked off the Sustainability Leadership Forum in Atlanta in 2008, and proceeded to initiate sister Forums in Chicago in 2009, New York in 2010, Dallas in 2011, London in 2013 and Philadelphia in 2014.
Although it took much longer to get there than I anticipated, I felt I was starting to bring to life the vision I had in 1999. I invited my son, David, to attend his first Forum while he was still in High School. I introduced him as my Chief Accountability Officer (CAO). As Captain of his Cross Country team and an A Student, I noted, I could not outrun or outthink him. Any issues the members had with the Forum, they could report to him, and he would make sure we handled it right away. David recently graduated as a Mechanical Engineer from Case Western Reserve (still Captain of His Cross Country Team) and Academic All American. He works with RES Polyflow, a company taking plastic which can’t be recycled and converting them to fuel oil. He still attends the Forum when he can in his role as CAO. My daughter, Mary, now a successful technical writer with DragonFly Editorial, has helped me craft my communications along the way.
Recently, I shared with David, my vision of creating a sustainable civilization in my lifetime. He asked if I knew how I was going to do that. I said, I have absolutely no idea, and that is what makes it exciting. My father died when he was 72. I’m 54. Using round numbers.. that is a 15 year window. For the sake of clarity, let’s go with 2030 as our target year. I plan to live a long-time past that year, but I also find it is good to create deadlines for personal accountability.
You may ask why set such a seemingly ambitious, unreachable goal. My answer is we are each amazingly powerful, and the problem is we don’t realize it and therefore do not set goals and visions worthy of who we are. A goal such as the one I’ve chosen is worthy of us.
Earlier this year, David said he’d like to run a Marathon with me. Although an accomplished distance runner, David has never had the opportunity to run a marathon as it did not fit into his offseason training regimen. I was honored he asked me to run his first marathon with him, and suggested we consider folding the marathon into our work together on the Forums and plan a marathon at each of the Forum cities, starting with New York in November 2, 2014. David got accepted to run the NYC marathon based on his half-marathon time (He finished 3rd overall in the Atlanta Half Marathon). The only way I was going to get in was through committing to help a charity. I chose the Central Park Conservancy, because of its alignment with my Sustainability work.
Bennett Rill's Inspiration
Coincidentally, this summer I was with my Band of Brothers, – 14 pledge brothers of Beta Theta Pi from DePauw University who gather every three years at Lake Wawasee in Indiana to reconnect, share old stories and create new ones. One of us recounted the terrible news that one of our younger classmates and fraternity brother, Derick Rill’s 14-year-old son, Bennett, had died in a tragic accident. We decided we’d each do something special in his memory, bringing Bennett’s cherished NBA cap with each of us on an adventure of our choosing and recording our adventure with the cap in an online photo tribute.
As I had the Nov. 2, 2014 NYC Marathon scheduled, I thought it made sense to go first and dedicate the Marathon to Bennett.
As I got online, and read the stories about who Bennett was, and spoke to Derrick about his son, and his experience both of loss and of support from his community, an idea began to take shape.
Bennett’s life seemed to embody the principles I was hoping to achieve through my goal of a Sustainable Civilization. My sense is that it is the mindsets of individuals that are the precursor to a Sustainable Civilization. Mindsets of caring, love and joy, mindsets of commitment to doing whatever it takes.
One specific story, told by his soccer coach summed up Bennett. The team had a post-game ritual of shaking not just their opponent’s hands, but also shaking the hands of the referees. After one particularly challenging loss, where the coach was upset with the referees, he “forgot” this part of the post-game ritual. Bennett brought it to the coach’s attention. At first, the coach pretended not to hear Bennett, but Bennett persisted, and with a smile that said “Coach.. you know we can do this” the Coach relented and the team shook hands with the referee.
Click here to read the Washington Post article on Bennett
Click here to go 1:05 mark of YouTube of Bennett’s funeral to hear Bennett’s soccer coach describe who Bennett was for him.
Bennett personified the “civil” in civilization.
The stories of Bennett’s life sparked the seed of an idea.
What if Bennett’s life could form the basis for network of individuals supporting each other in a common goal of creating a Sustainable Civilization?
What would that look like? How could it work?
Here is my plan -- know it is only a start and just like with my work in Sustainability, it might turn out very differently than initially imagined.
We’ll start with the Nov. 2, NYC Marathon. I’m intending to raise much more than my $3,000 minimum commitment to the Central Park Conservancy. Any excess beyond the $3,000 minimum commitment would go to some form of Bennett Rill Memorial, ranging from a Park Bench or tree near a Basketball court to a youth basketball program all the way up to a Basketball court dedicated in Bennett’s honor. Although the conservancy cannot pre-commit their assets in advance of the full funding availability, know I have pushed them for specific tangible memorials based on funds received. Donate now on this page to get On-The-Court.
How does your funding move us toward the goal of a Sustainable Civilization?
He is where the fun starts.
This “Fun” raiser is not about building memorials. The Rills have a basketball court at their local church and a 3-on-3 hoops tournament dedicated to Bennett. They have felt and continue to feel the support of their community.
What excited Derick when I talked with him about what me and my classmates were doing was the possibility of Bennett’s spirit bringing joy to many more people.
Here is how that can happen.
1) Anyone donating $126 or more gets an NBA cap (Just like Bennett’s) and written a copy of the tribute Bennett’s Mom and Dad wrote for his funeral. That cap will be the doorway to fun adventures with you and your family. You can post your unique adventure to the FaceBook page which will be dedicated to this shared experience.
2) $500 or more gets a coaching session from me on how you can turn your passion into a reality in being part of a Sustainable Civilization, and your inclusion in a group coaching network of support on our collective journey.
3) Anyone who creates their own successful Bennett Rill “Fun” raiser, will, if they choose, get coaching from me on how to coach their extended team of players on how to turn their vision into reality.
How else can you play? The list is endless. Sharing talents, ideas, connections, structure and spreading the word are all other ways to help. Quick confession – I am a social media novice, and had a total of 3 friends on FaceBook before friending Derick. I’ve got a feeling that will change, if I’m to do this. Help me move into 21st Century.. if you can.
Look forward to being with you On-the-Court!
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