Defining Self: Not all in a day’s work…

The man signing the autograph is Michigan State’s head football coach, Mark Dantonio. What an opportunity for a life-lesson learned he offers us. Let’s talk…

Several hours after a dramatic overtime victory four weeks ago, Mark Dantonio suffered a mild heart attack. In very short order, he underwent a heart catheterization procedure, during which a stent was used to open a blocked cardiac blood vessel. Two weeks into his recovery, a routine check-up revealed a blood clot in his leg. So Dantonio was back in the hospital for two days.

He’s on the mend now, and prudently working his way back into his head coaching responsibilities.

Mark Dantonio spoke with Detroit Free Press writer, Drew Sharp, several days ago. I found what he had to say so wise and inspirational. Life-lessonesque, in fact. I’d like to share.

When you get into those situations, you think about two things: You think about your faith, and you think about your family. Your work becomes a little more secondary. What you do doesn’t define you. I don’t care what you do for a living. When you’re out, whether it’s a broken leg or something else, you’re sort of renewed when you’ve got another opportunity, and you gain even more appreciation for what you do. I don’t care what you do.

I’ve always hoped that, in the end, my job wouldn’t define me. I hoped that I would be defined on maybe what I could do in the community or what I could do for a community. I hope that’s where I’m thought of. I hope it’s not, in the end, that ‘Hey, you won this many games, and you’re a good guy because of it.’ That doesn’t make you a good guy, just because you win games. That’s how I’ll continue to live my life from this point on.

Is that strong, or what? It appears to me Mark Dantonio was a high-character man before the onset of his medical woes. And it sure seems as though his medical situation added a sweet frosting on the cake.

So who are we, anyway? I mean, who does the defining? What’s the criteria?

As you may recall, our economy hit the skids in the fourth quarter of 2008. So many jobs were lost, as well as so much security. I’ll never forget an assessment I conducted that November.

The man was in his late-40s and was a wealthy commodities broker. Keyword – was. In the span of about two days, he’d lost his fortune. But he, in fact, lost more than that. He’d lost his identity, because he allowed his job to define him over the many years. And when the economy tanked, all sense of self and worth was gone.

Sadly, the man told me he wanted to end his life. And given his definition of self, is it any wonder?

My daughter is a high school sophomore, and my son a college freshman. For years now I’ve replaced the traditional “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with “Who do you want to be?”

Big difference, don’t you think?

Our life-lesson learned opportunity is all about self-definition. We’re the ones who have to do the defining, and our definition has to be based on solid ground.

That means choosing criteria that will withstand the nasty turns life can take. Will our job do it for us? Nope. Our financial wealth? Don’t think so. Who we know? Negative.

How ’bout simply knowing we have a good heart, and will do all we can to become quality and giving human beings? Sure works for me.

My thanks to Mark Dantonio for being so open about his illness and sharing his perspective. Oh, the opportunity to learn a life-lesson? Think I’ll take him up on it. You?