Tonight, I was invited to give the invocation for JCI Michigan’s 3rd Quarter Conference Saturday Night Dinner. It was also the inauguration of the organization’s new president. Here’s what I pulled together for my speech, with total credit for it given to someone who I hold in high regard and look to for inspiration quite often. University of Minnesota football coach, PJ Fleck
MICHIGAN JAYCEES! What do we do?
Let me began by thanking President Adam (Bonarek) for inviting me to give tonight’s invocation. Ten years ago, you and I pulled together a team that made folks live “Happily Ever After” and showed the world that “WE BUILD LEADERS!” Since that time you’ve built many bridges that have strengthen our organization and you have done so with all of the grace, dignity, and honor anyone who has ever held this office could ever hope for. Congratulations on your year thus far. Finish the year strong, my friend.
Let me also get a little self-flagellation out of the way.
You see, over the last two weeks, I’ve come to the realization that I hate college football. It seems that every time I spoke about the greatness of a team I cheer for, they lose. That of course results in me having to say, in public, things that people like Past President John Badeen and Past Finance Director Kristen Garstka like to hear.
So let’s get this out of the way.
Fire Up, Chips!
My wife and children will tell you, however, that I don’t really hate college football and I’ll never be able to let it go. It’s the greatest sport ever played.
Which brings me to tonight’s invocation in which I shall invoke a saying created by a guy named Phillip John Fleck, Jr.
You know him better as PJ Fleck
He’s the guy that taught my WMU Broncos to “Row the Boat” for four years and currently has the University of Minnesota Gophers rowing strongly today in the Big Ten West Division.
So what is it? What does “Row the Boat” mean?
It is a never give-up mantra. It is something that combines the future, the present, and the past together to inspire people to be their best. It goes like this:
When rowing a boat, your back is to the bow (the front of the boat), which represents the future. It means, as you row, you can’t see what’s ahead of you in that very moment. None of us have any idea what the future holds for us. We don’t know what tomorrow or even the next moment brings and it can change in an instant.
But that uncertainty is what gives our lives value and meaning.
Well, that and the number 42 for those who are seeking the answer to the ultimate question.
When rowing a boat, you row in the present moment with your own oar. That is the only thing you can control right now and it belongs only to you. Making choices and decisions of how you handle and think about the now is a choice of one person. You are either rowing … or you’re not.
You either quit in the now or you don’t.
Yes, it is possible that you won’t get picked to be part of “the team” but how you move from here isn’t up to someone else.
It is up to you. And it is only up to you.
Don’t let the fear of the future or the pain of the past stop you from rowing towards your dreams.
When rowing a boat, you are facing the stern (the back of the boat) which symbolizes the past. You’re looking at where you have already been. The only thing we should do with the past is to learn from it. With every stroke, we grow.
It’s not easy to let the past go, but doing so allows us to focus our energy on the present.
Understanding our traditions empowers us to make strong decisions in the present that lead to an even stronger future.
And so, tonight my advice to President-elect Carol Pickelmann and all the local presidents and board members who will be sworn into office over the next few weeks is this. And it is the same advice that PJ Fleck shares every day. Learn from, appreciate, and embrace your past to create your future.
Row in the present and always be optimistic and hopeful.
Don’t let the sea, especially when it gets choppy, dictate where you go.
And you keep rowing.
The most important thing is to keep rowing.
Today … or Never.
That’s up to you.
Oh … and one more thing.