Sometime around my sophomore year of high school, baggy haired and pimply faced, I knew the script to the rest of my life. You see, I had spent so much time letting doctors fix all my sports injuries that I thought I had no other choice than to be an orthopedic surgeon.
By the age of seven, I had broken (or severely bent) my arms a whopping six times – and that’s not hyperbole. I fell off a toilet once, no kidding. I had finished a bath and the towels were on a shelf above the commode. Soapy and wet, I stood on the lid, reached for a towel and landed left-arm-first in the bathtub.
I fell off a trampoline because my hot-shot neighbor, John Shreckengost, told me to back up so he could show the cute girls how he could do a flip. I backed up all the way to the ground, right arm first.
I was tackled twice in football – once on the sidewalk, once on the curb – and both times ended in a cast. I tried to jump over a creek the size of the Grand Canyon and broke my fall with my arm landing squarely on a brick. I fell out of a tree another time because OSHA didn’t monitor our treehouse development company. I remember sitting at the foot of that tree, no feeling in my arm, thinking, “This has got to stop.”
While all my friends were swimming in the local, public pool, I sat on the steps with a plastic bag around the sweaty plaster glued to my arm. I’ll never forget the smell of those casts, nor the dirt that seeped from them, nor the size of the saw blade doctors used to remove them.
The arms were just a blip on my sports injuries. My ankles, one year, looked like softballs; I played a state championship basketball game with a broken finger that still looks more like an “s” than the normal “l.” I spent most of my high-school baseball seasons popping anti-inflammatory pills while ice numbed the tendonitis in my right elbow. And in an unsanctioned, front-yard wrestling match with one of my best buds, I separated a shoulder.
Let’s put it this way: My sports medicine doctor knew me well, so he wasn’t surprised when I approached him my freshman year of college to ask if I could work a summer job in his office to learn more about medicine.
A funny thing happened along my way to medical school, though. It turns out, my brain wasn’t wired for the sciences. I studied harder and knew my biology book better than the academics, but I couldn’t handle what should be the unlawful multiple-choice tests they give in the university setting. No, my brain was wired to think I could find truth in A.), B.), C.) and, quite obviously, D.) All of the Above. That makes for a stunningly neurotic test-taking experience.
Meanwhile, a few years earlier, one of my high school English teachers had brought a special guest to our classroom – a giant named Robert Stewart who was the strongest guy on the Alabama football team.
I remember one thing Stewart said in that 30-minute conversation with our class: Learn how to write – it will help you in nearly any career you want.
As an awkward teenager, I wasn’t smart enough to know what Stewart meant. Today, I think he was the smartest guy in the room. At the same time I was making Cs on biology tests in college, I was trying to write my first novel, which still exists somewhere on a floppy drive, never to see the light of day again.
In the 22 years since I passed my last college class, writing has been part of my life every day. It has led me to a career that has allowed me to interview sports stars, a sitting President, and thousands of people just like you and me who have wonderful stories to tell.
Writing hasn’t just allowed me to write, though. I discovered I loved the business of writing, and my company now owns five separate entities.
And even better, I’ve gotten to work with brilliant people, all who shared the ability to write. Some of those people work in the marketing world now, creating amazing campaigns across the country. Two former colleagues went on to be attorneys. A half dozen have moved into politics, while some of have gone on to teach, work in the clergy or work as fundraisers. One former editor, a fantastic writer, is now an analyst for one of the world’s largest energy companies. I’ve even worked with writers who became extremely wealthy in the world of sales, and some who found their place in retail.
You see, writing isn’t just sitting at a computer with fingers moving. It’s about learning and describing what you’ve learned. It’s about thinking critically, organizing thoughts, and being so trustworthy that people will open up to you.
A few years ago, our company had the idea to pass along what I was given in high school. The Leader holds its annual Media Camp each summer to introduce young people to the world of media. We teach them about writing, about photography, about building websites and about video. They write stories, post to websites, build a photo gallery and film their own broadcast.
We’ve never had a camp where the youngsters left disappointed, and if you’re looking for an activity one week this summer for your children, you never know what switch may get turned on in their minds.
The ages of children who can attend is 10-15, and this year’s camp will be held from July 8-12 at our office.
If you’d like more information about our camp, you’re more than welcome to email me at the address below.
These days, a lot of us don’t like to talk about “media,” with its negative connotations. But what we do at The Leader, and in our company, is not “media” in the national, angry sense. We believe in telling great stories about great people and important topics. And if you think your children may be interested, we’d love to show them the way.