Sunday, January 27, 2008

JWN: The Power of Our Words

The Power of Our Words

“Our words will always do one of two things; build people up or tear them down.”

I put much value in the written and spoken word. Nothing impresses me more than a well written or spoken individual. You know exactly the type of person I’m talking about; they speak with ease and command respect with even their simplest notes.

Where does this eloquence come from?

It comes from a few things;

1) Reading. People with the greatest command of words are generally those that read the most. Expose yourself to more words. Also, use a dictionary! I always keep one near my desk (where I do the most writing).

2) Writing. Put the pen to the paper and give it a shot. Rewrite and revise. Get somebody to look your work over.

3) Thinking before you speak. The best speakers are usually the best listeners. They have well processed thoughts that are communicated with carefully chosen words.

How does this affect you?

1) Your words are your image. Know what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. That combination sets the tone for how people will view you.

2) Your words facilitate respect (or disrespect). Speak and write like a professional and you will be respected as a professional.

3) Your words affect others. This comes back to that first quote. Life is about the relationships you have. The words you use strengthen or weaken those bonds.

Mr. Gary Vail, a mentor to me and former Athletic Director at Windsor Central School District, always told me (and his other athletes), “Perfect practice makes perfect.” This applies to writing as well. Do it and do it well.

I’m a bit of a perfectionist at times (a strength and a weakness). In fact, I’m borderline OCD when it comes to writing; especially personal articles and of course, The VIP Profiles. I value myself at a high level, so I want my words to make people think of me at that level.

It comes back to a principle I discussed in my article “Commanding a Presence” (click here to read it). Just as you need to dress the part you want to play, you need to speak the part you want to play. If you want to be a great computer scientist, write and talk like one. If you want to be President of the United States, know how to inspire a nation.

When we think about Presidents, what is it we remember? Their speeches.

Those words are chosen very carefully. I recommend reading Abraham Lincoln’s speeches. He wrote all of his own stuff and put an incredible amount of thought time into his addresses.

There is a small memorial dedicated to those that lost their lives in the Civil War in Geneseo. It features a worn down tribute to those soldiers with the Gettysburg Address. I stopped to read that timeless speech on a run the other day. Absolutely brilliant!

Think about how often you verbally communicate during the day. What are your words saying about you?

Since I was young, my parent’s always urged me not to fall into the trap of writing with poor grammar in emails or on instant messaging services. That stuck with me and it should strike a chord in you.

Read that email over (at least once) before you send it out; especially if it’s going to your boss. In a world of ultra fast communication, many people just write and fire away.

That’s a mistake. It only takes another minute or two to edit that email before you hit send. All hastiness shows is a lack of respect.

KEY HINT: Start now with your written correspondences. Write complete sentences. Capitalize. Punctuate. Show off your diction. Make this process automatic.

“How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” – E. M. Forster

Pay attention to your words as they create the image you present to the world. Think before you speak and edit what you write.

Warmly yours, ~JWN

David Mammano

David Mammano

“I get paid for this?”

Dave and I met at his office (an everyday house gone media empire home base) in Victor, New York. I was first struck by the fun everyone seemed to be having there. They all seemed to enjoy what they were doing; jokes, laughter, and productivity pervaded the air. It was inspiring. Then I sat down with Dave, founder and CEO of Next Step Publishing, Inc. Here I found the culture source. A giddy, energetic, and motivated man with a passion for helping high school students wake up in five years saying, “I get paid for this?” A feeling he has been blessed with since the inception of Next Step Magazine 13 years ago. The publication has a readership of nearly 1,000,000 all over the United States. It is my pleasure to feature Dave’s insights on work, family, and life. ~JWN

VIP: What got you into the career plan that you have taken? In addition, I also noticed you had an incredible afro in high school…

David Mammano (DM): I see you’ve checked out the website. ( Yes, I had a very desirable afro. (Laughs). I went to college to be a dentist and then I changed my major to be a TV reporter. After that, I changed my idea to be in sales for advertising. I worked for the school newspaper at the University of Buffalo and loved it.

I found my calling through bouncing around a lot. A lot of students don’t. They go to college and they don’t know why they’re in college. A lot of students say, “I had to go to college. It was an expectation. I’m here and I’m majoring in this but I don’t know if I like it.” Then when they graduate they might realize that they’ve wasted four years of their life and a $100,000 plus.

That is exactly what the magazine is about. It is to help you while you are in high school with the information that you need so you can end up at college and say, “I picked this place because I like kids, I did an internship, and this is what I want to do.”

That’s what our magazine offers; a lot of articles that will enable you to hit the ground running with life after high school while you’re still in high school.

We’ll do a lot of college prep articles; how to choose a major, how to assess yourself, how to find out what your factory installed equipment is.

There is a theory and I happen to agree with it that when you’re born 65% of you is just who you are. You can’t change that. The rest is parents, environment, upbringing, and opportunities. For example, my sister and myself; same mother, same family, same house, same dad, same upbringing, same everything but we’re completely different. She’s not a bad person. I’m not a bad person. We’re just completely different people.

So, how do you explain that? It’s that 65% factory installed equipment. The rest is the other stuff; drive, environment, all that.

When you’re in high school it’s great to find out what that kind of equipment you have so you can
lean towards that direction for your career and major. We do stuff like that for the magazine and online. We’re actually adding the Holland Career Assessment tool to our site.

Students can find out a little bit about who they are and then learn about how to take that information and find the right colleges and choose the right major. We help them through the SAT process and the financial aid process. We help them explore different career ideas and we advise them on internship ideas.

We also help them a lot with life skills. College, career, and life are our three main categories. That can be public speaking, how to dress for success, how to write a resume, how to budget your time, items like that.

If someone is a true “Next Stepper;” they read the magazine, they’ve signed up on the website, and they get our e-newsletter “Next News.” Then they’ll really be able to do the research necessary to hit the ground running when they get out of school. Instead of most students who after college say, “Now what do I want to do?”

Dave's two wonderful children; Gianluca & Melania

The chat then moved to our mutual passion of leadership…

DM: I was just at an all day seminar yesterday with my leadership coach John Engels. I took an eight month course from him and I meet with him on a regular basis. He offers a retreat every year which reintroduces the principles and philosophies of his Advanced Leadership Course. Although I’ve learned them about a dozen times, it’s always good to go back, take a deep breath, and be there for the day in a different environment.

John Engels is great. He’s got some incredible ideas. His website is

VIP: Who are three people that you would like to meet?

DM: I would like to meet Abraham Lincoln. He endured so much adversity in his life yet saved the country. Just the way he lived his life was very honorable. Team of Rivals is a great book about him.

Another person I’d like to meet is Benjamin Franklin. His ingenuity was incredible. He was a business man, philosopher, actor, scientist, diplomat, and ambassador. It would be fascinating to have some drinks with him.

Those two are dead. So, let’s try to find somebody alive that I would like to meet. I think it would be interesting to meet Nelson Mandela. I think he has a modern day Ghandi type of presence. He’s somebody who has lived through such turmoil in his country. He shows the ultimate of stoic patience. Character wise it appears that there aren’t many flaws.

If I could add a fourth it would be Selma Hayak because she’s just so darn hot. (Laughs).

VIP: What is your favorite candy bar?

DM: Snickers. If there are Snickers around I have a tough time staying away from them. However, if you were to ask my favorite snack it would be Nutella. Put that on some bread and you could gain ten pounds in a day.

In high school I ran track, cross country, and skied. If I didn’t exercise I would be fifty pounds heavier because I eat like a stallion. I don’t eat bad food. I eat good food, but my portions are astounding. I’m Italian and I married a Sicilian actually from Sicily. She and her mother are tremendous cooks. I’ve gained at least twenty pounds since I’ve been married. Plus I went to the University of Buffalo, so you add chicken wings, beer, and beef on wick, this is what you get (rubbing his stomach).

VIP: Now, an important Buffalo question. Do you like Duff’s or the Anchor Bar’s wings better?

Dave: I was not a big fan of Duff’s. I like the Anchor Bar better because they have the more traditional wings. Duff’s wings had a little too much sauce for me.

Back to exercise…

DM: You see exercise is great for me because I’m such a hyper and manic person. It’s like a drug for me. It anchors me. I have a much longer fuse when I work out. If I don’t work out for a few days in a row I get tense a lot quicker and things will anger me quicker. When I work out, it mentally and physically puts me in another place.

VIP: What is your exercise routine like?

Dave: Actually, it’s funny. I do a fitness series called Beach Body workouts. There is cardio and weights. It is done by this guy who is supposedly a “Trainer to the Stars,” Tony Horton. It is a half an hour program you follow along to. Some of those programs get a little feminine, “Alright ladies…” This one has one woman in the background for the eye candy but Tony is a manly man so you don’t feel like an effeminate doing it.

VIP: What is your average day like?

Dave: I get up at 5 AM, read and exercise. Then I eat breakfast with my family. I have a son who is four and a daughter who is two. I’ll come to work by 8 AM. Then I will make phone calls, be in meetings, be on sales calls, and answer emails. I do get out of the office a lot. I have a lot of outside appointments. I’ll travel to New York, Chicago, etcetera. I try to be home by six for dinner with the family. Then I hang out with the kids and work on the “to-do” list from the wife. And, I try to be in bed by ten. That is my ideal day.

When I do that I feel great. When I am able to read and workout in the morning it sets the runner for a great day.

VIP: What do you usually read in the morning?

DM: I usually read books that are about my field, other business books, biographies, motivational stuff. I’m reading a book right now called Screw It, Let’s Do It by Richard Branson. My flaw with reading though is I start too many books at once.

Other good authors are Jeffrey Gitomer, Tony Robbins, Earl Nightengale, and Jim Rohn. Jim’s programs are incredible.

VIP: What are some of your goals with Next Step Magazine?

Dave: Our strategic plan is involving more and more teens into the Next Step Community; our print magazine, our website, and our social community on the website. We want to be the Facebook of college and career planning. If you want to come online and network with friends about social stuff, Facebook is perfect. But, if you want to have a focused community on helping you with your next step after high school, choosing your career, and your college, you come to us.

Let’s say you’re in high school and you’re interested in finance and you think you want to go to school in New York some place. Wouldn’t it be great if you could enter that in the website and have college students who can act as mentors for you? Or, if you want to get a job you can find mentors for that as well. So, continuing to create this focused community is the goal.

We are striving to do more and more of this stuff on whatever media it takes. Video, cell phones, etcetera. More and more in helping students find their right career. That is my hope with Next Step. I want to help high schoolers find their path.

If you like music, what if you got paid to lead a band or be a music teacher? The path you’re following, you’re going to wake up in about five years and pinch yourself saying, “I get paid to do this?” That is the goal.

Thirteen years I’ve been doing that. We just celebrated thirteen years with Next Step. That is the sweet spot of life right there. I don’t go to a factory and punch a clock. There are no calluses on my hands. I go to work, but it’s not really “work.”

That’s how I want to help students. I want to help them assess who they are and give them ideas about what direction to take that assessment in. Here are five great careers that really match who you are and then provide information about those careers, and colleges that go along with them.

We want to be THE resource for life after high school.

VIP: I’m curious about Brand University, your recent higher education marketing enterprise.

DM: I started that because a lot of my clients are colleges and I noticed they are admissions experts, not marketing experts. So, a lot of their ads, quite frankly, sucked. I created that for my college clients to teach them about effective branding, marketing, and advertising. So far, so good.

I turn that into a lot of my key note talks. It is a nice free resource for a lot of my clients. The best way to be seen as an expert is to get published right? I’m lucky because I’m a publisher.

David Mammano

CEO & Founder

Next Step Publishing Inc.

Coach Chris Straub

Chris Straub:

Elizabethtown Cross Country and Track Coach

Tough Love

By: Ryan Mulcahy

“Boys, today’s workout is the infamous ‘Will Power.’ It is our chance to go old school and forget about all that physiological bullshit and find out what demons you have inside. This is your first chance of the year to let those bastards out. There are a few guidelines that you will follow; No freshman will exceed 8 x 1,000m repeats. No upper classman will exceed 10 x 1,000m repeats. This workout is designed to test you mentally as much as physically. It is the hardest workout you will ever do and I can almost guarantee that no DIII schools in the nation are doing anything like this.”

“Gentlemen, you will begin today’s ‘Will Power’ workout with 4 miles at lactate threshold (LT). Your first mile will be at slow end, and you will control your rhythm and drop at least 5 seconds per mile over the rolling hills to Maytown. Upon finishing the 4 miles at LT, you will have a half mile jog recovery to the Maytown Park where your spikes will be waiting for you. This leads to our second stage of the workout. Once you are spiked up, you will begin 1,000 meter repeats on the cinder path outlining the park. Your recovery time is 90 seconds and you will begin at goal race pace for 8k and continuously drop 3 seconds per repeat to carry on this section of the workout. When you cannot continue this progression, you will be pulled from this section of ‘Will Power.’ Put your training shoes back on and help encourage your teammates who are finishing their repeats. When every member is finished, you will take the half mile jog recovery back to where you finished the 4 miles at LT and begin the 3rd section by doing 4 miles back to the vineyards. You must run within 1 min of your LT time from the first 4miles. You will be given the next section of the workout after you finish this.”

On September 21st, 2004 the men’s team of Elizabethtown College set out on this journey of a workout. I was a young freshman who came into the program as one of the top recruits ever. This isn’t saying much. Most of the best athletes were 4:50 milers and 10:40 two milers out of high school, but I was determined to make an impact. Needless to say, I was a bit arrogant. I had a chip on my shoulder. It didn’t help that my older brother Sean, a senior captain the previous year, told the team I would run top 7 by Nationals.

How many high school runners are doing workouts longer than 5 miles? Not many. The longest workout I had ever been faced with was a mini ‘Will Power’ Sean had designed 2 weeks before my league meet in high school. That workout totaled 5 ½ miles and I collapsed upon finishing. So, what am I to think when this 5’8” man with dark hair and an excited voice says to me, “Mulcahy. You were 18 seconds slower on the 4 miles back. Spike up!” Spike up? What the hell is he talking about? I’m done. I am exhausted and pissed off at the world. I have already done 11 miles of sub 5:50 pace today.

At this point I am too tired to unlace my double knotted shoes. But when senior captain Chris Williams yelled out, “Let’s fucking roll boys!” I somehow found the energy to rip them off of my nasty blistered feet and pull my spikes on. This is the essence of ‘Will Power.’ Taking more pain, more volume, and more discomfort than you ever have before. It truly makes you feel like a badass in your own mind.

“Do not look at your watch! You are to run on guts and desire. Forget about dropping 3 seconds every repeat and just fucking hammer this! This is your chance to prove to me, to your teammates, and especially to yourself, how tough you really are. Ready? GO!”

Christopher Straub has been the head Men’s Cross Country and Track Coach at Elizabethtown College for 10 years. In 2007 he became head coach for the women’s team. Born in Camden, New Jersey, his family moved to Pennsylvania when he was 6 years old. He grew up in the town of New Cumberland along the Susquehanna River. It is here where he attended Red Land High school, the birthplace of his running adventures. After graduating high school in the late 80s, he attended James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Straub with his 2007 NCAA qualifying women’s team. They were ranked 8th in
the region and finished fourth, earning an at large bid.

Chris placed 9th in the AAA Pennsylvania Cross Country State Championships his senior year on the tough Fort Indiantown Gap course. He was recruited by two schools, James Madison University and Bucknell. The legendary coach of Bucknell was Art Gulden. He was known for taking blue collar, mediocre high school talent and making them into D-I All Americans. Who wouldn’t want to be in a program like that? Coach Gulden called Straub one evening and asked him to visit Bucknell on a day when all of the other recruits were visiting. When Straub arrived he was led to the field house with the other recruits to view a spectacular event.

At this particular time, Bucknell had a miler who was teetering on the 4 minute mile barrier. On the 200m oval of a track inside the field house, Gulden had an Engineering student rig up a revolving beam of light that was synchronized on 60 second quarter mile pace. Gulden had all of the lights dimmed, instructed his miler to stay in the single beam of light for one mile. In the last 25 meters the miler’s stride and pace slightly buckled causing him to finish in 4:01. “If this doesn’t get the recruits here, I don’t know what will,” Gulden retorted.

In the end, JMU was financially a more comfortable fit for Straub and his family. He was coached by current Georgetown coach, Pat Henner who employed a blue collar coaching style. He made his athletes tougher and meaner than rattlesnakes. In 1992, Straub became the captain of JMU’s cross country team. He was named the team MVP after breaking 25 minutes for 8k and placing 3rd at the CAA Conference meet. On this particular day, JMU beat their rival school William and Mary and won their first ever men’s cross country title. Straub graduated from JMU in 1993 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. He then earned his Master’s in Sports Science from Miami University of Ohio.

Like many college graduates, Straub bounced around with a few jobs outside of his specialty. He was debating on pursuing his Ph.D. while working for his father in an accounting office. This is when he found a love for running again. There was a sense of dissatisfaction from his running career and he wanted to see how fast, how far, and how much his body could handle. “ULTRA” running flashed through his mind. He had already run a few marathons and decided to dive right in on 40 mile runs on the Appalachian Trail (from Maryland to Boiling Springs, PA). He would carry a few snacks, waters, and a quarter to call his wife, Traci.

Straub’s first “ULTRA” race was a 50 miler which he did extremely well in -- until 48 miles in. The last two miles were “death.” He was cheered on by a long time friend Matt Holthaus. It was not enough to just finish the 50 miles. He had to compete! Straub had to see how much pain he could take and break all barriers or limits he had previously set. He wanted to win! He finished 4th and was persuaded to run a 100 mile race several weeks later. With the same mentality, Straub went for the win. From miles 60-70 on an old fire road in the Shenandoah Mountains of Virginia he began running 6 minute miles. This was the beginning and the end. 92 miles in he was finished, after falling in a creek, losing all of his toe nails and getting yelled at by a military drill sergeant, he finished his “ULTRA” marathon running career.

As a coach at Elizabethtown College, Straub has had the opportunity to work with many hard working athletes. He has guided the program from non-existence to a force to be reckoned with. His formula for success starts with realistic goal setting for the team and individuals. Great student athlete leadership is essential to motivate and share Straub’s expectations away from practice with other athletes. This leadership came to fruition in the late 1990’s when Senior Larry Bullock led the team to a Conference Championship and a 2nd place team finish at Regionals to qualify for Nationals. This leadership and vision has continued on with countless others including; Dustin Scott, David Berdan, Sean Mulcahy, Steve Sanko, Chris Williams, Mike Zwatty, Jose Miranda, Matt Rockwell, Greg Wetzel, Patrick Donovan, Jason Theobald, and Drew Graybeal.

However, like any developing program, there were tough times. A Coach may ask himself, “Is this worth the effort?” In 2005 the Distance Medley Relay was ranked among the top D-III teams in the nation. They were fit and on a quest for the national title after running 9:58 on Valentine’s Day weekend. By the time nationals came around, two of the four athletes were down for the count; ill and injured. The stubborn athletes said nothing to Straub and went forward with their plan of attack. E-town had the lead through the first two legs with some of the best talent yet to come; future All American Tyson Evensen lining up to run the 3rd leg with XC All American Steve Sanko bringing it home. Things did not work out and E-town fell to 9th place. “After this race, I was so distraught. I didn’t know if I wanted to coach anymore. I thought to myself, ‘I have failed them.’”

Good ole southern Virginia! Summer of 2006 in Grayson County State Park, the home of Mt. Rogers (highest point in VA). From left to right, Straub, Dave Bresnahan, wild pony, Tyson Evensen.

Straub has had many accomplishments and success stories within his program at E-town. David
Berdan progressed from a 10:40 two mile time in high school to NCAA runner up in the 10k. Straub has coached roughly 20 All Americans in cross country and track & field. In addition, he has mentored 2007 NCAA pole vault champ, Kevin Clark, has a winning streak of 8 cross country conference titles, and was named the MAC coach of the year 16 times during his first 8 years.

Straub and his boys in 2004 after winning a 6th straight MAC title!

Of all of this, there are two accomplishments that stick out in Straub’s mind. The first was the Regional Championship his cross country team claimed in 2002 on the Salisbury, Maryland course. Against powerhouse Haverford College, E-town took control using their 1-2 punch; Senior Captain and All American Dustin Scott (24:55 course record) and sophomore sensation Matt Rockwell (24:59). The top 6 runners from E-town were among the top 18 of the region. “It was an amazing day. I was even yelling at the guys to shut it down in the last mile,” says Straub. This was not out of arrogance; he just wanted to save it for the next weekend in Northfield, MN. This sure as heck put the program on the map. Haverford at the time was ranked 10th in the nation. The E-town men were tough as nails and knew they had an outside chance for the podium at nationals!

The other accomplishment is the alumni. “This is why I have continued to coach,” said Straub. “When the many alumni return to various cross country and track meets, it gives me a sense of satisfaction. It makes me feel like I have made a positive impact on their lives. Ultimately, as a coach, this is my goal.”

Any serious coach will understand that there is success and failure on a daily basis. Everything should not be focused on athletic performance, but rather the impact on a student’s life. As a coach, you are a teacher, a mentor, and a friend. You only have a short time with any athlete and you need to cherish it and help them develop not only athletically but also personally. Many coaches and athletes do not take the time to look at the grand scheme of things, but this coach-athlete bond is something you will share for the rest of your lives.

If you would see Coach Straub at a meet you would think he is high strung and extremely competitive. He is! But away from the training, away from the racing, away from the team drama, he is a very down to earth individual. He has many different interests and hobbies and is a proud father of two little girls. He has a love for the outdoors and feels at ease on old mountain logged trails or in his hip waders in the middle of a trout stream with his 8 foot fly rod. He even plays a mean game of Monopoly. In addition, sometimes he ventures on the online running message boards to get new attack plans. It personally took me some time to get through his tough love demeanor. But, I do look up to him. Like one of the all-time great tough love, blue-collar Pennsylvania coaches in the business, the late Arthur Gulden of Bucknell, Coach Straub is a molder of men and builder of champions.

Ryan Mulcahy (pictured) currently attends SUNY Geneseo. His Contact information is 570.332.5741 &