Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pursuing A Passion

This is a story about sports, but at its heart it speaks to the passion that we all strive to pursue in our own daily lives.

To those of us in the Diabetes Community, an Indiana man named Brad Stevens could have been a piece of the larger puzzle we experience in Living with Diabetes. We should be thankful that he didn't, but we should also take a lesson from his playbook.

Out of college with an economics degree, he found a place at pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly here in Indianapolis. He scored a gig as a marketing associate, with his job description including metrics and incentives for a sales group. While it may not have been directly tied to anything related to diabetes, that could have been a part of his career or future role in marketing the Big Pharma's involvement in the Diabetes Community.

But it wasn't meant to be. While living a comfortable life as a recent college grad, the Lilly spot didn't entice him as much as his lifelong passion for basketball. He'd played since he was 5, and was a high school and college player. A modest and humble one, at that. He didn't see that being his career, so he went for a "real job" at Lilly. Though he was volunteering outside Lilly, he wanted more. So, he quit Lilly to pursue that passion. He took a job at Applebee's, and his girlfriend at the time went back to law school in case his dream didn't work out. He volunteered to work at Butler's basketball camp and he soon worked his way up the ranks, taking the head coaching job in 2007.

In an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer on April 3, Brad's wife is quoted as saying: "We were 23 and realized this was our chance. Five years down the road, we were probably not going to be in a position to do that. The more success you had at Lilly, the harder it would be to leave."

In his first year, Stevens led Butler to 30 wins, becoming the third-youngest head coach in NCAA Division I history to have a 30–win season. This year as we've now all witnessed, Stevens broke the NCAA record for most wins in a coach's first three years. The Butler Bulldogs finished undefeated in conference play, becoming the first Horizon League team to do so. At age 33, Stevens led Butler to the first Elite Eight and Final Four in school history, becoming the second–youngest head coach to coach in the NCAA National Championship game. With 4,200 students, Butler was the smallest school to play for the title since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985 and fourth-smallest overall. Sports broadcasters and analysists are saying this is the best competive game they've ever witnessed, and the team's journey this season is still being compared to what the Milan team did in 1954 for high school basketball and led to the 1986 film Hoosiers. Meanwhile, Stevens is dubbed a coaching prodigy and compared to John Wooden.

All because he had a passion, and left the ranks of Eli Lilly to pursue a dream.

Since the Final Four came to Indianapolis a week ago (as it does every 5 years, as the NCAA HQ is here), the city has been awash with optimism, hope, spirit. It's brought fans in from across the country. Granted, I haven't traditionally been a Butler fan. Even in the final matchup to get to the championship game, I was rooting for Michigan State - as I am from Michigan, and my dad's got a law degree that has MSU's letters on it. Personally, my alma mater is Oakland University - which got to Dance this year for the second time ever after its Dancing debut in 2005. Sadly, OU got knocked out in the 1st round - but they'll be back. Go Grizzlies!)

Aside from my home-state alliances, Butler has been a favorite of mine and it's grown on me as the season's progressed. This team embraces what basketball, any sport, this city or any city, should be about. It's how we should all strive to pursue our passions and play well to defy expectations. It's been a pretty remarkable season.

Overall, a man's passion is what brought us here. Truly, Brad Stevens is an inspiration who can teach us all - whether we are basketball fans and followers or not. His message is clear:

Do what you love. Do it because you love it, not because of the money or the stability of it. I realize that it's easier said than done in reality, but it's something that can very much heal and rekindle the soul. Ultimately, your passion will mean you do the job well and that will lead to more opportunities than may have ever been contemplated. The playing field doesn't matter - Basketball. Writing. Journalism. Diabetes Advocacy. New D-Management tools. Research for a cure. Wherever your passion is found. Point is, All Roads End Here, in a place where the passion can be found. Who knows... Maybe someday you'll make it into the history books.

3 comments:

Rachel said...

this means a lot to me right now.

sugabetic said...

Well said, Michael. My passion is photography. Lucky for me, I can use it as my side job. I don't live in a big enough area to be able to do it full time. So, I get to "play" with my camera more rather than worry about big photo shoots.

amylia said...

About to graduate with my MFA in Creative Writing and in such an economy as this, this poet needed to hear that! Thanks for sharing.