You Don’t Need To Win An Award To Be A “Hall-of-Famer”

You Don’t Need To Win An Award To Be A “Hall-of-Famer”

Dan Marino and Charles Barkley are considered the best athletes in their respective sports, football and basketball. Both of them are hall-of-famers despite the fact that they didn’t win a NBA title or a Super Bowl.

There are critics who feel that Marino, Barkley, and others should not be in the hall of fame, because they didn’t win the “big one.” According to conventional wisdom, winning a championship validates your legacy and punches your ticket into the hall of fame.

As the case, many great athletes have been inducted into their hall of fames without ever winning a championship.

The greatest athletes are enshrined into a hall of fame.  Does this apply to regular people and regular life?
The greatest athletes are enshrined into a hall of fame.
Does this apply to regular people and regular life?

There is a sense in local young professional circles that if you haven’t receive an award for making a difference in your community, then your accomplishments have no value.

Last October, at a YP event, a facilitator gave a group an assignment to write their dreams and what goals they wanted to achieve individually. On a majority of “dream” lists, YPs listed a plethora of dreams, but the majority theme on their lists is being named to “important lists” such as the Business Record’s Forty Under 40 and Juice’s YP of the Year Award.

After the event, several of us YPs read what was written on each list. A few of us found it troubling to read that the “end all be all” dream of many is “winning an award”. The question we asked was whether an award, being named to a board, or being recognized as an “up and comer” should validate a young professional’s status in the Des Moines business community.

Juice and YPC will announce the 2014 winner of the YP of the Year award in early February.
Juice and YPC will announce the 2014 winner of the YP of the Year award in early February.

As someone who have won two awards for community service, there is an harsh truth about winning awards: it doesn’t always validate your status and presence in the eyes of the community.

It doesn’t raise your profile as much as you think it should. For some, it does, which is why many YPs feel that Forty Under 40, the Business Record’s yearly honor list of 40 individuals under 40 who are making great strides in Central Iowa, is such a big deal.

None of those distinctions have landed me a permanent (or better) job and a higher profile. I’ve gotten a pat on the head for being a great volunteer, but nothing else. In 2011, there wasn’t much fanfare

The “checkbox “ that YPs are using to measure each other in the area of life and career is disturbing. If we’re not obsessively networking, gathering up as mentors, and taking leadership classes, then we must be failing and not living up to the standards of “being successful”.

Have Gen Xers and Millennials fallen into the "checkbox mentality" of trying to be noticed and admired?
Have Gen Xers and Millennials fallen into the “checkbox mentality” of trying to be noticed and admired?

It’s the Gen X/Millennial version of the “rat race.”

Last July, Juice’s Josh Hafner asked “do YPs do more than network, find mentors, and learning about leadership?” It was a great question because he was seeing a trend that I didn’t notice. When I look back at my experience as a YP over the past decade, I have struggled more than I have achieved. I didn’t get that big promotion, lofty job title, or the things that everyone I know already has: family, house/condo, significant other, et cetera.

Hafner’s column resonated to me. Being a young professional should be more than networking for your career, being mentored by great leaders, and learning how to succeed as a leader.

You are starting to learn how to live life: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Not many YPs are going to have mentors. Either we can’t find the right mentor for the right fit, or a mentor may have no interest in mentoring you.

Many of us may be unable to sign up for leadership classes, if time permits us. There are leadership classes that will not be the best fit. Would it be better for me to take a Leadership Iowa class than GDMLI, because I’m interested in how leadership is done on a statewide basis, plus my interest level goes beyond what goes on here in Des Moines.

Despite those challenges, the list of finalists for the 2014 YP of the Year do not just sit on a bunch of boards, have a Rolodex of networks, have great jobs, and have mentors. Their interests include building houses for low-income families, encouraging women to run for elected office, raising money for children with serious illnesses, among other activities.

YPs understand that we have lives outside of the professional world and cultivating our individual lives is paramount for our sanity.

Gen X and Millennials are now experiencing their own “rat race” to success.

I have accepted that I will never be named to the Forty Under 40 list. I’ve never had the career or job that I could advance up the ladder in and have it linked to the activities I have done or doing in the community.

There are too many factors going against me for this honor. I’m at peace with never getting it. That’s one less thing I have to worry about.

I never sought out to win the YPC Ashley Okland Community Service award or receive the Iowa Governor’s Volunteer award. It was never a goal. Individuals nominated me because they felt that a person who is dedicated to what they love and believed in should be honored.

I never bring those awards up to brag or remind people about. Nobody cares.

It’s 2015, not 2011.

It’s nice to have them, but how many people remember that I received them?

I volunteer and network because I enjoy staying busy and giving back in a small way. Personally, it takes my mind off of feeling lonely and dealing with my own personal battles (health, lack of work). If volunteering and connecting people make a difference in one person’s life, I consider that a victory.

YP of the Year Award finalists (from left) Josh Dryer, Andrea Woodard, LaVerne Greenfield, Megan Ruble, Brianne Sanchez, Emilee Richardson, and Tyler DeHaan, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015, at the YPC 2015 Kick Off event at Jasper Winery in Des Moines. (Juice)
YP of the Year Award finalists (from left) Josh Dryer, Andrea Woodard, LaVerne Greenfield, Megan Ruble, Brianne Sanchez, Emilee Richardson, and Tyler DeHaan, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015, at the YPC 2015 Kick Off event at Jasper Winery in Des Moines. (Juice)

In her blog “BS in the Midwest”, Brianne Sanchez wrote about being fortunate in living in a city that let’s her do her job, pursue her passions and hobbies, spend time with her family, friends, and colleagues. Also, she never feel stressed out to hit those “self-made benchmarks” that most of us YP’s have unconsciously set for ourselves.

“Whether or not I “win” the YP award in February, the fact the I get to go to work in a job I love and live in a community that lets me pursue and explore so many ideas (and embraces me when all I want is to hang out in my sweatpants), is a huge reward in itself.”

Is an athlete a Hall-of-Famer, if they never won a championship?  The answer is yes.

Is someone a “Hall-of-Famer” if they don’t receive an honor or award, based on their accomplishments?

That answer should always be “yes.”


That One Night I Stopped By Bru’s Desk…

That One Night I Stopped By Bru’s Desk…
The newsroom at the new offices for the Des Moines Register. (Des Moines Register)

Three weeks ago, Amy Jennings, Eric Olmscheid, Emily Abbas, and I were invited by Des Moines Register business writer Lynn Hicks to take a tour through The Des Moines Register after a “14 People to Watch in 2014” panel at Capital Square. I had toured the new Register offices before (thanks to Josh Hafner), but I decided to go anyway, but for a more selfish reason. It was a chance to visit a couple of fellow Wartburg alums.

Randy Brubaker in particular, “Bru” as we called him.

As Waterloo natives and Wartburg guys, it was natural for the both of us to playfully needle each other about which school was better (I went to East, Randy went to West), what’s going on in Des Moines, the business of the news media, and more importantly, our love for Wartburg. You see, for those who may not understand small colleges in Iowa, schools like Wartburg are pretty special and unique in their own way. When it comes to Wartburg, the alumni are like a family. It’s a cliché, I know, but here’s the deal: there is so many Wartburg alums in Des Moines, we called ourselves the “Orange Mafia” or as I dubbed it “Wartburg South”.

Be it Outflys, school-sponsored gatherings, et cetera, we all show up…dressed in orange and black. The bond between Wartburgers is pretty strong. They’re friends for life, even if we’re 2,000 miles away.

Waterloo was another common bond that Randy and I shared. Waterloo is, what former Register Waterloo bureau chief Jack Hovelson described, a “Joe Six-Pack town.” It’s a blue-blooded industrial city, rooted in John Deere green. The both of us knew how Waterloo was growing up: racially diverse, amid socioeconomic issues, were among major factors of the makeup of the city. East and West High, to a certain level, embodies the competitive mindset that represents the city: the blue-collar east-siders vs. the white-collar west-siders. Black vs. white. Industrial vs. Professional.

Despite all of that, we were from Waterloo and we were damn proud of being from there. It was because we were in it together and learned how to live and do things together.

Randy Brubaker (Andrea Melendez/Des Moines Register)

I broke away from the tour and stopped by Randy’s desk. He was coming back from the break room, with a small plate of fruit, cheese, and crackers. First thing I asked was “How are you doing?” It was important for me to ask him this. The past 5 months has been a difficult one for him. His wife, Jan, passed away in January. I went to the funeral. Randy and his two sons having to mourn a wife and mother. Dowling Catholic students mourning a loss of a counselor.

Randy said he was doing okay. He was happy that things started to slow down in the newsroom. During the early part of the week, the old downtown Younkers building fire was the major story for the Register. As senior news director, his job was to oversee the stories that were going to be printed (or put online).

Over the next 10 minutes, he described in details about the new Register webpage, how the newsroom “command control” operated (a long HD interactive board that had CNN, ESPN, Bloomburg, etc on streaming and the Register’s website live), and what Steph Boeding was up to over in Design Studio. Steph was another member of the “Orange mafia.”

Bru gave back to Wartburg, When I say he gave back, it wasn’t always money. He gave his time to students in Comm Arts, served on panels, offered advice, and helped students and graduates get their feet planted in the media business. Many who have established their own careers continue to call Bru for advice, bounce an idea off of him, or needing a little encouragement.

Well respected and admired in the Iowa media, when Bru offered his thoughts or ideas, people listen. Never one to be demonstrative or loud, Bru was the guy to talk to when a news story came up.

Randy emailed me on July 19, 2011, a week after I wrote a blog post marking the 30th anniversary of the slayings of Waterloo police officers Wayne Rice and Michael Hoing.


How’re you?

I thought your blog post about T-Bone Taylor and your family connection was interesting, so I passed the link on to Randy Evans, our editorial page editor to look at.

With your permission, he might be interested in publishing a version of that blog on the op-ed page. It might take a bit of collaboration/editing, of course.

If you’re interested, let me know – and I’ll pass your email address on to the “other” Randy so he can get in touch with you!



Randy passed the story idea along to Randy Evans. It didn’t move forward after that point, but as far as I was concerned, that was one of the best compliments I’ve ever received…

…from a guy who runs the newsroom at the most widely read newspaper in the state of Iowa.

(Note: this past March, the suspect, Michael “T-Bone” Taylor, and one of the officers who captured him, Iowa State Patrolman Marvin Messerschmidt died within a week of each other.)

Randy Brubaker speaking to a class at The University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication. (University of Iowa)

After we talked about how Wartburg baseball and softball were doing, Randy had to get back to work. We shook hands, give each other a big hug, and he said:

“How ’bout those Wahawks?”

I couldn’t help but to smile and laugh and playfully shouted “Whoo!” as I headed down the hall to join Lynn and the group. Bru had a big smile on his face. A West Wahawk getting the last word on an East High Trojan.

On the following Monday, a friend, Nathan Groepper, posted on Facebook that Bru had a heart attack. A stent was place where the blockage was at, and he went home to rest.  Randy was expected back in the office on May 5, 2014….


That return has been postponed….permanently.

Randy passed away, from heart failure, on Saturday May 3rd.

That “selfish endeavor” to go up to visit him three weeks ago is one I will cherish. The look on his face, beaming when he saw me standing there at his desk, was all it took. I’m grateful I took that tour. I would have been kicking myself with regrets as I write this.

Sunday was a beautiful day outside, but it was not a happy day.

Bru is gone.

There are a lot of people, colleagues, mentees, friends, and alumni who are in mourning. Two sons have lost both of their parents in a span of 4 months.

Four months.

Life isn’t fair. It has never meant to be fair, but damn, doesn’t have to be so unfair?

I lost one of my favorite guys and above all, a respected friend.


Life Disrupted

These are the kind of posts that I do not like writing about.  It is unfair for me to write it because when it comes to something of this nature, it makes me physically sick.  As an unemotional sort of fellow, I detach myself from the story, because I feel it needs to be written in a way that isn’t maudlin and all over the place.

Nevertheless, what I’m going to say will not offer solace to everyone, or make things any easier.

Because the emotions are too raw and hard for everyone to wrap around.

I write this because it is the only way for me to convey my thoughts, as fresh as they are in my in mind this evening.

Ashley Okland, a real estate agent for Iowa Realty, was found shot in a model home in West Des Moines Friday afternoon.  She passed away a short time later at Iowa Methodist Medical Center.

I didn’t know Ashley very well, but we were acquainted through our membership with the Young Professionals Connection, an organization that is affiliated with the Greater Des Moines Partnership.

Ashley was well respected and very liked.  I didn’t write that because it was easy to say it.

Because that sentence is true.

YPC is like a little family.  Well, not little, but nevertheless everyone knows everyone in YPC.  We meet for gatherings, committee meetings, or run into each other outside of YPC.  When someone leaves town for another job or something new, it’s tough but manageable.  We celebrate someone’s promotion and weddings.  We offer support when someone is laid-off or is having a bad day.

But when something like this happens, unexpectedly, senselessly, and tragically, it makes that small “big” circle feel broken.  And empty.

This week, has been, in no other words, a tough, draining, sad week for a lot of people.  From the death of Sgt. Eric Stein, the senseless car accident that claimed the life of Chad Wells in Altoona, to this evening’s horrific and deplorable act, there is sadness, people searching for answers, and broken hearts.

Life disrupted.

Life in disarray.

It is my hope that all of us who knew Ashley will not just relive the memories and the good moments, but also to take one thing that she said or did that stood out to you, and apply it to your lives.

That should be the best and most lasting way to honor Ashley Okland.

Flowers will wilt away, the mourning will end, and we have to move on in our lives, but the lessons that someone provides, whether their time is short or long, is something that will be passed on every day.

Those are the only comments I will make on this.  No other words are needed.


I was asked to post the following information with regards to the upcoming events that will take place later this week.

  • Visitation will be held Tuesday, April 12, at Fjeldberg Lutheran Church, 209 N. 2nd Ave. in Huxley, Iowa from 4 to 8 p.m. A Celebration of Life will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 14, at Lutheran Church of Hope, 925 Jordan Creek Pkwy, West Des Moines, Iowa. A burial will be held in Huxley.
  • The Young Professionals Connection Social Hour-Fundraiser for the Big Brothers/Big Sisters’ Bowl for Kids Sake has been changed.  YPC members will not bowl or raise money for Big Brothers/Big Sisters.  The event has been changed to celebrate Ashley’s life and the donations received will be given to the Ashley Okland Memorial Fund.  The event will be held Thursday 4/14/11, at Catoors, 1306 Grand Ave. in West Des Moines.
  • This post will remain “sticky”, as we call it on the blogosphere, until Thursday morning.  “Sticky” simply means that this will remain as the headline blog.  Any new posts will be below this post.  There are those who be looking up for more information or to read reactions to this story.
  • Lastly, and this is personal, someone has to know, or saw something near the model home and the area.  It would greatly disappoint me if this case grows “cold”.  The individual who committed this should not be walking the street, and you know it.  If you know anything, minuscule or significant, call the West Des Moines P.D. at  (515) 222-3363, or the Polk County Crime Stoppers at 515-223-1400.

National Sports Writing Honors for the Register and Others

The Des Moines Register sports department was honored by the APSE.


Individuals who walk into a newspaper newsroom everyday are assigned the task of reporting on stories, fact-checking, confirming sources, and writing it up so that the public is informed of what is going on. 

I have the upmost appreciation for the reporters and people who work at the Des Moines Register and newspapers world wide.  Without them, I wouldn’t know what is going on each day. 

The Des Moines Register‘s sports department deserve your attention, among three other Iowa newspapers on this Thursday.  The Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) handed out their 2010 awards, and the Register was honored on several top 10 lists in respective categories for excellent sports reporting and writing.  The Register was grouped in the 75,001-175,000 circulation level. 

Sports columnist Sean Keeler was honored in several categories by the APSE.


Several other Iowa newspapers received top honors as well. 

  • The Quad City Times:  Daily Sections for 30k-75 circulation level (honorable mention).
  • Andy Hamilton of the Iowa City Press Citizen in the category of Feature Writing for the under 30k circulation level.
  • Iowa City Press-Citizen:  Daily Sections under 15k; honorable mention for Daily Sections under 30k. 
  • Muscatine Journal:  Daily and Special Sections for under 15k

Congratulations to those who have been mentioned for being honored by one of the most reputable sports journalism organizations in the nation. 

Letter to Cityview June 19, 2006 #NBPRD

I’m continuing the National Blog Post Recycling Day (#NBPRD) celebration with this 2nd recycled post.

Background:  When Juice debuted in 2005, Cityview Magazine spend a better part of the first year slamming and ridiculing Juice for being nothing more than a fluff publication, filled with drunken young professionals at bars being pictured, and bloggers who write about their crazy lives, going out to the bars, yada yada yada.  Generally speaking, Cityview threw a blanket over all of the bloggers, including those who wrote about topics that didn’t delved into debauchery on Court Avenue.

As a way to “get back” at Cityview and clear my good name, I wrote the following below.

Cityview, where everyone in Des Moines is a target.

Courtesy of Cityview Magazine, July 19, 2006:

We named The Des Moines Register a “loser” last week for sending its reporters to blog live from concerts. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention The Register’s pubescent progeny, Juice – particularly, its staffers’ stunning ability to continually churn out blogs about absolutely nothing.

To the staff at Cityview:  thank you very much for “reading” my blog (though I doubt you ever do). I hate to tell you this, but not everything comes from a 9-year old’s diary. The last blog I wrote, which was on Monday, wasn’t ripped out of a kid’s coloring book. It was a personal perspective about the slayings of two police officers in 1981 and the impact it is had to a city and its citizens 25 years later.

The little girl who writes in her diary didn’t write about the suicide of Dr. Stephen Gleason, the comical follies that is Nan Stillians and the Des Moines School District, and a perspective about whether its cool or not to be a single person in the middle of a cornfield. Alright, I admit that the single person’s point-of-view wasn’t stellar reading.

Nan Stillians, left, local neighborhood critic

I know you are offering constructive criticism (if that is the word you use over there) about blogs here on Juice. Please allow me to explain myself: I don’t need a rival publisher to tell me how bad of a writer I am. I know how bad I am. I don’t have a journalism degree, nor did I attend the Writer’s Workshop at the State University of Iowa. The one positive thing I have learned from blogging is the appreciation for those who are journalists, and those who write or blog for a living.

It’s imperative to get the facts right, check your sources, and write a story that informs your readers as well as gauge their opinions. I thought I was doing that, until you informed me that my work is garbage. That is constructive criticism and I appreciate your magazine for calling it like it is. I think it’s fair that I offer the same to you.

I do this for fun and to gauge the interest of what readers want to read or talk about. You do a very good job of that at Cityview. I don’t do your job nor will I insult your intelligence on how to be a writer. My attempt is to write about things that are relevant to us as individuals. To you, I do a half-assed job of it. I take it as terms of endearment.

Marc Hansen of the Des Moines Register

I don’t aspire to be another Marc Hansen, Donald Kaul, Maury White, or Ron Maly. They would rip my work into so many pieces, Humpty Dumpty would feel sorry for me, and then laugh hysterically.

It’s fine to paint a broad stroke, but if you don’t read between the lines, there is someone who is trying to do what you expect them to do: write and open the lines of discussion on issues. If I’m not doing that, then please take it up with the publishers of the Des Moines Register. I don’t have a “right” to blog, it’s a privilege.

Childish writing is for kids. I’m an adult. I have to write like one.