Our failure competition starts soon and this was my favorite guest blog post of the year. If you are in Lonny’s professional development class, this will help you understand the guy in front of the room.
Lonny Butcher is Director of Professional Development in the College. His utility belt won’t make you a super hero, but it will help you compete for a career your mom will want to brag about to her friends. His failure story explains why we call him Batman……..
The key to failure is that at it’s best it goes beyond just teaching you a lesson or reinforcing something you should have remembered; It shapes the person you become later in life.
In 1989 I barely graduated from LSU with a BS in what was then called “Personnel Management.” At school I was neither engaged nor motivated. Most times I was barely sober. I made good money working on oil rigs. School was just a place to rest between hitches. But, my 2.2 GPA and lack of any work experience beyond scraping bird poop and painting meant I wasn’t recruited for a big job by any oil companies.
So I started my career and time marched on. Actually, it was just my job. Human Resources was ok, it paid the bills but was more like a date with a friend than a passionate affair with someone you love.
In 1994 I learned that my mom, a lifelong smoker, had esophageal cancer. She had her esophagus removed and underwent radiation to burn away whatever cancer was left. The strong, vibrant, artistic, opinionated person who could conquer anything was now frail and vulnerable. For 4 years we thought it was gone. In 1998 it came back, a tiny bit that they missed had grown. This time she went through chemo that turned her into a fragile 90 pound shell that could barely lift her head. Eventually she was in the hospital with a feeding tube.
My mother died on August 9, 1999; four weeks before I started a chance gig as an adjunct instructor in UCFs College of Business. In the classroom I learned that I could reach students like me who were not high performers. Students who weren’t stupid, just distracted by life or unfocused. I could arm them with something (knowledge) that would save them later. I loved teaching. It was the first activity that was important enough to me that I wanted to be good at it. Just doing wasn’t good enough. I wanted to be awesome because I knew the better I was and the better my class was, the better off my students would be. Class content had to be real; I didn’t care if it was hard. Mom was a reformed smoker in her last years; I was a reformed slacker.
To put it politely, mom was disappointed with my student years. I know because she told me. After graduation, I never did anything (with the exception of giving her a grandson that she loved) to make up for being such a schmuck. After she died, I found it.
The Ambassadors call me Batman because of a crass (but amusing!) rant I went on during a meeting. It’s even on my DSP jersey. I like the nickname. Batman doesn’t have a superpower, he’s just some dude. But he’s driven to do what he does because of what happened to his parents. And no matter how many bad guys he puts away, he can never get them back. He can never reconcile the thing that pushes him to act.
All I want to hear is that my mom is proud of me. That I finally found a way to make up for wasting my opportunity to go to college. If I can help a student in any way I will. That means calling them out for making excuses or doing dumb stuff. If a class isn’t effective, I want to fix it. If a service isn’t effective, I want to change it. And I want to do those things immediately.
Because spending time talking about doing instead of doing awesome things keeps me from making up for my failure.