Learning for Life

by Dave Hanks

Some experiences in life stand above others as attitude shapers and lifestyle modifiers. My college athletic education was one of those. In fact, to compare it to the classroom would be unfair. It’s value to me stood “head and shoulders” above the academic learning I experienced. While the college curriculum was mind expanding, much of that type of learning came later while on the job. But participation in sports was a tremendous course in human nature and relationships.

All levels of individuals facilitated this learning process. Starting with the President of the University, who was an SOB, I learned that positions of authority are not necessarily staffed by people with high levels of integrity and that you had better recognize it. Two of the coaches fit that same category while others were somewhat more human. Added to that mix was the vastly divergent personalities of teammates and opponents, and rival school anti-Mormon attitudes. This later attitude, though well camouflaged, at times “leaked” from the head coach who was a Baptist. He never felt comfortable at BYU and it’s a wonder that he was ever hired. I’m convinced that LaVell Edwards great success was first “rooted” in the fact that he had a total understanding of the “Mormon psyche”.

From all the applied pressures, the rantings, the cussings, and in some cases coaches who provided the opposite extreme; I learned much about what does and what doesn’t motivate. Another lesson was how valueless lip-service is and how important is a quiet resolve. You learn that the truly dependable are few while the majority are not. I confess to having become a cynic when it comes to human palaver. Talk is not only worthless, at times it’s downright disgusting. Other things learned were: self discipline, a drive for perfection in all areas, and the experience of physical exertion that the average “Joe” has no concept of. However, mental/emotional aspects outrank the physical – the physical aspect is so closely matched betweenteams that only a slight edge turns out to be a huge difference.

Teamwork, competition, work ethic, getting yourself up when knocked down, etc. are recognized as values worth learning. One thing that is never mentioned is compassion. Compassion for the “other guy” because my success results in his failure. I have sat in losing dressing rooms as both a player and a coach and I guarantee that it is a miserable experience. This realization has made me less critical of how someone else performs a task. Knowing how it feels in the other locker room, I have never rejoiced in the victory but only rejoiced in the escaping from defeat.

There are those who think athletics should be de-emphasized or even done away with. How naive! Extra curricular events are every bit as valuable as the classroom and that is not to demean that area of one’s education. School sports can be a tremendous unifier, especially for LDS church members who may not have much in common otherwise. I am not the typical sports fiend, but I am deeply grateful for the enriching and life expanding gift that my athletic experience bestowed upon me!

Eyes of Love

Have you ever noticed a penny on the ground? Did you stop and pick it up? Many times I’ve stood by my school room and beheld a penny on the hallway floor. Students would invariably pass over and not give it a second glance. They paid no attention to something they attached little value to. After a time, not wanting it to clutter the floor, I would rescue the coin and put it in a proper place. Where little value is ascribed, little observation occurs and poor understanding results.

When in the Registered Angus Cattle business, I cherished every cow in the herd. I could look at them lined up at the manger, from their back ends, and identify every individual and give a summation of each one’s traits. To others they all looked alike. But I had a deep love for Angus cattle and therefore noticed things easily. At a Utah State Fair, strolling with my wife through the pavilion that housed art exhibits, we came upon a lady’s sculpture display. She had an excellent one of a bovine bull. She had titled it “Angus”. Though the workmanship was very good, the title did not fit the subject. It was obvious that she had little real understanding of cattle. Wanting to know my thoughts, I was unable to convey to her that “feel” that was needed to have made the piece more authentic. An explanation that would be unnecessary to one absorbed with the subject matter.

My wife and I have developed an unbridled love for the natural world. Our eyes have been opened as a result and there has been a “snow-balling” effect. The more you notice, the greater the ability to notice becomes. When showing others slides of local birds and other life-forms, the comment always surfaces: “I’ve never seen any of those. Where have they been hiding?” It’s amazing – when the “covers” come off the eyes, things appear where they never were before. I’ve witnessed this marvelous event. New vistas of excitement, knowledge, and understanding results. Understanding breeds fondness. Understanding increases as fondness deepens.

Two people with affection for each other, see things in the other person which the average observer cannot comprehend. Why is this? Because there is no one who can view things with as acute accuracy as one who “looks through the eyes of love”!

(A favorite herd bull of mine)

(A favorite herd bull of mine)