Below is the 4th and final post by Aaron Cooksey. We decided the final post should be lighthearted and fun, while teaching some very important life lessons at the same time. I would like to thank Aaron for taking the time to share these lessons with our readers. His posts hold a blog record of 1500 different visitors in one day. Thank you Aaron!
As much as the guts of my programming is about choices and the consequences they can have relating to drinking and driving, I am a firm believer in creating added value for our everyday habits. I call it “Priceless Knowledge” because I do not feel you can put a value on these behaviors. I have condensed this list over the years and understand that many other things could be included. These just happen to be things that resonated with me throughout life. At the end of the day I will always be considered a felon. I am ok with that. These are things I always share when closing my program. I have the unique privilege of having a platform of 15-24 year olds and I always feel better knowing I share these with them. I realize they are all common sense, but more importantly they are FREE to do.
1. Have a firm handshake
When you get introduced to someone, have a firm handshake. I am not saying that you should try to break their digits, but let them know you are serious. It shows confidence. I do not care if you are male or female, bring confidence with your handshake.
As a guy I was raised to respect women. When I would get introduced to a lady I would extend my hand and think, “I am going to be respectful”, and they would squeeze harder than I did. I would walk away thinking “I am a sissy, I need a redo, I need a redo”. So everybody have a firm handshake.
I learned this a long time ago. I was with my dad on a cold snowy day and he ran into a guy he knew. I must have been 8 or 9 years old. He proudly introduces me to the gentleman, and I extended my hand which was covered by my coat……Nothing says “Nice to meet you” like a handful of coat. Instantly, I felt the non-coat covered hand of an angry father clenching on the back of my neck. Lesson learned, firm and proper handshake ever since.
2. Look people in the eyes
These first two go a long way in life, specifically for interviews. Have a firm handshake and look people in the eye when you talk to them, or they talk to you. Make the person interviewing you break eye contact first. I promise within 8-10 seconds they will look away. Now, I am not encouraging you to get into a creepy staring match with the person. Ha, after you leave they will say “wow that person stared at me for like 5 straight minutes”, but engage them and show you are serious and respectful.
3. Hold the door open for females
Fellas, hold the door open for women. I do not care if you know them or not. First impressions last a lifetime. I was raised to do this and always have. I complained about it as a kid and then it became a habit. I would always think that it was not appreciated until a few years back. I was holding the door open for a lady and she walks through and stops, looks at me and says, “ Good to know chivalry still exists”……Ha, you got that right lady, I am your guy! She was about 90 years old, but none the less it was appreciated. A second time involved an elderly woman who was using a walker. She was with her great-great-great (this lady was old) granddaughter. I hold the door, 5 minutes later she passes through and says, “Good to see gentleman still exist”. You know, she did not know I was ever in prison or what I did to be imprisoned. Heck, we would never meet again. However, in that moment I was just a nice guy that took some time to make her day easier. I can always live with that.
Now, you may hold a door open for a lady and she will let you know, “I am a strong independent woman and I hold my own doors”…….ummm yea and you are a rock star for it! Do you think you could hold it open for me, because I still have to get through? Point is, always offer until they make it clear they prefer to open their own doors.
4. Follow your passions in life
I wanted to be an elementary education teacher in life. Because of the choices I made I can no longer do that. What is the next best choice? For me, it is traveling the country trying to educate young adults. That is as close to a classroom as I will ever get. I am ok with that. Everybody is great at something. Generally it coincides with things we are passionate about. If you love to do it (assuming it’s safe and legal) do not let ANYONE tell you it is not possible or a waste of time.
5. Go with your gut
We have all had that experience where we say “I don't want to go” and we go anyway, only to say at the end of the night “I knew I shouldn't have went”. 6th sense, gut feeling, whatever you call it, when something doesn't feel right, it probably isn’t. That is not to say that every time you have a gut feeling something bad will happen, it will, but is it worth it to find out?
6. Be nice to everyone
I really tried to be nice to everyone growing up. Now, I am positive I do not have 100% record on this, but for the most part I was nice to everyone. I did not care who you are, what you did, what you didn’t do, or what you may do, I was nice to people until they gave me a reason not to be. Over time people can earn your respect. There is a difference. Even if you do not respect someone, you can always be nice.
7. Do not text at the dinner table
When I went to prison I realized that all the things my family did that bothered me, became the things I missed the most. Look, I text like anyone else. I get it when friends are texting from the same table to each other, but when you have the family at the dinner table for holidays or birthdays, put the phones away. Unless you are taking a colossal family picture, put them away. I promise you this: There is going to come a day when someone at that table is not going to be there anymore. You do not want to look back with regrets, “I could of, I should of…used that time better”. Andrea’s family would give up everything they own for one more dinner with their daughter. I promise they would not care about texting at the table. Do not take your family for granted. Once their gone you cannot get that time back. Use it wisely. I am raising my daughter to sit at tables without electronics. Some people disagree, luckily she is my daughter and if she doesn't know a life with a phone at the table, she cannot miss it.
8. Let the Choices You Make Today be Choices You Can Live With Tomorrow
This is actually my favorite one. I got this one from a HS in Ohio called Johnstown-Monroe. Great school with great students. This saying hangs above the entry and it holds so much value.
When I was a kid I would sneak onto this golf course near my house in the evening with a couple of clubs and golf balls. I would play until dark, or until they chased me off. Well occasionally I would hit a ball into the woods. I realized that not only could I find my ball in the woods, but also like 50 other golf balls. I became this OCD ginger hoping around the woods looking for golf balls……..Golfers would be like “You see my ball”? “Uh was it a Slazenger”? “Yea”…….. “Nope have not seen it”! Nothing ever beat finding a golf ball with a nice logo on it too! Well with this weird habit also came the most horrible bouts of poison ivy, oak and sumac you can imagine. I mean I get it BAD! So I would go home fill up the bucket with my treasures and wake up the next day COVERED in poison everything. Mom would ask where I was, and I would tell her. She says, stay out of the woods. Simple enough right? Spent my childhood itching and accumulated the greatest collection of golf balls ever!
About a year or two out of prison I was walking near the same course talking to my buddy about the misery I had running those woods. Well out in the open was a golf ball. Bent down and picked it up…..along with the rush of finding golf balls. Ran to the edge of the woods, peered left….saw like 3 of them, peered to the right….like 5 golf balls. Never forget it, 27 years old went in for ½ hour and found like 30. Woke up the next day, and you know the result. Point is, there are lessons in life I will never learn from. You can preach all day about poison ivy, oak, and its dirty cousin sumac and as soon as you are done telling me how itchy it is, I will say “where is the nearest course, I have golf balls to find”.
At the end of the day I know the consequences for those actions. I also know it is not hurting anyone but myself. However, there are lessons in life I have learned from. In an ideal world everyone that knows my story will never drink and drive. I already know that is not the case. I do not read about the ones I save, I read about the ones I didn’t. I also know that I will have to explain it all to my daughter one day. So before you make choices, just make sure you can accept the worst case scenario if it doesn’t work out the way you envisioned it too.
What did I do? I googled hobbies and started looking. Saw one called antique bottle digging. So I learned all about it. Basically it is digging privies from the 1800’s or older and pulling out glass bottles. I found some amazing bottles. Spent all summer digging. Then I found out that poison ivy roots itself deep in the ground and I gave it up, only to take on metal detecting. Yes that, I have found gold and silver rings, coins from the 17 and 1800’s, hundreds of dollars in change. After that I got into thrifting and flea markets, and even arrowhead hunting. Now that I am a father, a majority of my time is consumed, but when I have idle time I always run to my positive hobbies. Heck, I am learning to sew now. Point is, I always have to be engaged in positive behavior. If I can do that I know that whatever choices I make, I will be able to live with the consequences.
Coach Mike Grady
Coach Grady has 10 years experience working with pitchers of all ages through private and group instruction, including 6 years experience as a college pitching coach. This blog is dedicating to helping pitchers of all ages improve their game.