“Life sucks and then you die” goes the phrase. Resiliency converts “sucks” to “is awesome.” We all face challenges in life and it’s about how we adapt and conquer them that matters.

As I traveled the world I saw lots of evidence of the “sucks” part of that statement above. I also saw abundant evidence of the “is awesome” part as well. I saw survivors of war thriving after picking up the pieces of their former lives. I saw people who could have retired in peace but instead chose a more difficult path of starting a non-profit organization to help others. I saw former enemies living and loving side-by-side in peace. Inspiration was everywhere.

One thing I always missed as I traveled was college football – that’s American Football for you international readers. I attended Ohio State University as an undergraduate for many reasons, but football wasn’t one of them. It didn’t take long for me to get swept up in the undercurrent of football fanaticism though. Even more surprising were the international students who came knowing nothing about football and who left as the team’s biggest fans!

Ohio State won a national championship while I was a student. We defeated the Miami Hurricanes in January 2003 despite being a long-shot contender. Since then we reached the national championship game in 2006 and 2007 and lost both. We had up and down years otherwise. A scandal in 2011 forced out the popular coach Jim Tressel and raised many questions about the football program in general.

Ohio Stadium - Photo courtesy of Jon Ridinger

Ohio Stadium – Photo courtesy of Jon Ridinger

A new coach, Urban Meyer, came on the scene. He has won championships in the past and has Ohio in his blood. He recruited well and had great success as the coach heading into the 2014 season.

Then tragedy struck.

Braxton Miller - Photo courtesy of Adam Glanzman

Braxton Miller – Photo courtesy of Adam Glanzman

The quarterback Braxton Miller, who many thought might win the Heisman Trophy, college football’s highest individual award, re-injured his shoulder and would be out for the season. His replacement, J.T. Barrett, took over with greatly diminished expectations.

They stumbled early and lost at home to a mediocre Virginia Tech team. Then they came together as a team and won…and won… and won. Across the country people downplayed our accomplishments, saying that our conference was weak and our opponents were unimpressive.

At the end of the season we beat a highly touted Michigan State team in their stadium, paving the way forward for us to be taken seriously.

Then tragedy struck again.

Against archrival University of Michigan, J.T. Barrett broke his ankle. He had proven himself a strong leader and one of the most potent offensive forces in the country until then, and once again the expectations were diminished.

Ohio State vs. Michigan - photo courtesy of MGoBlog

J.T. Barrett being tackled in the Ohio State vs. Michigan game – photo courtesy of MGoBlog

Then tragedy struck again.

In the week between the Michigan State game and the game against our archrival University of Michigan, player Kosta Karageorge went missing. Students canvased campus with missing posters and the police followed leads. During the Michigan game his image was shown on the Jumbotron asking anyone with information to call the police. Sadly, he was found soon thereafter. He died of an apparent suicide.

Heading into the conference championship against Wisconsin we were underdogs with unknown third-string quarterback Cardale Jones at the helm. We won 59-0 and stopped the best running back in the country in his tracks.

Then, much to the dismay of many, we were selected as the fourth and final team to compete in the inaugural college football playoffs. We were assigned to play Alabama, the storybook powerhouse team of the past few years with a #1 ranking across the board. We were underdogs. Alabama had the best wide receiver in college football. Again and once again we prevailed: 42-35.

Then the stage was set to play Oregon for the championship. Their quarterback won the Heisman Trophy and was considered by many to be the best player in college football last season. Their tempo was lightning-fast and they put a lot of points on the board. Again, we were underdogs. Again, we won: 42-20.

I guess it goes without saying that I have missed watching and being immersed in the world of college football. But in all seriousness, this story of overcoming tragedy after tragedy, setback after setback, all while attending classes and dealing with the normal physical and mental wear and tear a season of football throws at you.. it’s the stuff of legends and full of lessons we can learn from.

When asked how his team overcame all of these setbacks and prevailed against all the doubt, coach Urban Meyer said he was coaching the closest-knit team he’s ever been a part of. When star running back Ezekiel Elliott, who had standout performances in the final three games, was asked how he was able to perform at his best he pointed out how hard the offensive line worked to create opportunities for him to succeed. When third-string quarterback Cardale Jones was asked how he rose to the occasion of leading his team to victory under adverse circumstances he pointed to his teammates and the coaches.

I share this story because I’m incredibly proud of my team. I also share it because it highlights so many of the positive messages I discovered around the world in my search to figure out what happiness really is.

First, adversity. Adversity’s only antidote is resiliency. When life gives you lemons you have to make lemonade. Dictionary.com defines resiliency as “the power or ability to return to the original form.” Life is full of adversity and resiliency is how you bounce back. But in life we don’t aim just to bounce back; we aim to grow and come out further ahead despite adversity. This team embodied the essence of resiliency.

Second, passion. All of the players on the team are passionate about football and Ohio State. Their hard work and hours of practice enabled them to outrun and outlast the competition. Every player on the team dreamed of winning a national championship. Passion and hard work lead to happiness and success.

Lastly, the greater good. Every team goes out and tries to win in any sport. But when the players truly care about the person next to them more than they care about themselves, when that kind of spirit is embodied in a team then amazing things happen. The same is true in life. If you see yourself as part of a community, or even humanity as a whole, then you are a conduit to accomplishing things far greater than yourself.

I’m proud of my Buckeyes. Their story embodies resilience and the up and down journey we all face as we pursue happiness. Others may doubt you and you may even doubt yourself, but if you are determined you too can be a champion.

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Sharing My Story With Cleveland

October 20, 2014

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Sorry about the autoplay. I have embedded the video from the local news and I can’t change the settings. The day I donated my hair to Wigs For Kids my family and I went downtown to the studios of WKYC for an interview. I was scheduled to be interviewed during the 7pm newscast. I checked […]

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Donating My Hair To Wigs For Kids

October 13, 2014

The Cut

On May 12, 2014 I had my hair cut and donated my hair to Wigs For Kids. What a long and incredible journey to get there! What started out as a tribute to my uncle back in 2011 ended up being a part of me, literally. I had never had hair longer than a couple […]

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Returning Home And Unpausing My Insecurities

October 8, 2014

Returning Home

I felt something strange as I settled in to being home the first week or so. I’d go out to do mundane things, just as I did for 2.5 years on The Happy Nomad Tour, but now there was more noise. Something was off. Something wasn’t right. I soon realized what the problem was. It […]

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The Happy Nomad Tour – My Best Failure Ever

September 29, 2014

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The Happy Nomad Tour is over. When I started on August 10, 2011 I envisioned a one-year journey. I never would have believed it if someone told me it would last 2.5 years. And that kind of sums everything up. Everything about my journey far exceeded my expectations except for one thing… money. I learned […]

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Montreal To Cleveland – The End

September 22, 2014

2 Generations, A Special February 13th

Getting out of Montreal proved relatively easy despite what was going on at the time. I booked a flight home using my British Airways miles on American Airlines flights. The route was Montreal-New York-Cleveland. It was clear that most flights to/from New York were going to be canceled. I found a small text link on […]

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Paying It Forward – Suspended Coffee In Montreal

September 17, 2014

Coffee

Have you heard of suspended coffee? I had heard of it before, but never got to participate until I got to Montreal. Started in Naples, Italy, a suspended coffee is a pre-paid coffee for homeless people when available. That is, someone who can afford it pays for a suspended coffee and later on, someone who […]

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Last Stop: Montreal

September 15, 2014

Sunset In Montreal

When the bus arrived in downtown Montreal I knew this would be the last time I’d arrive in a new city for a while. As much as I wanted to take it all in, I was rushing since the bus was nearly 2 hours late and I had to meet my friend. Oh, and it […]

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Toronto – My City For Transitions

September 8, 2014

Toronto's CN Tower In The Distance

As I made my way to Toronto with only two weeks of The Happy Nomad Tour left, it reminded me of many similar experiences I had on this journey. I would stay with someone I went to business school with in Spain. I don’t think we ever had a conversation in Spain though. As I […]

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Speaking At Ivey Business School In London, Ontario, Canada

September 1, 2014

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I had the privilege and honor to speak at Ivey Business School in London, Ontario, Canada in January 2014. I was invited to speak to three classes studying corporate social responsibility. The talk was left relatively wide open, allowing me to explore how my experiences could benefit them as Canadian students. I decided to focus […]

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Returning To North America

August 25, 2014

Heading 'Home'

I thought it would be more dramatic, but my final days in Tanzania came to a close rather unceremoniously. I saw a dentist on my second to last day, I went to a café with my couchsurfing host and her daughter, I saw the ocean one last time and took in as much warmth as […]

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Goodbye Africa

August 18, 2014

Goodbye Tanzania, Goodbye Africa

It was with a heavy heart that I spent my last week in Africa. What could be more typical of this journey than feeling sad to leave a place I hadn’t planned on visiting in the first place? Originally I planned on going to southeast Europe before returning to North America. I wanted to visit […]

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A Day With Investours In Tanzania

August 13, 2014

William Carving An Elephant

While in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania I spent the day with Investours. As their website states: Investours is a non-profit organization bridging the gap between international tourism and local development. Our mission is to provide travelers to Mexico and Tanzania with meaningful cross-cultural interactions that empower micro‐entrepreneurs and directly stimulate economic growth. Simply put: we […]

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A Transformational Tanzanian Safari

August 11, 2014

A Male Lion Approaching

There are many reasons why safaris are such an amazing experience. I just completed a safari in Northern Tanzania and met couples on their honeymoon, families exploring scenes only accessible previously on the Discovery Channel and friends on a mission to create unforgettable memories together. All of these have one thing in common: they make […]

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The African Fund For Endangered Wildlife Giraffe Center!

August 6, 2014

Kissing The Giraffe

In Nairobi I got to visit the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW). It’s an education and conservation center on the edge of Nairobi National Park. It was started in 1979 to repopulate the Rothschild giraffe population. Long victimized by humans who have encroached on their territory in western Kenya, the population fell precipitously. If […]

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The David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage

August 4, 2014

Feeding The Elephants

While in Nairobi I paid a visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. They are a non-profit dedicated to helping orphaned elephants live on despite the death of their mother. You may wonder why the elephants become orphans. There is disease and there are accidents that leave elephants injured or dead. But there is also […]

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African Hubs Of Innovation And Empowerment

July 30, 2014

iHub Kenya

I had heard of “The Hub” while doing my MBA at IE Business School. A hub is a shared workspace where entrepreneurs can have an “office” to work from with varying amenities. Some offer conference rooms. Most hold events somewhat related to entrepreneurship/technology as well as social and fun events. The professional events may be […]

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