By Dave Isbell

I want people who don’t know anything about MSU to say if it’s anything like [Insert your name here, Spartan] I want my kid to go there.” – Kirk Cousins

I don’t personally know Kirk Cousins, but I’ve seen enough from him to know that Football isn’t the thing that makes him an exemplary Spartan. It is his heart that beats to give back to others. (Watch this video of him visiting DeVos Children’s Hospital for just one example of this.)

If Kirk had not been gifted as an athlete, he would have been successful at whatever he attempted because it is clear that his motivation does not come from serving only himself, nor is his “success” only about what he can gain from his output.

Kirk Cousins received a scholarship to play football, and his name is known because he has a larger stage than most of us will ever get. But that is not why he stands out among the thousands of college athletes who graduate every year and the few who go on to play pro sports.

This Spartan stands out because he is defined by WHO he is and that shows in what he continues to give. People want to be around people who are like that, they want to see them succeed, and they want to be a part of that success!

Want to know how to be “successful” and “happy” in your career? Then learn to collaborate with other people in work that serves the needs of other people. That is what living a life of compassion looks like and it doesn’t matter what job you are in (or not in, for those of you who are currently unemployed), there is always a way to do this!

You will always be known by what you do, not by what you intended to do; by what you have given and not by what you have taken. Your reputation will always precede your entrance or linger after your exit. Think about that next time you show up for some “networking.”

Be honest with yourself, which question below looks most like you?:

  1. Are you constantly trying to convince others that they should help you out?
  2. Are you trying to carry everything yourself as a “self-made man/woman?” (A concept that doesn’t exist in reality. Even though most devout narcissists will admit that they need other people to “buy” what they are “selling” or they will starve pretty fast!)
  3. Do you “hide” so that nobody sees you?
  4. Do other people come out of the woodwork asking to be a part of what you are involved in because they can see that it is meaningful?

You might be able to make a living by doing the first three, but the only way to make a LIFE is by striving toward becoming the kind of person who is authentically contagious like the person in number four. That is true Spartan Spirit!

Collaborative compassion is THE Spartan profession. If you don’t believe it, go ask Kirk Cousins how he won so much respect from his teamates and why he still shows up to visit sick children.

Now get away from your computer, get out of your house, and change your profession!

Woo! Woo! Woo!


Dave Isbell is the Alumni Career Service Coordinator at Michigan State University. He has been a Career Coach since 1999. He is also pursuing a Master’s in Social Work/Family Studies at MSU. When he is not working or studying, he is enjoying domestic bliss with his wife and kids, or playing rock music on his bass guitar. You can find him on Twitter (@helpingspartans) and sometimes he writes about compassion, collaboration, and career for this blog, which he owns and begs other Spartans to write for.


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