Some of my favorite memories of my father involve yellow Post-it notes.
This small, yellow piece of paper will always elicit positive memories of my dad, Mr. Kevin Cooley – or as we all affectionately know him, “The Colonel”, “the Sheriff” or just plain “Pops”.
For as long as I can remember, my dad has been leaving inspirational yellow Post-it notes on our bathroom mirror. So I thought that since I’m launching this blog about inspirational people who uplift and inspire others, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a special shout out to my dad.
Throughout my formative years, starting around age 10, I remember waking up and making my way to the bathroom half asleep. As I would begin my morning ritual, I would catch a yellow Post-it note out of the corner of my eye, stuck to the upper left hand corner of the mirror.
The text on the Post-it was always written with a black sharpie – and it was always from my pops.
Special points of interest were always WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS and highlighted, while urgent items were always accented and underlined with red ink.
I now know where I inherited my obsessive need to color code. Thanks pops.
The content of the yellow Post-it note always seemed to relate to whatever was going on in my life at the time. His notes were always perfectly timed to give me a fresh dose of perspective to get me ready for what lay ahead.
There were three things I was getting ready for from age 10 to age 18: a school day, a social event or a softball tournament.
If I was going through teenage growing pains and struggling with my confidence, I would get a “Keep your chin up” or a “Life is like a dogsled team – if you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes” note.
During an intense week of final exams, I’d get a “Plan your work and work your plan” note.
The morning of a big softball tournament, I’d get a Notre Dame style “Play like a Champion today” note.
And if I still hadn’t shaken off a loss or an error I had made in a previous game, I’d get a “Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?” note.
I always loved the mornings where I’d get an 8 1/2 x 11 inch Sports Illustrated cut-out of a sweet baseball swing taped to my mirror in a clear plastic holder.
Sammy Sosa, Juan Gonzales, Tim Salmon, Frank Thomas – my pops was always presenting me with positive, motivating imagery to help me improve my physical and mental game.
Hitting phrases in black sharpie would always be written in the lower left hand corner of the Sports Illustrated photo on a – wait for it – Post-it note:
- “Squash the bug”
- “Full extension”
- “Head down – EYE ON THE BALL”
- “WEIGHT BACK”
- “Hitting in the power position”
- “See the ball, hit the ball – keep it simple”
I can still see the notes in my 14-year old mind as clear as day. These were phrases my dad and I talked about over and over and over as he taught me the fundamentals of softball for over 15 years.
What I now realize in my 32-year old mind is that my dad was not only teaching me the fundamentals of heads up baseball through his uplifting and thought-provoking Post-it notes; he was also teaching me the fundamentals of how to play the game of life with integrity, respect, positivity and determination.
To this day, my dad talks about how baseball is a metaphor for life.
Sometimes you strike out, sometimes you win big, and sometimes you may even drop the ball. And that’s okay. As long as you’re accountable to yourself and to the people you love.
When my Dad constantly reminded me to “play the game one pitch at a time” – I see now that he wasn’t just talking about softball. He was giving me my first lesson on mindfulness: being totally aware and conscious of the present moment.
One of my favorite pieces of wisdom that my dad taped to my bathroom mirror was Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”, written in 1895.
He too had this poem taped to the mirror in his home office, surrounded by motivational newspaper articles, photos of us, specific sales and health-related goals he had set for himself and countless other inspirational quotes that kept him going.
“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son.”
Though Kipling’s poem said “my son”, I knew what my dad meant.
He expected my brother Sean and me to put forth our best efforts to embody the person Rudyard Kipling describes in the poem, on and off the field. The fact that I was a girl was irrelevant. I was simply a Cooley.
Through the Post-its and countless life talks in the dugout, on the field, off the field, on the phone, at the dinner table and in the car, my dad continues to be one of the primary sources of positivity and inspiration in my life, and in countless other people’s lives who he mentors. He’s the hardest working guy I know and is the first person to offer a helping hand, to both friends and strangers alike.
To this day, I still get cards related to what I’m going through in my adult life, complete with inspirational quotes and positive reinforcement.
This one’s for you, pops. Thank you for taking the time to impart your Post-it note kernels of wisdom to me through all those years.