All good things come to an end. Many times, looking back on your life, you can see this. I started at the University of Missouri (or Mizzou) in 2004, and my career there is ending in the summer of 2018. That’s quite a long time to be at one location. I thought I’d be here a year, maybe two, and be on to the next place. I was 100% wrong. We fell in love with it here, and when presented with opportunities, we stayed because we loved the town so much. With the current change, I honestly thought I’d be angrier. I’m not. I’m just sort of feeling as though this is simply what had to happen, and I’m almost relieved.

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With the constant emails going out from the higher-ups at the campus and system levels about the financial trouble we were in as a university, this almost feels like closure, rather than waiting for the hammer to fall. For those of you who don’t know, over the past few years, the university has experienced a financial downturn. As a result of decreased enrollment for a few reasons (some projected, some not) and decreased funding from the state, 187 people were out of their jobs this spring, and I was one of them. I have learned some extremely important lessons along the way that I’ll share now, along with where I’m headed.

jetty to 2018

Image credit: Michael Wick ©

Your job demands 100% loyalty and shows 0%.

If a big change occurs in your workplace and you survive it, that doesn’t mean you’re safe. If you get the chance to leave, go ahead and go on your terms. Although I’m lucky that I fell into a great next situation, others aren’t always so lucky. They truly do want everything from you, all of the time. And you can no longer rely on what you’ve done for them in the past; it’s now, what have you done for them lately? If you’re not continually putting out great work and you have just one bad year, you’re done. Everyone’s memory is like a tweet—very short. These days, it doesn’t matter if you were the first one to discover the effects of some great thing—if you didn’t do it in the past week, you’re of no use to them. Do not confuse this with me saying, “Screw over your boss any chance you get.” That’s not it at all. What I’m saying is to look out for yourself and your family first. If they’re asking you to take a financial hit, especially one that will impact your family’s way of life, don’t do it. They don’t care about if your kids get to eat or not—you do. If a job comes along that’s a better situation and will allow you to do things for your family that your current job won’t, by all means at least take a look at it. There is no shame in this. I often hear quite a bit about a man with whom I have never worked: Fred Roll. He was the boss of my first boss, Rick Perry. He once said, “Every seven years, you need to go get yourself a new set of problems.” You’ll grow complacent and often bitter by staying in one spot too long. That’s not to say you can’t have a long career at a single location, but just be smart about it.

I will always agree with those who say that you should “make the big time where you’re at” and make the most of your situation, trying to do the best possible job where you are. If you do this, you’ll get recognized and gain plenty of experience to help you when you get another opportunity down the road. It’s not about looking to leave; it’s about not turning down opportunities for the sake of comfort.

The law of the area code.

You are an expert only outside of your own area code. It doesn’t matter if something is your area and you have spoken on it all over the world. Sometimes people won’t think you know what you’re talking about just because you’ve been there with them forever. This is human nature. How can you be this big deal if you’re just down the hall? I never learned this lesson so well as when working with someone named Marybeth Brown. I’ve been told that she is the world’s first physical therapist (PT)/PhD and is simply a big deal overall. I got to meet her while I was a doctoral student because I had some thoughts on strength training and the aging. To me, she was just Marybeth. She was a fascinating person to talk to and seemed to have some amazing perspectives and stories. I could sit and listen to her for hours. But it was just Marybeth. Then came the fateful day I went to the American Physical Therapy Association Combined Sections Meeting (APTA- CSM). I could not get within 30 yards of her. You would’ve thought she were the Beatles in the 1960s with as crowded as it was around her. I realized in that moment that my view of her had been 100% right and 100% not up to snuff. She was this amazing and fascinating person, but she was a huge deal—she wasn’t just Marybeth. It’s funny to me, though, that when I stopped by, there were interns who wouldn’t give me the time of day (there were some people who would have loved to sit down and chat, though) because I was currently wearing khakis and a shirt rather than a t-shirt and shorts.

You’re always what you came in at.

There is definitely something to be said about leaving and going elsewhere. Having been here as a graduate assistant strength coach, assistant strength coach, instructor, and professor, you can never shake the memory of what you came in as. Nothing is as evident as the many emails in which I’ve been included for various things on campus in some of the departments I’ve been a part of for 10 years. Numerous emails feature “Dr. A, Dr. B, Dr. C., Dr. D, and Bryan or Coach Mann.”  Forget that I have had many publications, presented on several continents, been a keynote speaker, etc. I’m still seen as nothing more than a coach. When I spoke my mind in some groups, it was, “What could that guy know? He’s just a GA strength coach,” rather than who I have become. Leaving resets that. The new people don’t know who you were; they only know what you’re coming in as. It’s a chance to hit the reset button and become who you are. You’ll never get that when you stay where you are.

Never violate the rule of “Do so many jobs that they can’t afford to fire you.”

At my position in physical therapy, I didn’t do much within the department. I couldn’t. I’m not a PT. I continued to do a ton of stuff for different places, though. I did a lot of data collection and analysis for the athletics department, and I did a tremendous amount of work for the NSCA. At the end of the day, did that benefit the PTs or even the school of health professions? Did that make me so valuable that they couldn’t afford to fire me?  NO. It did not. At all. In fact, it made it easier because although I may have brought in students due to my being front and center for a few professions, I did not directly impact the bottom line of Mizzou Physical Therapy. When the dean or his higher-ups look at things, they will not see that I did A, B, C, D, E, F, G in the school of health professions, only for these other organizations. When it comes down to the bottom line, another student who was just as qualified would have gotten into our program. Whom my name brought in didn’t matter; we had a waiting list.

Remember that this is a chess game, not checkers.

Whatever moves you make will affect everything. Life is about relationships, and causing the wrong person headaches can lead to heartache for you down the road. I can remember many times when I approached everything in a relatively carefree manner. I had some good interactions and some bad ones, and some things happened that I didn’t think would ever happen, whereas some things that should’ve happened never did. Why? Because I wasn’t intentional. When you learn that everything has impacts, positive or negative, it allows you to change your view of mundane interactions. Everything matters, and everyone matters.

Be good to administrative assistants.

I have seen so many people who treat administrative assistants poorly as if they’re beneath them. I learned long ago that the person who can make your job easy or hell is the administrative assistant. These professionals know every pathway that can shorten or lengthen any process. They know every person who can get something done, or they can send you the wrong route—one that will take five times as long and result in a dead end, causing nothing but frustration for everyone. What is the bottom line? If you get the chance to take an administrative assistant to lunch (or him or her a well-deserved treat), do so. It’ll be the best investment you ever make.

Oftentimes things are bittersweet. As I have said many times before, we loved Columbia and wanted to stay here because of the city and the people who have become family to us. It just wasn’t meant to be. At first, I was very devastated, but my wife reminded me of something: Most of what I did there wasn’t my job; it was my hobby and passion, which I did on the side. I now have the opportunity to go out and have my job be my passion. I no longer have to be a square peg in a round hole. We were able to do some special things in Columbia, but that doesn’t mean that the next stop has to be any less so, and it is quite possible that it will be even more so.

When you get down to it, I can’t ever truly hate Mizzou. It is not just a place where I worked; it is also where I got a master’s degree and my Ph.D. I am an alumnus, and like all good alumni, I want to see the university do well. To have my position and so many others cut pains me, not just due to the impact it had on my family but also because it is a sign that the university I love so dearly is faltering.

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So, what specifically is next for me? I have taken a position at the University of Miami in Florida. The school has a graduate program in strength and conditioning, and I will be teaching the next generation of coaches what I have learned in my 20 years as a practitioner. I’ve connected with some people already down there and will build connections on campus and in the surrounding areas. I’m looking forward to going and being in a department where my passion and my main job align. I’m looking forward being near some people I’ve respected for quite some time, and I’m looking forward to being able to interact more with friends Pete Bommarito, Jorge Carvajal, Christina Specos, Mike Zourdos, and Jose Antonio. I’m looking forward to exchanging ideas with the many people on the coaching staff at the university, like Gus Felder, Casey Cathrall, and many others. I’m looking forward to being in a position where I can exchange ideas with the likes of Bill Foran, Dave Puloka, Rob Butler, Dylan Lawson, and many other pro sport teams that are either in Miami or are headquartered in the surrounding areas.

Although I have said that I am not bitter, make no mistake about it: I’m going down there like a man on fire. I was seen as someone who wasn’t valuable enough to maintain a position within a university. That definitely was a strike to my ego and a proverbial throwing down of the gauntlet, or a major challenge. In my life, I have been presented with many challenges that I have viewed as opportunities. I have grown and risen above all of the circumstances sent my way, and I feel that if I didn’t conquer a given situation, I learned a tremendous amount to help me to conquer the next one. So, what will I be doing down in Miami exactly? I’m not exactly sure yet. One thing is for sure: You haven’t seen anything yet with what I’ve done in my career. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. There is a tremendous amount of preparation that has gone into my strength and conditioning and academic career since I started in 1998. Tremendous opportunity exists amongst the faculty in Miami, such as Brian Biagoli, Joe Signorile, Moataz Eltoukhy, Wesley Smith, and Kevin Jacobs, as well as at many other schools within striking distance (like Mike Zourdos at FAU, Jose Antonio at NOVA Southeastern, and many others with whom I will cross paths). Also, the strength staff at the university with whom I have communicated have responded to me thus far with open arms. I feel that I am quite a lucky individual.