Several years ago my wife and I were vacationing on the beach near the Warren Dunes State Park in Michigan. Next to us was an attorney from Madison, Wisconsin and his family who we befriended and enjoyed their company and conversation. The next thing I know the attorney and his daughter were off walking the beach for two hours collecting rocks and putting them in plastic bags. When they returned to their spot right next to us, they dumped the rocks in the sand and in less than an hour they sifted through the rocks and picked ones that best matched a particular state and they constructed a map of the United States right there in the sand from memory. Wow, was I impressed!
I would guess the daughter was in high school and clearly she and her dad had done this before. My immediate thought was, I can’t do that! I thought I knew the U.S. states pretty well having traveled through every single one of them (the lower 48 not including Alaska and Hawaii), but in spite of that there was no way I could construct a map from memory and be able to identify rocks that could represent each state and put them in the right position. Right then and there I challenged myself that I would learn how to do this and I would construct my own “beach map” out of rocks the next summer, and this is the story of how I did that.
A game/activity idea is born
During the drive home from the beach (which takes about three hours to get to Champaign, IL), my mind was racing with ideas about the beach map. The simple pledge to just learn how to do it grew into an idea to create what I call a “family beach activity game,” call it BeachMap. Once the spark of an idea takes hold, there is nothing more enjoyable than that first period of brainstorming to try to put that idea in motion. My wife and I enjoyed a back-and-forth discussion in the car trying to figure out how we could create a tool/process that would help teach adults and kids how to build a map out of beach rocks and have fun in the process. If you ever get creator’s (writer’s) block, try getting in the car with a collaborator and drive for three hours and the ideas will flow!
Tinkering in the garage
I do all my creating and designing in several places, but when it comes to dealing with something physical I like to go to my garage where I have all my tools and lots of bench space. My first thought was to develop a device which would allow me to “stamp” a map of the United States in the sand which would also show the outline of each individual state. That way you would have a guide for the shape and size of a rock you would need for each state and it would simply be a matter of placing that rock in the right position. You would also have the benefit of making the entire map and each individual state in perfect scale to each other. So for the last three summers I have built three beach maps with rocks and experimented with several different ways to “stamp” the map outline in the sand.
I made my first stamp out of silicone rubber using a 2-component product called OOMO. The rubber stamp looked like a blue doormat. To do this I purchased a box of laser-cut wooden U.S. state pieces from a supplier in Greece I found on Etsy. I laid those pieces out on the table and kept a 1/8-inch gap between the border of each state. Then I poured the silicone rubber mixture over that map to form (cast) the stamp. When the rubber had cured, I peeled it off the table and carefully removed each state piece which revealed the impression of a U.S. map with a tin border around the perimeter of each state.
The stamp worked quite well but it had the disadvantages of: (a) being too heavy, i.e, too costly to ship to a customer; and (b) the thin borders around each state were not durable and wore away in spots. My first beach map using the “doormat” stamp was a total success (people loved it!) but I didn’t think it was a feasible approach if I were going to make this a game product which could be economically shipped to customers.
For the second map, I built it simply used the “puzzle pieces” of each state and assembled them on the beach to create a map impression in the sand. Then I was able to remove each wooden piece and use each piece as a guide when walking down the beach to find a good rock to match that state. I didn’t like this technique as much as having a stamp which could be used to quickly make a perfect impression of a map of the United States in the sand, as many times as I wanted; however, the individual state pieces are very light and economical to ship.
For the third prototype, I constructed a stamp by gluing the state pieces on a piece of plywood in reverse (mirror) image so that when the stamp was turned over and pressed into the sand it would make a perfect impression of the United States map. This clearly would be too big and bulky to ship as a game product, but this gave me a durable stamp for experimentation and many trial runs on the beach.
I think I’ve figured out how to make a very lightweight, flexible, and economical stamp, but I’ll save that information for a follow-on post.
It’s all about the rocks
The basic idea of the game/activity is to walk along the beach and find one rock that is the approximate size and shape for each particular state. You will discover, however, that this is basically impossible to do for the states California, Texas, and Florida, so you may need to use two or more rocks to configure those states. This is not a game of perfect so you have to embrace the imperfections. If you find a rock that is shaped exactly like a state and is the right size, pat yourself on the back because that’s pretty rare. As Tim Gunn of Project Runway says, “Make it work!”
Another objective is to make the overall map and each individual state to scale, whatever that overall scale will be. That’s why the stamp approach is so helpful. The range of size of rocks you can reasonably find on any given beach will dictate the size of the map you can build. The beach where we go to in Michigan has rocks anywhere from a tiny pebble up to about 4 inches in height x width. That’s why I usually need two rocks for Alaska, California and Florida, and 3-5 rocks for Texas (wouldn’t you know it, my home state!)
Walking along the beach and trying to find rocks that match the approximate size and shape of a state is what the game is all about. It sounds so simple (and to some, maybe even boring) but this is a great visuospatial activity for kids and adults alike and when done with someone else, it is really more fun and satisfying than you might think. You’ve just got to give it a try and in the process of having fun, you will learn your states!
One approach is to set out with a puzzle piece for say, Illinois, and try to find that rock. That’s a very focused way to do this but it’s a bit of a needle-in-a-haystack approach and I have discovered that it’s not the best technique. What my wife and I do is walk along the beach and pick up a bunch of rocks that at the time look like they might be good matches for one state or another. Then we come back with a big bag of rocks and dump them out on the beach and do the matching at that time. As you start to populate your map with rocks (states), you will have inevitable gaps and then you can go back out down the beach to specifically look for those rocks to close the gaps. Trust me, after you do this a few times, it’s surprising how good you get at it.
I’ve been enjoying experimenting with this activity for three summers now and here’s what I’ve learned:
Kids and adults really enjoy the activity and are impressed with the finished product. I made a point of building these beach maps right along the stairway which leads down to our beach so people would pass the map on the way down and on the way up from the beach. I would take pictures and post them on our beach club’s Facebook page to alert people and let them comment. People really seemed to like it and that’s satisfaction enough for me!
You can appreciate and enjoy the infinitely fascinating variety of rocks and their origin, shape, color, and texture. All you rock lovers know what I mean!
It is a rich visuospatial game/activity and creative process and in this age of digital everything, we need more hands-on activities that connect hands, eyes, and brain….. a poor man’s Luminosity!
Nothing is more stress relieving and relaxing than meandering down the beach looking for rocks and letting your mind wander. It’s a vacation within a vacation.
Challenge yourself and give it a try
As of yet, I have no commercial game/activity product to sell, but I continue to enjoy the experimentation, prototyping, and general tinkering toward that goal.
I hope I’ve given you enough information and reason to give it a try, and if you do, let me know how it goes!
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Sport plays an important part in the lives of many business leaders. Nothing can make the juices flow like sinking a 30-foot birdie putt to win the match or setting a personal record in the local 10K run. Risking, winning and losing, playing, pushing personal limits – all are tonics for the chief executive, but they require “getting in the game.”
For Dick Jorgensen, Red Cashion, and Tom Dooley, getting in the game was a way of life. During their days as NFL Referees, they were chief executives of successful corporations, but on the weekends they exchanged their business suits for “zebra suits” to become NFL referees. Whether on the field or off, these CEOs shared an uncommon passion to perform their best.
Dick Jorgensen: Banking on the Blitz
Dick Jorgensen had the distinction of having been the head referee for 1990’s Super Bowl XXIV. It was the pinnacle of a 22-year career as an NFL referee when one considers that the officials on Super Bowl Sunday are voted the best at their position by the NFL.
Head Referee Dick Jorgensen (#60) follows San Francisco quaterback Joe Montana (#16) and the rest of the action at Sperbowl XXIV in 1990.
When he was not watching Joe Montana fade back for the bomb, Jorgensen was president of Marine Bank in Champaign, IL, a banking affiliate of the Marine Corporation with over $1 billion in assets. The bank always supported Dick’s other life as an NFL referee, as banks generally support the active community involvement of all employees.
At 56 (in 1990) and coming off recent back surgery, Dick moved a little slower than he did as captain of the University of Wisconsin’s basketball team. He was concerned about his upcoming annual NFL physical and stress test, but he was determined to pass. He daily stretched, swam, and lifted weights – whatever it took to ensure he would get another shot at a Super Bowl. Having participated in Super Bowls VIII, XV, and XXIV, he didn’t want to pass up another opportunity to be part of “the immensity of the game.”
The rewards of a Super Bowl experience, however, aren’t without cost. The pressures of balancing a banking career and an active family life while on the road for the NFL were substantial, especially for the family left behind each weekend. “But once the kickoff comes and I get into the flow of the game,” asserted Jorgensen, “all the pressure is off. It’s exhausting, but mentally refreshing.”
Tom Dooley: Constructing a Game Plan
Tom Dooley, former CEO of R.T. Dooley Construction, says his 14 years of working out problems on an NFL football field helped him work out problems in business. “On the football field,” he observed, “you have a set of rules and a solution.” Dooley was proud of the fact that in all his years as CEO, he never had to retain an attorney to solve a legal problem!
“Nothing is black and white in business,” continued Dooley. “Everything is a compromise. On the football field, it is black and white. I can flush out every thought in the world when I’m on that field.” And like Dick Jorgensen, Tom Dooley got that same physical exhaustion but mental freshness after each game.
To make it possible for Tom to work weekends for the NFL and keep his business under control, he surrounded himself with “people smarter than I am.” And what was good for the boss was good for the troops. Business shut down every day at 11:30 am so employees could get in a vigorous noon workout at the local YMCA (the company paid every employee’s membership fee).
Dooley believed strongly in being “the best you can be.” After a lifetime of setting goals and achieving them, he still had one in his sights – to work a Super Bowl as head referee. He had a taste of Super Bowl action as a linesman at Super Bowl XV, Eagles vs Raiders, in 1981. But characteristic of every NFL referee, Dooley wanted a shot at the No. 1 position.
Red Cashion: A Variable Life
On April 21, 1990, Texas Independence Day, Red Cashion had the honor of being keynote speaker at Texas A&M’s “annual muster,” following in the footsteps of the mayor of San Antonio, the governor of Texas, and Ike Eisenhower. For a Texan, especially one that lived and worked in College Station (Aggie country), this was as big an honor as being referee at Super Bowl XX, Bears vs. Patriots, in 1986.
Speaking before students, athletes, and business people went with the territory for this NFL referee who was also chairman of ANCO insurance which he co-founded in 1966. The challenges and lessons of business and sport were inseparable for Cashion, helping him develop what he called “presence.”
Red enjoyed “being in the center of the action.” It took him 20 years of refereeing in junior high through college ranks before being accepted into the NFL where he officiated from 1972 – 1996 (25 years).
Obviously, the pressure of officiating wasn’t a problem for Cashion, having been at it for so long. He enjoyed keeping himself in shape through competitive handball. “Frankly,” he says, “I enjoy the annual NFL physical and stress test.”
The greater challenge for Cashion was making the right decision under pressure. Being an NFL referee helped him develop confidence in himself and his decisions, a quality employees respected.
When he returned each Monday following an NFL game, football was the topic of the day. Employees always greet him with questions about the game. Although Cashion admitted that “after a while, you forget which city you were in,” he will never forget being head referee in Super Bowls XX (1986, Bears vs Patriots) and XXX (1996, Cowboys vs. Steelers).
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Note from Scott Pickard: “I wrote this feature article under assignment to Chief Executive magazine and it was subsequently published in September, 1990. Sadly, Dick Jorgensen passed away in October, 1990. He was a well-known personality and highly-respected leader in Champaign, IL.”
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I’ve been a caddy and golfer since I was 12, and now I’m 66 and still chasing the game that I love so much. Throughout all of this time I prided myself as being a long driver and that’s always been important to me. And for some reason, I always thought it was about having the right ball matched to my swing. But the other day (I don’t know why I waited so long to try this) I bought a package of impact recorders and went to the driving range and shocked myself in my inability to consistently hit the ball in the center of the club face.
This is a terrific exercise for the average golfer because this is really the issue when it comes to hitting a long ball, not the golf ball itself. This simple technique allows you to experiment and iterate and fine-tune your setup and swing until you start to consistently hit the ball in the center of the club face and what you find is it’s not about the ball whether it’s low or high compression, but it’s about hitting the ball square.
The important thing about selecting a ball is finding which ball feels the best and you perform the best when you’re chipping and putting. So let this be your main criteria for choosing the ball and then just hit that ball (whether it’s low or high compression) in the center of the club face and you’ll get the optimum distance for your swing.
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When I was ten years old, my family moved from Houston to Dallas, Texas, and my parents became members of the Dallas Athletic Club (DAC). A couple of years later, they both volunteered for the 1963 PGA Golf Tournament which was held at DAC. My dad was a marshal and arranged for me to go to the practice session where three pros played with one amateur. So I followed them walking down the middle of the fairway (no ropes in those days) alongside Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, and Jack Nicklaus. I really did not understand the significance of who and what I was watching, and that these three men were the reigning “kings of golf” on our planet.
I have a vivid memory of Jack Nicklaus hitting a driver off the fairway on a long par five, and back then with wooden club heads and the golf balls of the day, the ball would climb up into the sky . Nicklaus’ “driver-off-the-deck” fairway stroke made a loud “crack” as the golf ball shot out like a cannon and climbed up toward the clouds on a hot Texas afternoon, and then dropped down softly onto the green in two. It was magnificent!
Arnold Palmer hit a drive that started way out to the right soaring over the adjacent fairway, and then it turned left in a sweeping hook that brought the ball down into the middle of the fairway on the hole being played. WOW!
Gary Player hit one drive that took off low and skipped across and finally into the water. They all laughed including Player, so he re-teed and then blasted the next drive down the middle of the fairway. It surprised me that he made a mistake….. I didn’t know golf pros made mistakes!
I look back on that day with mixed feelings of awe and a little bit of regret that I did not fully grasp how special that opportunity was. It was a milestone moment in my life as it opened my eyes and heart to the game of golf.
That was 52 years ago, and fast forward to April 9, 2015 (yesterday), as I watched the “Three Kings” perform the ceremonial first tee shots on the number one hole at Augusta National Golf Club to kickoff the 2015 Masters Tournament. Palmer, Nicklaus, and Player moved a little slower and a little less sure of themselves, each showing a little bit of anxiety that they would not muff their tee shots. But in king-like fashion they striped their drives down the middle of the number one fairway to the delight and cheers of all the fans, including myself: still inspiring, still impressing, still showing us the way in the world of golf just as they did for me back in 1963.
Golf is so much more than just a game for most of us golfers. It becomes a golden thread that weaves its way throughout our entire lives. That must be true because several weeks from now, I will be playing golf with my dad to celebrate his 98th birthday and just as Arnie and Jack and Gary do when they play golf together, dad will be trying his best to beat me, and me him. It has always been that way with us, father and son.
I can only hope that my son and I will be doing the same thing 30 years from now.
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