I have been busy helping get my brother married and haven’t had much of a chance to think about, let alone mark, the passing of Joe Paterno. Now that I’m back on the blog though, I thought it would be worth doing. I considered listing his accomplishments. I considered explaining how everyone in the world could do more about something and just because Joe didn’t do all he could in one situation doesn’t define him. At the end of the day though, I thought it would be appropriate to explain the biggest lesson I learned from him.
When I arrived at Penn State as a naive 18 year old, I had more hopes and dreams than I had time for. What I didn’t know how to do was apply a careful sense of meaning to my life, to build something meaningful and beneficial. I wanted to be CEO of a big corporation for the sake of doing it. What Joe Paterno did was to build a football empire that allowed Penn State to grow in ways it couldn’t otherwise have academically. He chose something he loved and found a way to improve it while doing what he loved. That purposefully chosen direction is what separates a Joe Paterno from an Urban Meyer and a great man from a great coach. I learned that you have to find that purpose if you want to be able to give your life real meaning.