The Blog of Jake Kelfer
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Last week, I embarked on a journey through the south. Over the course of three days, I traveled from Nashville to Alabama to Mississippi to Memphis and back to Nashville.
A couple things I should point out before you read about my three days through the south. First, I was making this trip because I wanted to drop off my book in person to different departments to try and get speaking gigs. I’m all in and willing to do whatever I have to do to separate myself from the pack. Secondly, I was planning to meet with as many basketball teams as I could while I was visiting the schools to raise awareness for the Professional Basketball Combine. Lastly, I wanted to visit the south as I had never been and see what the hype was all about.
With all that in mind, I was going to be on the road a lot. So, I decided to make a LinkedIn post opening up a few hours for informational interviews. I received quite a few responses and DMs so throughout my drive I had some great phone calls with people aspiring to break into sports and build their network.
When it was all said and done, the trip was about 800 miles of traveling. Here is goes.
Tuesday, January 23, 2018
I woke up on Tuesday ecstatic for the next three days only to get off to a bumpy start. The Uber driver made a few wrong turns in our Uber pool which added some time to the ride and the rental car service screwed up my reservation. What should have taken 20 minutes took an hour. I could’ve let this really bother me, but I tried to focus on the things I could control. I was about to go on a crazy 3 day road trip. Nothing was going to get in my way of being positive and excited!
By the time I finally got my car, I was ready to hit the road. I started my 3 hour drive to Birmingham to head to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. By the time I got there, I was hyped to get out of the car and start making things happen. I met up with my contact from the basketball team and his energy was contagious. As soon as I got out of the car I felt extremely welcomed. We chatted for a while and then I went to make some moves before practice. I headed to the student center to see if I could meet some people from the different departments who hired speakers.
When I got to the student life office, I went to drop off a book for someone I had been in contact with. This woman had told me before that she was in meetings all day and wouldn’t be able to meet so when I went to drop off her book, I didn’t expect anything. I just wanted to make sure the book got in her hands. It turns out she was in between meetings when I arrived and she came out to meet me. We chatted for about 5 minutes and I had a chance to tell her what I was all about.
After I ran around the student center meeting new people, I headed back to the gym to go watch practice. Practice was great and I loved the atmosphere at practice. Coach let the players have some fun but at the same time practice was extremely competitive.
After practice I got ready to hit the road and head to Tuscaloosa to visit the University of Alabama. A day before I started the trip, someone who had been following me from Alabama reached out and asked if he could meet with me. I thought it was so cool that I had someone who’s been following me from Alabama, so of course I found some time to meet with him. He turned out to be a great guy!
When I got to Alabama, I was planning on staying with my friend Michelle. She was the only person I knew at Bama so when she was off work, we met up. She works for the athletic department and does a lot of football recruiting tours so it was only fitting that she gave me a wonderful tour of campus. Her roommate joined us and after the tour we went to grab a drink before hitting the hay for the night.
Day 1 was a wild success. The vibes were great and I was feeling great. The day consisted of about 4 hours of driving, 1 basketball practice, 3 book deliveries, 1 speaker pitch, multiple phone calls and meetings, and a great night with Michelle and her roommate in Tuscaloosa.
Wednesday, January 24, 2018
The good vibes continued from the minute I woke up. Michelle and I went to this awesome breakfast place. I was going to get a simple two-egg breakfast, but when I saw waffle sliders on the menu, I couldn’t resist. If you don’t know I love waffles and I love sliders, so putting them together was a no brainer. And boy, were they good!
After breakfast, Michelle dropped me off at the student center and I ran around campus dropping off books and meeting more people. I had to hustle because I had to be in Starkville, MS for lunch with the Director of Basketball Operations for Mississippi State.
I tried to plan out my timing to get to Mississippi State before our scheduled lunch time so I could run around campus and make some more book deliveries. This was going really well and I was right on schedule until one department suggested I go meet with someone in another building. They said she was the go to contact for speakers, so I had to meet her. They failed to tell me exactly how far across campus this person was located. I started walking and made it to her office but after waiting a few minutes to see if she would get back for lunch, I realized I couldn’t wait any longer or else I’d be late to lunch. I gave it as long as I could because I wanted to give myself the best chance of meeting her, but I had to go, so I left a book and my card.
Since I made the decision to wait till the last possible moment, I started sprinting through campus to my car because I didn’t want to be late to my lunch. I finally got to my car and jammed out of campus. Luckily I made it and everything was good. Lunch with Mike turned out to be fantastic and then it was time for me to continue the trip and drive from Starkville to Oxford, MS.
Here’s the good thing about driving in the south. There’s absolutely ZERO traffic. I mean, zilch, nada, nothing. It’s spectacular. It’s so open on the roads that it takes less minutes than miles which is unheard of for a guy from Southern California.
When I got to Ole Miss it was about 4pm. I had one hour to make some magic happen before it started to get dark and everyone closed down for the day. I got out of my car and hustled to the athletic student center where I was going to have a meeting to discuss speaking with the athletic department. Our meeting went really well and I hope we will be able to make something happen in the future.
(If you are wondering why I’m very vague with some of this meeting information, it’s for privacy and respect for the process.)
After I met with the athletic department I had about 30 minutes to find student life and all the other departments I needed to meet with. I ended up getting a ride in a golf cart from a wonderful woman which helped me find multiple people to speak with.
By the end of these meetings, I was pooped. I headed to my Airbnb for the night. When I got to my Airbnb is was literally this girl’s apartment in student housing. It was kind of weird especially since I’m new to Airbnb and still learning what to expect, but it was clean and the bed was comfy.
I passed out early because I knew Thursday was going to be a super long day.
Thursday, January 25, 2018
The final day of the trip! I woke up at 6ish which is later than my normal 5:32am time because I wanted to give myself 30 minutes of extra sleep. Part of this was because I was exhausted from traveling so much, but the real reason was because I knew I had to drive three hours back to Nashville in the dark and I didn’t want to risk being sleepy. I have a tendency to get tired when driving at night, so I thought that sleeping in would help.
Once I got up I had to shower…obviously. The only problem was that the shower had no curtain. The host mentioned that to me earlier but I didn’t even really think about it. I dint even think how difficult that might make showering.
I showered but instead of taking a normal shower and letting the water get everywhere I angled the showerhead so it wouldn’t bounce off of me and get the bathroom wet. This was thoughtful thinking for the house but terrible for me because I was freezing. It was about 28 degrees and I was half in and half out of the average temperature water.
Once I got out of the shower I headed to Memphis to begin the day. Once again there was absolutely no traffic so I got to Memphis with time to spare before my meeting. I hit up a Starbucks and got to work embracing the laptop lifestyle (shoutout Alexis Teichmiller)!
My first meeting of the day was with one of the best female speakers in the country, Harriet. She’s crushed the speaking game for 25+ years. I learned a lot of from her and she gave me some great recommendations of people to connect with. We had a lot in common regarding why we speak and I could hear her passion for speaking in her voice. It was awesome to meet with someone who’s had so much success in the speaking world.
After this meeting, I drove to Central BBQ for some delicious and authentic Memphis BBQ. It came as a glowing recommendation from a colleague and friend of mine who used to work at Memphis before moving to Syracuse. I ordered a BBQ chicken sandwich, grabbed a seat by myself and experienced true Memphis BBQ for the first time. It did not disappoint. I wanted to experiment with a few different food items and get the full BBQ experience, but knowing my stomach, I played it safe and it was a great choice.
As I was eating, I took a second to reflect and think about how cool it was that I was actually in Memphis and that I had just been in Alabama and Mississippi. I was also trying to figure out what day it was because I was in a trance by this point after driving so much and visiting all these schools.
After Central BBQ I went to University of Memphis to drop off some books before basketball practice. I didn’t have too much success as I was redirected a few times but I did get some great contact information that I can use for my follow up.
I went to practice and it was a great experience. Zo, the DOBO, took great care of me and showed me around their brand new facilities. He introduced me to the whole coaching staff which is always nice. I can always tell a team’s culture by the way their staff greets me upon arrival.
Once practice started, Coach Tubby Smith came and talked to me about the PBC for 10 minutes or so. It’s not everyday a coaching legend will come chat with someone in the middle of practice.
Coach went back to coaching and Assistant Coach Butch Pierre came and talked with me for a while which was also pretty informational. When I am meeting with coaches and basketball teams, I am constantly learning and seeing different coaching styles. I love breaking down team chemistry and culture and then seeing how they perform in the following weeks.
When it came time to leave, I got all my snacks out and laid our my gameplan for how not to fall asleep. The ride back to Nashville was going to be long and dark so I tried to call a bunch of people.
Luckily for me, the drive was easy. I listened to Finding Mastery with David Goggins, called about 10 people, and listened to the Greatest Showman soundtrack… again.
I got back by 9pm and I was home free. It felt amazing to be back and take a few minutes to relax and let loose. Also, Kiki sang a little bit which was beautiful.
Right before I went to bed, I meditated because I accepted a 50 day challenge and I wasn’t about to lose on day 4.
What a trip! I can’t even begin to describe how cool it was to visit the south and hustle across 5 campuses.
This is one of those trips that I'll remember forever. Hopefully it'll be one of those trips I talk about in a speech in 5 years when I reflect on everything I did on my journey to achieving my definition of success!
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