The Undivided Life Blog

 

Be grateful for those who challenge you.

leadership mindset personal development Apr 15, 2024
Jeff Schiefelbein at a computer

“I recently learned about the CARPOOL program that is being developed by Jeff Schiefelbein. This program is going to fail. I am 200% against this project, and I urge you to join me in putting a stop to this effort.”

It was the spring of 1999. Back then, we didn’t check email nonstop every day, and email distribution lists (listservs) were just becoming popular.

Can you imagine my disappointment when I read the broadcast message that the director of the university police department had just sent to over 2,000 faculty and staff members at Texas A&M University? To say I was deflated would be an understatement. For the next few hours, I felt as if the months of research and rallying support were all coming to an end, and it made me sick to my stomach.

My journey up to this point had already been paved with many ups and downs. As I was starting my sophomore year in 1997, I was arrested for Driving While Intoxicated. By the grace of God, I had been pulled over for speeding and had not been in an accident. Wanting to own the consequences of my actions, I pleaded guilty at my first court appearance and began the punishment phase of my story, which included thousands of dollars in fines and fees, the loss of my driver’s license, a lot of community service hours, and a variety of classes and meetings.

During a MADD victim impact panel on November 11th, 1998, I was struck by an epiphany and a vision of what I needed to do next. From that moment on, I worked tirelessly on creating a student-run designated driver program for the surrounding community. I was up against an almost impossible set of obstacles, but somehow, I was making slow but steady progress toward the goal of launching our operations in the Fall of 1999.

Then the email came.

2,000+ people reading about the concerns of a man they greatly respected. The director of the university police department had legitimate concerns. He believed that a group of students was incapable of planning for all foreseeable risks and that we would leave the university exposed legally and financially if anything bad happened. I could appreciate his point of view, but I was still pained by how he expressed it over a university listserv without even meeting with me first.

After some angst, prayer, and good counsel, I collected myself and reached out to his office to request a meeting. He accepted. Days later, I sat across from him and shared our robust business plan and risk management manual. He listened and then told me that what I was doing was a mistake and that it would become an embarrassment to the university. I thanked him for his time.

I used his feedback as fuel for my relentless pursuit of the best possible answers, partnerships, recruits, and advice. Thanks to the challenge he presented me with that day, CARPOOL went on to become one of the most well-planned and impactful college safe-ride programs, gaining national recognition only months after the initial launch. To date CARPOOL has given almost 300,000 safe rides home to students in need.

And what happened to the director of the university police department?

Years later, he could be heard sharing with other police departments how CARPOOL was started under his watch at the university. He was taking partial credit for our organization's rapid success, and truth be told, he deserves some part of that celebration. Without the challenge that he presented to me in those early days, I am not sure I would have been as tenacious or as sharp in my research and development.

I am grateful for his push-back and for his integrity in speaking what he believed to a college kid who needed to hear from every stakeholder. He passed away a few years ago, and I often look back at our time together, knowing that he blessed me and everyone that has ever used or worked for CARPOOL.

Be grateful for those who challenge you.

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