When I was a boy scout (shocker right), we had a policy when camping. Leave the site better than you found it.

There is only one real constant in life and that is change. Jobs are going to change, you’re going to leave the place where you currently live, and people are going to leave you or you’re going to leave people.

Knowing this, shouldn’t we do all we can to leave our ‘site’ in better shape than when we got there?

Two years ago, at one of my Cortland conferences, Mark Fisher spoke about planting trees you will never see grow. Making a positive impact on someone or some place has a ripple effect and you likely will never see the end result.

Following is a web of intertwined stories that I believe perfectly demonstrates planting trees you will never see grow.

Kristin and Justin

In 2011, I was a starry eyed Junior at Cortland with one goal, to intern in the strength and conditioning department at Syracuse University. At the time, Cortland’s strength coach, Kristin, happened to be married to one of the coaches at Syracuse.

I remember the trip and experience at Syracuse vividly.  I took the 30-minute drive to Manley field house along with several other students. We met her husband and he gave us a tour around the athletic area.

I asked if I could come in later to observe him and he agreed. Eventually this turned into an internship which led to a volunteer strength coach opportunity.

Without this experience, I never would have gotten the strength and conditioning position at Cortland. Essentially, this never would have happened without Kristin and her husband’s help. After I got the job I wrote Kristin a note and said:

One day I hope I can pay it forward

Justin and Sam

During my first year as a strength coach I had an outstanding intern named Sam. Sam was and still is very passionate about strength and conditioning.  At the end of the internship I recommend that he go out to a DI college in California called UC Riverside. I had interned there in the summer of 2012 and had a good relationship with the current coach.

Sam excelled there and later went on to intern at Stanford. When a strength and conditioning job opened up at Riverside, Sam was the first pick. He is now going on his 3rd year as a division I strength coach.

Justin and Nancy

When I first started working at Cortland as an adjunct lecturer there was one highly energetic eager Sophomore named Nancy. She was always in the gym and always ready to learn. In the following three years, I watched Nancy develop into an outstanding coach and incredible person.

During my time at Cortland, I had a speaker, Tony Gentilcore, from Cressey Sports Performance come in each year to talk to the students. Through networking and being her genuinely awesome self, Nancy became their first Cortland intern.

She did such a fantastic job that (1) the door was open for many more Cortland interns and (2) once a position opened up she became the first female strength coach at Cressey Sports Performance.

My Surreal Moment

Towards the end of the semester I was touring schools to look at Doctoral programs in exercise and health sciences. On my trip back from the University of Massachusetts Boston I stopped in at Cressey Sports Performance to see Nancy.

While I was there one of the interns came up to me and said “you’re Justin Kompf”.

I said yes, because yea that’s who I am. He explained to me that he interned with Sam at UC Riverside. Once his internship was over, Sam had contacted Nancy and recommended his intern for a position as an intern at Cressey Sports Performance.

My brain lit up, here was this kid who I had never met, in a great learning/career advancing position because of decisions I had made back in six years ago.

You never know the ripple effect your work will have on others. I’m sure that there was someone decades ago who helped Kristin get into her position at Cortland. This person, who I will never know impacted me, and in turn I was able to impact a person I met only out of sheer coincidence.

Plant trees that you will never see grow.