Rueben Mayes Shares Five Keys to Success

By Sue McMurray

Those who know Rueben Mayes (’92 Gen. Studies, ’00 MBA), chief development officer for Pullman Regional Hospital and active community leader, may be surprised to hear that he hasn’t always loved working with and being around people.

As an athletic boy growing up in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Mayes envisioned himself becoming an NFL player and living in a big house with a fence, quarantined from social interaction. His reticence stemmed from being inherently introverted and lacking confidence as a child of divorced parents. Though he hadn’t yet found his voice, he knew he had something to say and something to give to the world.

As Mayes pursued his dream of joining the NFL, he became a world-class athlete in high school and landed an athletic scholarship to WSU in 1982. In his junior and senior years, his talents began to pay off as he set records and earned awards. In 1986, he was chosen by the New Orleans Saints in the third round of the NFL draft and went on to earn more titles and accomplishments during his seven-year NFL career.

But Mayes is the first to admit his success in life stems beyond the NFL uniform. In an invited talk hosted by the WSU Administrative Professional Advisory Council (APAC), Mayes shared five keys that have helped him achieve personal, professional, and spiritual well-being.

Create a bold vision

Reminiscing about his boyhood dream to become an NFL player, Mayes said having a bold vision early in life can motivate people to reach for something every day. “What are you doing today that links to your bold vision?” he asked. “How many of you have goals written down? I encourage you to do this,” he said.

Work hard to get ahead

Hard work is the second key to achieving vision, he said, explaining that the intense work ethic he developed in football training hasn’t changed. “There are campers who are content with where they are, and climbers who work hard to improve their habits,” he said. “Consider what hard work means to you and if you are a camper or a climber.”

Know yourself

Knowing yourself and understanding how to manage your personality in the workplace is an important mindset, Mayes said. He learned to be extroverted to achieve goals he sets for himself. In his pocket Mayes carries a coin a mentor gave to him in a moment of encouragement—it reminds him daily that he has something to say. “Find a way to silence the voice that says ‘you can’t be who you want to be,’” Mayes said.

Embrace adversity

Mayes had to tackle adversity many times on the football field, especially when injuries occurred. When an Achilles tendon injury interrupted his training camp and first season, he nearly quit playing. A period of rest allowed him to heal physically and take a step back from mental adversity he was facing. He said the experience taught him there’s always an avenue to get through it. He encourages others to embrace adversity by focusing on how to solve a problem rather than fixating on the problem itself.

Relationships are everything

Twenty-eight years ago, Mayes was alone in a hotel room, feeling a sense of emptiness in his life. He picked up a Bible and says everything about his perspective became anchored to the positive. Today, Mayes’s childhood self who wanted nothing to do with people is unrecognizable. “God and relationships with people are the most important things in my life,” he said. I see people for who they are, and no matter whose path I cross, I think, “They are doing their best today. What do I have to give?”