My wife looked at me, shook her head, forced a smile and once again told me I was crazy. Of course, this was the morning of the Polar Plunge - a day I had dreaded in the preceding weeks, particularly after seeing the forecast of zero degrees and sunny. However, as I made a patchwork costume, which I titled Aspiring 1990s Aerobics Instructor, I knew I would end this day feeling fulfilled and proud.
By most accounts I am regarded as a reasonable person, which is why my wife couldn’t believe that I was willingly going to jump into a frozen lake in zero-degree weather whilst dressed in shorts that left little to the imagination and a Reebok track jacket that only Richard Simmons could appreciate. My response to her bewilderment was “Controlled bursts, Liz.”
The Polar Plunge is a well documented tradition of jumping in a near frozen body of water where friends, family members and enemies can pledge money to your jump in support of a varying number of causes. The 2016 Madison Polar Plunge supported Special Olympics Wisconsin and aimed to beat last year’s mark of $340,000 in donations.
The event was spearheaded by the Center for Brand and Product Management’s own Farin Williams - despite the event falling on her birthday - and unofficially sponsored by esteemed marketing professor, Jan Heide. Our MBA team sported a theme of “Ice, Ice, Baby,” representing the best in 1990s music and fashion, hence the costume. Much more importantly, Farin and Jan succeeded in their efforts as dozens of MBA students and faculty joined the team, allowing us to reach our goal by raising more than $7,500 for this year’s plunge. This amount beat last year’s total but it also came with a few additional wins.
The Polar Plunge is now a tradition for MBA students and Wisconsin and is a terrific way to reconnect with fellow students and tighten bonds following our respective winter breaks. Plus, as I explained to my wife, after she quizzically looked at me following my controlled bursts statement, “I believe stupidity builds up in all of us and it helps to have controlled bursts of foolishness, like jumping in a painfully cold lake with friends, to let it out productively.” By this logic, it is also incredibly healthy for the mental states of those who participated.
While I am positive that stupidity builds up in Liz much slower than in me (despite what her marrying me may imply), I have recruited her to join us next year and I am putting that call out to all of you reading this to join as well. I promise the cold is temporary and the embarrassment wanes but the cause is worthy, the memories will last and you will be instantly smarter as you exit the water.