Jesse Cole Entertains and Inspires During UHart Lecture

Jesse Cole in Chase Arena
Jesse Cole in Chase Arena

From thrilling basketball games to graduations to hosting political leaders, the Chase Arena on the University of Hartford campus has had plenty of memorable moments. But probably none like Tuesday, March 5, when a man dressed like a giant banana stirred hundreds into a state of excitement with his energetic presentation on ways to find passion in life and make it stand out.

Jesse Cole, dressed in his trademark yellow tuxedo and yellow bowler hat, is the founder of Fans First Entertainment and owner of the popular Savannah Bananas baseball team. It’s the success he has had with the Savannah Bananas—transforming an exhibition team into one of the most popular sports entertainment shows in the world—that provides the foundation of his motivational presentations.  

Cole’s reputation always precedes him, which is why the crowd on Tuesday included everyone from current UHart students to area residents. They came to be inspired and entertained by the show titled “Stop Standing Still, Start Standing Out.” No one would argue that Cole lives by that exact motto. 

His original mission was to make baseball fun, which he does with relaxed game rules, on-field antics, special events, and a “fans-first” philosophy and business model. It wasn’t long after Cole began that he realized his formulas and techniques translate very well into the search for personal motivation and success.  

“It’s all about standing out,” he said to the Chase Arena crowd, “because being normal gets only normal results. If you’re not being criticized, you’re playing it too safe.”  

Frequently quoting lessons he learned from studying the lives and careers of P.T. Barnum and Walt Disney, Cole shared his story with the eager and appreciative crowd—a story that has its share of childhood struggles and early-career failures. That, too, of course, is part of the motivational strength of his show, which he takes nationwide.  

Cole’s appearance at UHart was part of the Rogow Distinguished Lecturer Series, devoted to bringing celebrated authors, journalists, historians, academics, and artists to the Greater Hartford region. 

A video introduction by UHart Barney School graduate Jackson Olson ‘20 kicked off the event in the spirit that was to follow. Olson, third baseman for the Savannah Bananas, was a member of the Hartford Hawks for four years, and had a stellar career as a student-athlete while also pursuing his bachelor’s degree in business administration. 

After the introduction, Cole’s energetic, elastic physicality and rapid-fire delivery shared equal billing with his motivational messages. His five rules, integrated into his friendly discourse, include the need to eliminate friction from your life, to always be entertaining, to experiment constantly, to engage deeply, and to empower your own actions. It’s all part of a philosophy that has gained many fans; Cole has over 15 million followers on social media and has been featured on The Today Show, CBS Sunday Morning, HBO Real Sports, and other programs. He is also the author of several books.  

With elements evocative of everything from a corporate seminar and a revival meeting, to a hoedown and even a children’s show, “Stop Standing Still, Start Standing Out” was a unique presentation.  

It was clear throughout the presentation that Cole wanted his audience members to flourish—to feel the joy of personal satisfaction as much as they see the green of financial success. For most of the evening at Chase Arena, however, it wasn’t green that people saw, but mostly yellow.    

It’s all about standing out because being normal gets only normal results. If you’re not being criticized, you’re playing it too safe.

Jesse Cole, Owner of Savannah Bananas; Founder of Fans First Entertainment