There are a few lessons we can all take from an eccentric NBA Hall of Famer.

I am referring to the former Chicago Bull star Dennis Rodman. He brings to mind a few characteristics. Ever-changing hairstyles, numerous piercings and tattoos are his signatures, but now, he is becoming an unofficial diplomat.

Rodman recently returned from his second trip this year to North Korea. Yes, the one that is communist and isolated from other nations across the world. While abroad, the former player met with the nation's leader Kim Jong-un. Rodman told BBC that the Korean dictator is "a very good guy."

Such a description opposes a nation's leader that has spent much of 2013 threatening to strike the United States and running nuclear tests. Reports on child malnutrition and human rights abuse by the secretive government are hard to correlate with such praise of its dictator.

Rodman's visits do not reflect political talks, but rather emit a friendlier tone. The Wall Street Journal reports that he plans to train the North Korean basketball team in preparation for the 2016 Olympics. He even calls on journalists to visit North Korea.

"You write what you hear, but you don't see what you write," Rodman said.

It would be reckless to forget about Kenneth Bae, an American prisoner who has been sentenced to 15 years in North Korean labor camp.

Though traveling to the country is not realistic for mediating safety issues, perhaps Rodman's visits will open communication further down the road. If this is successful, it could open up discussion with the closed-off society.

This could very well be the beginning of a new era with North Korea. Perhaps Rodman's optimistic attitudes toward the dictator are over the top, but they are not unfounded.

His relations with Jong-un are something that no other American has come close to achieving. Rodman even reported in a Guardian interview that he had the opportunity to hold the leader's newborn girl and spend a "relaxing" time by the water with the family.

Though strange, this is not the first time that sports have eased political tensions. Back in the '70s "ping-pong diplomacy" led to restored Chinese-U.S. relations, eventually opening up trade.

Reflecting on the success that has accompanied sport-politics, Rodman's basketball talks with North Korea appear plausible.

Just earlier this year, Sen. Bill Richardson spoke at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy. He said it has not always been diplomats who have broken through on foreign diplomacy.

The former ambassador to the United Nations encouraged what he called "out of the box" diplomacy.

While this opens only a small channel of contact between the U.S. and North Korea, it is one that did not exist previously.

Dennis Rodman is the rare type of man who gives little regard to public opinion. He usually does what he wants to do how he wants to do it.

Although you don't have to dye your hair green or even converse with totalitarian diplomats to change the world, make sure you're putting forth the effort to affect it.

After all, affecting the world is exactly the goal of the college degree – the education most of us struggle to fund.

Aside from the degree and money, don't we want to change the world?

As a famous individualist even in American eyes, Rodman is accustomed to being the odd man out, both on and off the court. It may require taking the unusual route to achieve what we wish to influence.

Just as it could take a nonconformist to open the eyes of a conformist leader, it is sometimes the most unlikely ideas that spark the largest changes.

Rebecca Butcher is a junior in journalism and electronic media. She can be reached at rbutcher@utk.edu.