From Last to First

I grew up with parents who were both very athletic.  My father was a state-champion tennis player and swimmer, and my mother was a fantastic baseball player.  In 1950, high schools in Illinois didn’t have women’s softball teams.  My mother grew up playing baseball with the boys. In the 1940s and ’50s, she would have been called a tomboy. In high school, my mother was so good that she would warm up the pitchers for her high school’s baseball team. 

The love of sports and athletics was something that I grew up with.

I played every sport that was available to me as I grew up.  I was very good at every sport but never outstanding at any.  But one thing I learned and did when I was young and later learned was vital for growth was that proximity is power.

At seven years old is when I first met a professional athlete, Johnny Bench. That meeting had a significant impact on me.  Meeting one of your heroes stays with you your entire life.  That is why it is essential when you meet a young person; you never know the impact you may have on them.

Over the years, I have been honored to meet many professional athletes, astronauts, and successful people.  Each has had an impact on helping me develop my vision and mindset.

Last week, as I traveled to a speaking engagement in Minneapolis, I had a layover at Chicago’s O’Hare airport.   When I checked into the Admiral’s Club and went to the food line, I saw someone whom I recognized but couldn’t remember his name.  As we went through the line, I struck up a conversation.

As we spoke, I realized he was a former NHL player who is now in the front office of an NHL team.  He won the Stanley Cup after his team went from last to first in two seasons.  He was more interested in how I got back on a plane after a crash.  I was more interested in discovering how a professional team, especially in hockey, goes from last to first. 

From our 20 minutes in the Admirals Club, I learned many things. Some things were specific to hockey; line shifts, why goaltenders touch the goalposts, and players not touching the conference trophies after they win their conference championship.   They were exciting things to learn, but as we talked, I really wanted to find out how in a professional sport, go from last to first and how I could apply that business.

I shared with him that I have been a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals since they started in 1967.  For most of my life, the Bengals have lost, but in the past two years, they went from last to first and to the Super Bowl and conference championship game. 

I told him one thing I learned from my time with Tony Robbins everything has a strategy, and successful people know and apply strategies effectively. I asked him about his team’s strategy when they turned around their franchise like the Bengals have done in the past couple of years and what his current team is doing now to get to the Stanley Cup. 

He told me he had never been asked that question.  As he thought about it, he started to share the values his coaches and scouts have to build a championship team.

  1. Stay Humble– When someone gets to the pinnacle of their profession, whether it’s athletics, politics, or business, many people forget where they came from.  They start to believe their press clippings and treat others poorly. Champions always remember what it took to assist them in getting where they have grown to.  Every day, when someone does something outstanding, they get much notoriety and think it’s all about them.  In Marvel’s movie Dr. Strange, the pivotal moment in Dr. Strange’s life was when he learned from the Ancient One, “It’s not about you.” 
  2. Stay Hungry– We have seen it over and over.  When someone accomplishes their primary goal, they sit on their laurels.  A perfect example is in the movie Rocky III.  Rocky becomes a champion and thinks, “I made it.”  Then there was someone who had a chip on his shoulder and was hungrier than Rocky.  It happens not only in sports but in business.  We recently have seen that with some major brands in business.   They find the technology that will set them on the pathway, and suddenly, someone else comes out with a newer, better, more simplified product because they are hungrier and stay focused and know their market. The latest example in sports of a team staying hungry is the Miami Heat and Bam Adebayo, with their run to the NBA Finals.
  3. Be Smart–  Many organizations lose focus on their mission, vision, and values.  They start making unwise decisions.  We have seen that recently with a couple of major brands.  They made decisions that offended their primary market.  Professional teams may strictly keep a disruptive force in their locker room for salary cap reasons. Groups, teams, and organizations that stay focused on their vision and values and don’t vary make intelligent decisions that may not pay off immediately but will ultimately.

As we went our separate ways, he to Las Vegas and me to Minneapolis, we learned some things.  He about the mindset it takes to create opportunity out of uncertainty, and I, a strategy on how average or poor teams move from mediocrity to outstanding. 

If you are in business, an athlete, or an entrepreneur, remember that a pathway to moving from uncertainty to opportunity is to stay humble, hungry, and smart. 

Proximity is power.  Put yourself around someone who has walked their talk. Ask them questions, find out how they accomplished their major mission and compressed decades of struggling into days to victory, and you, too will

Create your own flight plan for your future!