059 -The Tenacious Ones

I’m a huge hockey fan. It’s by far my favorite sport, and I do my best not only to take in as many games as I can, but to take as many friends to games as I can in order to share the sport I love with the people I love.

Oftentimes, I get asked what position I played when I was younger or I play hockey now. The answer to both of those questions is “no”, and the question that typically follows is “why?”. Aside from the fact that I never really learned how to ice skate (typically a requirement for hockey players*), I’ll frequently follow up with the fact that I’m just not big enough to be a hockey player. Standing at 5’10.5″ in a a physical sport where the average professional player is 6’1″ and 200lbs is a pretty sure indication that you’re at a disadvantage. But as I think about this, I feel like it’s important to note that it’s not like everyone in the NHL is 6’1″ or above. There are a lot of little guys making it in the big leagues, and they teach us an important lesson.

For the sake of science, I started to look at the players currently in the league, and I found that more than two dozen of them are actually shorter than me! That’s enough for a full team roster (including Jhonas Enroth, our lone goalie under 5’11”). Ouch. I guess maybe my excuse of not being big enough to play hockey doesn’t hold much water.

But are these guys just role players and lineup-fillers? “Plugs” who are just good enough to be on the ice while the good players get some rest on the bench? Let’s take a look at who some of these guys are.

Up first is forward Mats Zuccarello of the New York Rangers, lumbering into the room at a towering 5’7″. Mats, nicknamed “The Hobbit”, has scored 10 goals and 11 assists so far this season, is signed in 84% of Yahoo Fantasy Leagues, and is statistically ranked the 61st best fantasy hockey player to this point in the season while playing over 17 minutes per night. Not too bad for a little guy, eh?

Left wing Johnny Gaudreau, aka “Johnny Hockey”, of the Calgary Flames, is a 5’8″ former winner of the Hobey Baker Award for the best hockey player in the NCAA. But obviously he didn’t stop there. He was drafted in the 4th round in 2011, went on to become a finalist for the NHL’s top rookie award in his first year in 2015 (after being selected to play in the NHL All-Star Game), and has currently scored 5 goals and 16 assists so far this season, is signed in 94% of Yahoo Fantasy Leagues, and is statistically ranked the 90th best fantasy player to this point in the season while playing over 20 minutes a night.

What about a defenseman? The big bruisers signed for their ability to keep the other team away from the net and block shots before they make it to the goalie? Let’s look at Torey Krug of the Boston Bruins. A former MSU Spartan who stands at 5’9″, Torey has scored once and added 13 assists so far this season, is signed in 90% of Yahoo Fantasy Leagues, and is statistically ranked the 68th best fantasy player to this point in the season while playing 22 minutes per night. He may be a full foot shorter than his teammate Zdeno Chara, but his utility to the team and impact on the ice is significant.

The fact that these players not only exist, but are playing hockey at a high level, is important both for young hockey players who may be vertically challenged, and for the rest of us, too. The lesson their careers gives us is applicable to every single person who is determined to do anything.

Here’s my takeaway:

No matter who you are, there are going to be things you’re good at, and things you aren’t. There will be areas of your life where you are above average, where you’re average, and where you’re below average. Sure, it helps to play to your strengths (Mats Zuccarello is fast and agile…Torey Krug has an incredible accurate shot), but you don’t have to let your shortcomings (unintended pun) hold you back. You can still succeed at something in which you are irreversibly disadvantaged. But you’re going to have to be tenacious.

Hockey is a physical sport. When a guy who’s 5’8″ gets hit by a guy who’s 6’5″, he feels it a bit more than he would with another 4″ and 20lb of muscle on him. He gets beaten to the puck by a guy with a longer reach more often. He gets swallowed up in a scrum more often than his teammates who can see right over his head. This stuff happens. And it’s okay. These guys come back and push harder and do what they need to do to succeed. They are, necessarily, tenacious. It’s their only option if they want to win. Sure, they could quit hockey and go into another career. Maybe Mats Zuccarello would be a really good burglar (see aforementioned “Hobbit” nickname). Maybe Torey Krug would be really great at literally anything, since he’s a Spartan and Spartans Will. But they picked hockey, so we’re talking about them playing hockey.

The question for us is, what is it in our chosen field that we’re not that good at? Maybe you were never great at math growing up but you always wanted to go into personal finance because you like helping people with things that are difficult for them. Maybe you went into sales with social anxiety. Maybe your disadvantage is just a particularly difficult coworker.

Either way, you have the same choice to make that we all do. You either quit to do something easier, or you buckle down with tenacity and get better, do better, and win. Tenacity is the product we get when we mix the character, courage, and competence necessary to succeed in any endeavor. So if tenacity is the difference between you getting better or staying the same, what are you waiting for? Let’s go.

I’ll end with the quote that I currently have pinned at the top of my twitter feed, one of my favorites:

“I don’t believe that greatness happens by chance. I don’t believe it happens by happenstance. I don’t believe it happens to those who are lucky.”

-Jeff Blashill, Head Coach of the Detroit Red Wings

I believe it happens to those who are tenacious.

Categories: Growth, personal development, success, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

053 – The State of the Dream Address 2013

As we head into a new year here, it’s only fair that you are provided with an update on how this venture is going. After all, you are the people out there in the world interacting with me, supporting me, investing in me and expecting of me- some of you for most or all of these 23 years. And so you deserve a status update.

You see, a year has passed and it’s easy to look at the accomplishments of the past and pretend that we’ve done a lot. I do not intend to fall prey to that comfort. It’s easy to look at the small victories that we’ve achieved and pretend that they were the goal all along, and that we’re happy with where we’re at. I do not intend to fall prey to that comfort. I do not intend to be happy with where we’re at. I am, as I have been, very happy with, and very excited about, where we’re going. You see, beneath the daily happenings on the outside- the 8 to 5s, the after-hours, the weekend get-togethers- we’ve been working on something bigger. Not necessarily marching the artillery forward, but aiming, tweaking, and setting up the cannon. Because those of you who have taken the time to think through this have realized that we only get one shot- just one- at a meaningful life. But thankfully, it only takes one shot- just one opportunity to really get things right and for everything to line up- and the rest is history.

Ladies and gentlemen, that is the goal. And that is the intention. That is the expected result of this run. What you see today is not what you’ll see for long after that. Because we don’t intend to stay in one place and sit back on the comforts that we’ve been blessed with. You see, our blessings are not for our pleasure but for our purpose, and it is a great and mighty purpose that we have. It has to be. Too much time and effort has been put into making you the person you are today for you to just ease off the throttle and kick back at the earliest opportunity.

You see, there are people out there who need us (and by us I mean to include you) to step up and do more than the average person. The need someone to be the example for what they can achieve. If you intend to be happy, why don’t you just decide to set the bar for what it looks like to be happy? If you intend to have some measured amount of success, why don’t you just decide to set the bar for what it looks like to succeed with grace and humility? If you intend to make an impact, why don’t you make such an impact as to be worth the investment that so many others have paid into you so far?

Or to put this in other terms, why should you? I’m going to spoil the surprise here for you. If you’re going to set the pace for being happy in all circumstances, for succeeding with grace and humility, and making an impact worthy of the investment placed in you, it’s going to require a few things. The first is a massive, audacious dream. Anyone who says that it’s dumb to dream big or discourages you from getting your hopes up is someone that is dangerous to your health: RUN. The second requirement for that sort of life is people. We are created as relational creatures, and while you can be happy, successful, and impactful to a certain degree sort of kind of on your own, when you partner up with a pack of rascals with whom you can operate interdependently, the size of those things is exponentially greater. The final thing that hitting those goals will require is your absolute very best. And that’s really simple to justify because to become all that you were created to become, it darn well better take all you’ve got.

All of this is available to you. There is no better time than right now to sit down with yourself and figure out where the path you’re on is leading and if it’s really the path you want to be on.

Ladies and gentlemen, the dream is alive and well. And it’s waiting for you to get out there and make it come true. If I don’t see you for twenty years, I want to be able to run into you again and find out that you went out and did everything you ever dreamed you could in a lifetime, and that you’re still finding out there’s so much more to do with the time you have left. That is available to you, and don’t underestimate the significance of that. Take advantage of that opportunity, because not everyone will. Those who don’t may not even realize what they’ve missed out on. But those who do- those who run with their dream and really give it all they’ve got for just long enough- will enjoy a reality that they probably doubted from time to time even truly existed. We’ll look forward to seeing you there.

God Bless,

Jared Schulman

Categories: dream, Growth, LIFE, success, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

051 – The Calling

“I was taught that everything is attainable if you’re prepared to give up, to sacrifice, to get it. Whatever you want to do, you can do it, if you want to do it badly enough…and I do believe that. I believe that if I wanted to run a mile in four minutes I could do it. I would have to give up everything else in life, but I could run a mile in four minutes. I believe that if a man wanted to walk on water and was prepared to give up everything else in life, he could do that.”

– Stirling Moss, excerpted from The Greatest Miracle in the World by Og Mandino

I first read the book I just quoted above over a year and a half ago. Feeling compelled a couple of weeks ago, I pulled it back off my shelf and have been idly flipping through my highlights intermittently since. That quote above hit me just as hard today as it did in February of 2011.

See, I do believe in many ways that under the right circumstances, we fickle, soft, flawed creatures (humans) are actually capable of doing just about anything we set our hearts on. Or that our hearts are set on, depending on your interpretation. Why do I believe this? Simply because any cursory examination of history will show that human beings have frequently achieved not only the pinnacle of what was thought to be possible, but have also achieved far beyond what has been thought to be possible at various times throughout our brief history. With that knowledge, even limited as it is, who am I to say that anyone is incapable of doing anything their heart is set on- anything that they dream possible?

Laurie Woodward has said before that, “Behind us, or perhaps above us, lies infinite power. And in front of us lies infinite possibility.” That statement alone summarizes this entire text far better than I can in far more words. (So if you want, you can re-read that quote, think on it for a minute, and then not read any more of this. Or keep reading. Your choice.)

I’ve yet to come across a human being in my lifetime whom I did not believe was capable of greatness. I would, in fact, go so far as to say that we are likely all meant for greatness. Each one of us is part of an ever-changing world. We each play a part in shaping our collective future. If a person goes into the desert and moves one grain of sand but an inch, haven’t they changed the world? What about the person who takes a struggling friend in and invests their time in helping that friend through their struggles? Certainly that person hasn’t cured a deadly disease or negotiated peace between world superpowers; but they have helped cure a person’s heart and negotiate peace inside that person’s mind. That alone is a feat of incredible accomplishment.

It used to be that fighting valiantly for a noble cause was considered great in and of itself. These days we find ourselves so concerned with our own greatness, or at least the image of it, that we refuse to strive greatly for anything, scared to fail lest we be revealed as the imperfect humans we are.

I submit to you this:

Make the choice to be great. Once you make the choice to be great- and I mean truly make that choice- it’s done. There’s no going back. But! You still have to decide on a daily basis what you’re going to do to advance yourself toward that goal. That’s why once you truly decide, it’s over. It can’t be a try. Yes, you can mentally insert a Yoda quote here.

However, I would also submit to you this:

It won’t be easy. But wait. If we’re meant to be great, why isn’t it easy? That doesn’t seem fair!
Well, I don’t know about you, but I was never raised being taught that life was fair. In fact, I seem to recall some lessons to the contrary. But when we think about it, doesn’t that just about make sense? If we’re meant to be all that we’re created to be, shouldn’t it take all that we’ve got to get there?

Only too often, we’re our own worst enemies. We hold ourselves back from greatness because of a mixture of fear and pride. We limit ourselves. We build cages around our potential.

I submit to you this:

“You were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” – Galatians 5:13

“Go therefore and do that which is within you to do. Take no heed of gestures which would beckon you aside, and ask of no man permission to perform.” – Frederick Dey

Categories: dream, freedom, Growth, success | Leave a comment

050 – The Exploration

When was the last time that you felt like Christopher Columbus? What about Neil Armstrong? Roald Amundsen? What if I told you that the journeys that you take in your life could actually equal the storied accomplishments of those great men? I wouldn’t be lying if I said that you were capable of discovering far more than any of them did.

One of the inaccurate maps that Columbus referenced when planning his voyage

Christoforo Columbo, or as we know him better, Christopher Columbus, is one of the most well known explorers of all history. In 1453, with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks, the comfortable passage from Europe to “the Indies” via the Silk Road became considerably less comfortable to travel and trade on, posing issues for traders and economies alike. While expeditions in the 1480s from Portugal had already reached the Cape of Good Hope (in modern South Africa) seeking to navigate under Africa to reach the Indies, Columbus sought a more direct route, straight across the Atlantic ocean. Now, most Americans have been taught that Columbus had trouble getting funding for his voyage because most scholars of the time believed that the earth was flat and couldn’t be sailed around. In fact, scholars at the time knew pretty well that the Earth was round. They just also knew that the distance between Europe and the Indies was much larger than Columbus thought. Columbus was working with the three wrong assumptions that the Earth was smaller than it is, Europe was bigger than it is, and Japan and other islands East of China were actually much further East than they are. In short, Columbus had some very bad information going into his voyage.

What Columbus did have, however, was a great working knowledge of the trade winds, which would prove crucial to his success. On the way to the New World, Columbus’s voyage rode the Easterlies for five weeks, and instead of trying to fight against the winds for several months back to Spain, they sailed North and then East on the Westerlies, saving them from an attempted return home that probably would have killed them.

In the end, Columbus made four voyages to the New World, earned a spot in history forever as the man who “discovered” the New World, and was eventually arrested and imprisoned upon return to Spain, where he died around the age of 54.

While his list of accomplishments is certainly extensive (even after accounting for false histories and misnomers), perhaps his most educational accomplishment was that he set off into the relative unknown with conviction and courage. Today, we don’t remember Columbus for his doubt or his failures; we remember him for his courage and daring.

But taking three wooden ships across a largely unexplored ocean with limited supplies and technology is child’s play, right? What about going into space?

Neil Armstrong went into space. In fact, he was the first American civilian to be in space (although, in fairness,a big-time shoutout goes to Valentina Tereshkova from the Soviet Union, the first civilian in space nearly three years before Armstrong).  Despite his fame and legacy, Armstrong did not have a defining moment in his decision to become an astronaut. He more fell into it. As announcements circulated that NASA was looking for applications for their second group of astronauts, Armstrong became more and more excited, but his application was submitted a week past the deadline. If it weren’t for a friend of his who saw the late application and slipped it into the pile, Armstrong never would have been an astronaut. Even once he became an astronaut, a series of thin threads is all that lead Armstrong to his place in history. The tragic Apollo 1 fire and the delays in the Apollo 8 and Apollo 9 programs that caused them to switch crews were both crucial steps that inched Armstrong closer to his destiny. It was because of that crew switch that, by the crew rotation, Armstrong would serve as the commander of Apollo 11. The rest is history. Armstrong journey to the moon with Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins and took one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.

Two things are important to note here: first of all, that Armstrong was selected as the first man to walk on the moon in part because NASA management did not see him as someone who had a big ego. Consider that the next time you’re in line to take a mission to Mars and you’re wondering how humble you should be. Second, Armstrong didn’t have grand plans of being an astronaut as a child. It wasn’t his goal from the beginning. But he seized the opportunities when they arose and had at least enough faith to guide him on the path to his destiny, and because of that courage, today he’s one of the most well-known Americans in our history.

But what about the lesser-known heroes of our time? Roald Amundsen lead a life that bears similarity to the other great explorers we’ve discussed so far. Amundsen was a Norwegian explorer who was the first to reach the South Pole in 1911, the first to undisputedly reach the North Pole in 1926, and the first to traverse the Northwest Passage in 1903-1906. Amundsen is another unlikely hero, though. His original intention was to travel to the North Pole in the early 1900s, but after hearing that two others had already claimed the pole, he decided to reroute to Antarctica for the South Pole. Amundsen didn’t inform anyone about the decision to reroute- even his crew- until they had already left. This gave them a head start on English explorer Robert Scott, also vying to reach the pole, that would prove crucial to their success. For their journey, they utilized sled dogs, skis, and Eskimo style skins in lieu of heavier woolen parkas- all tricks that he had learned on his previous journey through the Northwest Passage. Additionally, Amundsen set up supply depots regularly as they traveled, just in case they needed the extra supplies on their return journey. The entire voyage over land was conducted in twenty mile segments. That principle alone has importance that can’t be underestimated. Every day, nice weather or poor weather, sunny or snowy, Amundsen and his men would march twenty miles further toward the South Pole. It was that consistency, along with meticulous planning and forethought that finally brought them as the first expedition to reach the South Pole in 1911. Amundsen’s crew left a tent with some supplies and a note detailing their accomplishment and the locations of their supply stores along their route back in case they didn’t make it, but they returned safely.

But what about Robert Scott? His expedition wore heavy wool parkas to battle the cold. They traveled light with just enough supplies to make the journey to and from the South Pole. On good weather days, they would travel 50 miles or more. In periods of extended poor weather, they stayed camped in their tents. As a result, they reached the South Pole more than a month after Amundsen, tired, worn out, and frostbitten. Their return journey was short-lived and tragic. Members of their party were hampered by hunger, injuries, and old wounds, and slowly dropped off one by one until only three were left, including Scott. The last three died in their tent in early 1912, just a short distance away from one of Amundsen’s leftover supply stores.

While Amundsen’s accomplishments may be less famous than Columbus’s or Armstrong’s, his are perhaps the most applicable to our lives today. His meticulous preparation and steadfast determination, along with the unwavering dedication to progress of the twenty mile march not only carved his name permanently into history, but ensured the survival of his crew and himself. Too often we live our lives like Robert Scott: moving forward without much planning, preparing just as much as we think we have to, and working on progress when it’s comfortable but staying in our tents when it would be uncomfortable to press on. We remember Amundsen because of what he did; we remember Scott because of what he didn’t. There’s a lesson there.

But I did tell you that you could accomplish even more than these men have, and I don’t aim to disappoint. The story isn’t long because I don’t know much of it. In fact, you’ll need to be the one to write it. What I can do, however, is tell you this.

Each of these men- Columbus, Armstrong, and Amundsen- were exploring various finite areas. The New World, while it was unknown in the Western World, was not growing or changing. The moon isn’t going anywhere. Antarctica is actually shrinking more than anything. But what about you? Have you figured out yet where your exploration will take you?

Do you realize yet that your life is a journey into the unknown? That your life’s path needs to be explored? Not only do you have a unique and specific purpose that you’re being guided toward every day, but the land that you have to navigate to get there- your life- is constantly changing based on how you choose to live it! Columbus couldn’t change the size of the Atlantic ocean! Armstrong couldn’t alter the topography of the moon! There wasn’t enough global climate change at the time to make it relevant to Amundsen’s expedition! But YOU can change where your journey takes you any time you want! YOU get to decide if the path is rocky or smooth! Sort of. YOU get to decide what stops you make along the way! That’s why YOUR journey is grander than Columbus, Armstrong, and Amundsen combined! ONLY YOU can do it, and YOU create it as you go! How incredible is that?

It is a pretty tall order though, isn’t it? And couldn’t we all use some advice for our journey? Luckily, even in this blog post alone, there are lessons to be learned.

Learn from Columbus

Be courageous. Known where you’re going. Columbus “knew” everything he needed to know to get to “the Indies.” Where he ended up wasn’t where he expected, and he was unarguably wrong about the distance he would have to travel if he were to reach his intended destination, but he never faltered in his determination to get there. If there’s somewhere you want to be in life, get out and get there!

Learn from Armstrong

Take advantage of opportunities when they arise. Armstrong didn’t intend to be an astronaut when he was growing up, but today he’s the most well-known Astronaut in America. He took advantage of the opportunity to join the space program when it came up and through a series of thin threads, found his way to his destiny. If there’s something that piques your interest in life, give consideration to whether or not it’s an opportunity you should take. You never know when your future might be just one week-late application away!

Learn from Amundsen

A failure to plan is a plan to fail. Amundsen overstocked for his expedition, left extra supplies for his return journey, and made sure to maintain a steady pace toward his goal regardless of the circumstances. Make sure that you know what it will take to get to where you want to go and then do more than you think it will take. Utilize knowledge that you’ve acquired in other areas of life toward your success in your purpose. Commit to a twenty mile march every day- do something every day that moves you closer to achieving your purpose, whether you feel like it or not.

If you apply these principles to your journey in exploring your life and your purpose, I have no doubt that your discoveries and accomplishments will dwarf the side of the New World, the moon, and Antarctica all put together. That’s because they’re finite land masses. Your life, on the other hand, has unlimited potential to be as vast and grand as you want it to be. So set sail and explore- let me know what you find.

Categories: fun, Growth, personal development | Leave a comment

047 – The Most Comfortable Pillow

I was recently asked by my good friend and mentor Larry Allswede to write a blog post on the concept of comfort. When should a person be comfortable? When should they be uncomfortable? And where is the balance between the two?

In thinking on comfort, the first place that my mind came to was the quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin –

”Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security [comfort] will deserve neither and lose both.”

Well. That’s a pretty bold statement on when it’s not okay to be comfortable! Comfort that is gained through the sacrifice of liberty is clearly a no-go. But Benjamin Franklin didn’t live in the time of Facebook and Twitter, cable television and Siri in our pockets. Benjamin Franklin was actually foreshadowing exactly what our society has done since the start of the industrial revolution! Benjamin Franklin was essentially predicting, by the warning that he gave, that American society would give up its liberty to gain security! I’d stand up and be outraged at his audacity, but my lay-z-boy is far too comfortable, and the next episode of The Jersey Shore is about to come on…

So. Benjamin Franklin correctly predicts that America will give up its liberty to be comfortable. But what he didn’t prepare us for was the fact that by nature of giving up our liberty for comfort, we’ve stopped teaching the principles that help us secure and protect that liberty. So, what are five things we can do to relearn those principles? Well, some of it might involve becoming a little bit uncomfortable…

Continue reading

Categories: Growth, leadership, Liberty | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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