personal development

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.

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

058 – The Other Side of the Table

As human beings, we live most of our lives around other human beings. We’re neighbors, fellow bus or subway passengers, colleagues, mutual victims of rush hour, friends, and family to hundreds if not thousands of other people. And yet, very rarely do we spend much time considering these people through any lens that doesn’t also go through us. Are they looking at me? What does he think of me? Does this person see me as competent? Do they think I’m confident? Is everyone laughing at me or with me? And because we spend so much time thinking about ourselves, how wonderfully refreshing and uplifting it is when other people think about us, too! It’s like they really get us!

This simple reality is the key to one of the most underutilized-yet-powerful win-win scenarios we could ever put ourselves in. In our dealings with other people, if we can just stop thinking of ourselves briefly- momentarily- just for a second- and consider the person on the other side of the table from us, we effectively get up, walk over, and get on their side of the table. And all of a sudden we can begin to understand each other and can actually work together toward a common goal or interest.

The beautiful thing about this strategy is that you don’t even have to be subtle or sneaky about it! I’ve frequently expressed to other people, verbatim, “I want to do my best to get on your side of the table and understand where you’re coming from and where you’re trying to go.” This has got to be the most noble sort of manipulation there is; you’re tricking people into allowing you to help them get what they want quicker, better, faster, easier than they could have on their own.

“But Jared,” someone who isn’t as wise as you might whine, “how is that win-win if it’s all about the other person getting what they want?”

That’s the other not-so-secret secret about this whole concept. For it to really, truly work, you’ve got to flat out, no exceptions, unconditionally care about the other person. If you’re thinking about how you can help them so that they’ll help you, or trying to maneuver around or through them for your own end goal, you’re thinking about it all wrong. However, when you really care about that person and what they want and need, then getting on their side of the table and understanding their motivations and their thought processes so that you can help them follows as the next logical step in the process. And when you really care about helping them get what they want, then it becomes something that you want, too. All of a sudden, you’re working together, you’re moving in the same direction, and when you reach that goal, it’s a win-win for both of you.

So, here’s to the table-hoppers who are constantly jumping from booth to booth, sitting down next to other people, and coming alongside them in the spirit of camaraderie and helpfulness. Let’s never forget that for every time we wish the person across from us would think more about what we want, there’s another person looking at us and thinking the same thing.

Categories: community, personal development, success | Tags: , | 1 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.

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