Archive for February 2011

What it Means to be a “Pro”

February 8, 2011

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If you think this has anything to do with being a professional hockey player, guess again.  What I’d like to talk about this morning is a far broader meaning of the word “pro”…

Actually, my recent battle with a winter flu bug started me pondering this subject.  Or, should I say, my many social media friends — from Twitter to Facebook — got me thinking about it, as they suggested I take some time-off from my work.  (Ya, right…  Take some time-off.  Ya, right.)

In reality, this line of discussion began among my two brothers and I a lot of years ago as we were just embarking on our true life’s work…

You might find it interesting that we all dabbled a bit in singing and playing the guitar during our youngest years.

I found an old hollow-bodied guitar under our parents’ bed when I was about 11-years old, and I pestered mom and dad to let me take lessons until they finally relented.  (Rick Nelson was who I thought I’d ultimately be, or one of the Beach Boys a few years later.)  Of course, you know reality ultimately struck me, and steered me towards steel blades rather than the steel guitar strings.

Middle brother Lou did pretty well for himself with the music.  Still, while he has always had the sweetest, most natural voice I’ve ever heard, he only does a gig now and then as he makes his fortune elsewhere.

Baby brother John (using our mom’s maiden name “Stevens” for the billboards) is the only one to have gone full-time with his music, having appeared on The Nashville Network, and regularly singing, playing guitar and telling jokes — from ocean liner cruises to Disney World to Universal Studies in Orlando, Florida.

Anyway, a lot of years ago my brothers and I started holding occasional “meetings” in my backyard during the summer months, although Lou’s work ultimately whittled it down to just John and I meeting on a fairly regular basis.

I guess that wasn’t really the best word to describe what we did, though.  In reality, they were just bull sessions — roughly structured, and just aimed at sharing our latest business challenges or ideas.  (Funny, now that I think of it, but we were doing “meet-ups” or formed our own “mastermind group” 20-years before they became fashionable!)  So, comfortably clad in shorts and T’s, and armed with pencils and paper and even my old cassette recorder, we went about sharing a bunch of common work related ideas.

And that brings me to a topic that has arisen countless times over the years — going way back to those meetings, and continuing in later telephone conversations.  Ya, it’s that thing about being a “pro”.

In a way, I guess, John’s work and mine are similar.  (Actually, if you’ve seen the movie, The Blues Brothers, you’d know that either of us could have cups of beer thrown at us at any time!  ;) )  More seriously, though…  Both of us do our work in front of crowds.  Of course, John’s work atmosphere is obvious, but I also have a ton of people watching my every move, be it at a practice, a clinic or a game.

Oh, as far as the professional part goes, I’m betting you’re thinking it has to do with the way we act.  Yup, of course it does.  Still, that’s not what I’m ultimately going to tell you about.  Nor is it the fact that we both have to present ourselves well — as being dressed properly, clean shaven, whatever.  And, I’ll even suggest (though you may not have thought about it) that we both have to put-in a great deal of preparation time BEFORE we can really do what we do — well.

Okay, so here it is…  Many years ago during one of our meetings, the idea arose that there’s a special meaning to being a true “pro”.  And I think I used Frank Sinatra (still alive then) as an example.  For, I suggested to John, “A fan who sees Sinatra in New York City expects that he’d put-on the same energetic, high quality performance in Cleveland.”

Now, that just might seem obvious to the reader.  However, let me put it in a little different perspective…  You see, the day leading-up to Old Frank’s show in Chicago is NOT going to be identical to the day he had just before going on stage in San Francisco.  You can be sure of that (can’t you?).  No matter what, though, his audience is coming (and they’re paying) to see the Frank Sinatra they’ve come to love from the past.

To take that a step further, let me tell you that Sinatra’s audience, John’s audience, and my hockey customers don’t care if either of us had an argument with our wife (or whomever), just wrecked our car, or aren’t feeling well.  (No, all my Twitter and Facebook friends, my customers expect the same from me, whether this flu bug has me down or not.)

Then, while you might be sitting and reading — and nodding to the affirmative, my guess is that you haven’t quite yet connected what I’ve been saying with whatever it is YOU do.  Ya, I’ll bet you think yourself a “pro” at what you do, but…

To my way of thinking, none of us are really “professionals” until we take-on the real meaning of that word.  In fact, let me share something I read many years ago, this attributed to someone famous in Russian theater:

“There are no small roles,
only small actors.”

From that, I guess we could say that a job is what we make of it.  And that brings me to something our dad shared when a very young John asked him what career path he might take…

“Pick something you love doing,
and the rest will take care of itself.”

Today, I have to think John loves what he’s doing; I think Lou, Jr does, too.  And, by now, you probably know my feelings on that subject.  Oh, and while on this part of the discussion — about loving what we do, I happened to mention in a recent Facebook post how I forgot about being sick while I was at the rink.   Hmmmmm…  Funny how that happens, if one really loves what he or she is doing.  (It’s called getting lost in ones work.)

Then, these snippets…  Our favorite pro athletes, actors and entertainers probably earned that kind of respect due to their consistency.  Ya, they tend to perform at a high level, night after night after night.  Then, if you’ve gotten the impression that Sinatra, John, Lou and I love our work so much that we never have a bad day, think again.  (I can’t speak for the late, great Sinatra, but I’m pretty sure The Chighisola Boys get all the headaches, flat tires, strained budgets and flu bugs you do.  The secret to being a “pro”, though, I guess, is whisking those thoughts away for a short time, knowing “the show must go on”.)

Finally, although one may love his or her job, it’s not all that hard to forget.  I mean, it’s easy enough to get into the rut of muttering to oneself, “Ugh, I have to _____…”  Ya, we all do that, even when we actually love our work.  The remedy, as far as I’m concerned, is to occasionally pinch myself, and compare what I do with all those who are truly hating their fate in life.

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If you’re into hockey, and need some guidance — as a player, coach or parent, you ought to browse the pages of CoachChic.com, the world’s greatest hockey resource.

 

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This Hockey Coach’s X-step Program

February 3, 2011

Quite obviously I’m going to need to clarify THAT title — 😉 .  So, here goes…

Years upon years ago, I had an awful problem with organization.

If you don’t know, my work — although it basically only includes hockey — is really fragmented into numerous different types of activities.  Hey, nowadays I teach hockey clinics, I coach teams, I run special programs for older players, and then I have all sorts of work on the Internet.  Frankly, just the things I have to get accomplished for one of my websites would make your head spin.

Anyway, I ultimately decided on using a really nice year-long diary (even nicer than the one pictured to the left).  In the earliest years that diary ran from January through December.  However, that’s not how a hockey coach lives.  So, I ultimately discovered that the company making the diaries I use also has an “academic” version.  Ya, that’s what I needed, since the hockey season basically parallels the school year — starting in September.

Odd duck that I am (remember, you’re dealing with the so-called “Mad Scientist” here), I am forever altering things to make them work for me, or to make them work according to my personal needs.  What I’m getting at is that I’m an active guy who doesn’t spend much time in a suit and toting a briefcase.  Naw, I’m most often in a warm-up suit or shorts and t-shirt, and traveling relatively light.

So, probably about 20-years ago, I created little “daily slips” that were easy as pie to carry with me.  What I’d do — and what I still do today — is, over my morning coffee, transfer important chores from my big diary to that day’s slip.  (Just as an FYI…  A lot of business gurus recommend making your todo list on the night before.  I’ve tried that, I like the idea, but I’ve often had difficulty finding the time late at night to stick to that routine.)

Continuing to adapt things to my liking, my daily slips have evolved over the years…  One thing I realized was that certain events were locked into certain days, week after week.  So, I’d ultimately write-in on my master sheet that I had a hockey skills clinic to teach on Monday nights, a team practice on Wednesday nights, my Learn-to-skate/Learn-to-play clinics on Sunday mornings, and so on.  With that, I’d photocopy my master sheet (containing a week’s worth of slips) enough times to last me a month or so, I’d slice those and then arrange individual slips in order, so that the correct slip was ready for me each morning.

As a brief aside here…  I might sound like a sick puppy, but the best thing that ever happened to me was to years ago do some self-discovery.  I mean, once I found what I was really built like — and what my unique strengths and weaknesses were, I began to soar.  Among my personal needs:  1) that I need to be really, really organized, and 2) that I am a visual person.

As you might notice, those two things go hand in hand, with the second part pointing to my need to SEE things (in something like a diary or on a daily slip).

I also tell you this in case you ever have to deal with me.  I mean, don’t be yelling to me in some noisy rink runway that you’re son is going to miss a practice on February 22nd.  First, my mind is racing about too many things that are going on at the rink; and secondly, I need to write stuff down in order to deal with it later.  Best bet, then:  send me an email.  🙂

Okay, fast-forward to a month or so ago and the start of that “X-step Program”…

I tend to scan the nightly newspaper, dwelling on some items that interest me, ignoring all that don’t.  Dear Abby most often falls in the latter group, UNLESS a given title catches my eye.  That was the case just prior to this past Christmas when something did cause me to take a second look.

Now, although I can’t recall where Dear Abby obtained the list in her column, my guess is that it was modeled after AA’s “12-step Program”.  Still, comparing the list I clipped from the paper that night to an AA one I recently looked-up, I don’t see a lot of similarities.

No matter, I really liked the messages contained within Abby’s list.  Ya, guys like me who follow all the motivational gurus like such things.  I mean, they included suggestions that if followed would definitely add quality to anyone’s life.

That in mind, I clipped each of seven separate suggestions and pasted them onto my master list sheet, each message under a different day of the week.  (As I recollect, I did move them around a bit — or put them out of order, just so they’d fit on a given slip.)

Then, as a hint of the messages (and maybe where these came from?), each one starts with “JUST FOR TODAY:”  And, today being Thursday, the message staring me in the face each time I checked my todo list, states:

“JUST FOR TODAY:  I will improve my mind.  I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration.  I will not be a mental loafer.”

And, here’s one I really liked, from earlier in the week — on Tuesday:

“JUST FOR TODAY:  I will be happy.  I will not dwell on thoughts that depress me.  If my mind fills with clouds, I will chase them away and fill it with sunshine.”

Hey, neat, or what?

And the great messages keep coming for me, on a daily basis (with the others abbreviated quite a bit):

Monday – to live through this day only

Wednesday – to accept what is

Friday – gather courage to do what is right
Saturday – make an effort to be agreeable
Sunday – do something positive to improve your health

Think about each of those messages, if you will.  (I especially like the one that reminds me to only worry about the day at hand, not yesterday, nor tomorrow.)

And something else I like about those…  I think a single message — although perhaps good, can ultimately become a part of the scenery.  I mean, I know I’d start tuning-out to it after a few days.  However, the different daily recommendations just seem to work for me.

Well, I guess that’s it for tonight.  And, while I hope you enjoyed sneaking behind the scenes with me, I also hope you’ll see how being organized is just as big a part of my hockey coaching as studying over-speed training or X’s and O’s.  Ya, if I’m not organized, the practices and games never happen (or at least they don’t happen as well as they should).

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A Late Addition to the Above Article

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Today is Monday.  And, as you might know from reading the above, the suggestion for today is to “live through this day only”.  Ya, “through THIS day only.”

Now, if you’ve ever found yourself in a state of overwhelmed (as I often do), you also find that the kzillion things you need to get done tend to cripple you, and there’s the likelihood you won’t get ANY of them done.  Yup, that sounds like me on many a day.

Anyway, that reminder — to just pay attention to today — caused me to ask myself what the most important thing on my plate might be.  And, that was a very easy one to answer.  Again, I have tons of things to do that really need doing, but none as urgent as the “Hockey BootCamp” I need to advertise.  So, thanks to my diary slip note this morning, I’ve been absolutely flying on that one project (and that one project only)!  Yes!!!

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