This morning, while taking my son to his freestyle skiing competition, I drove past one of my former rivals from my high school football days.

Predictably, he groaned as I began to tell him about every game we played against this school. Not again, he begged, and I begrudgingly retreated into silence. But silence can often prove to be a blessing, as it allowed me to think about my worst game against this rival.

It was the year I finally won the starting QB position. We travelled to this school for a season opener that we should have won. Instead I let the team down, played a tentative game, messed up my play calls, and cost us a victory.

Why? I was afraid. Panicked I would screw up. Frightened to lose my role. In the end, my fear-induced ineptitude swiftly cost me my QB job. This was my first experience realizing that if you think about something too much, it will come true.

There is no greater enemy in the arena or the boardroom than fear. Nothing frustrates me more than when I hear one of my employees is afraid of screwing up or even worse, afraid of me. I once had a client tell me I scared them.

Creating an environment devoid of fear has been a relentless objective of mine for several years. The only thing I want people to be concerned about is not trying. Not giving their all. Mistakes will happen. Initiatives may fail. Pitches may be lost. But trying and giving it our all is the true victory. Not trying is failure. I think I am most upset with people when they won’t try. The effort is as important as the result.

It’s a lesson we need to apply away from work as well. If you have kids who play sports, you have no doubt been a part of some great seasons and some crummy seasons. Odds are high that during the crummy seasons, your child and her teammates competed in a culture of fear. Usually created by a well-meaning coach who thinks she is installing a system, but doesn’t realize she’s installing a Pavlovian condition.

Maybe she is as afraid of losing as I was? Maybe she too had the same experience when she was 15? Maybe she too will drive past an arena from her youth, where fear got the better of her one game, and realize that fear doesn’t breed success.

Junior Birdman

My twelve year old is taking his first solo flight this week.

YYZ to MIA in airport code speak.

Toronto to South Beach in March break speak. Actually Coconut Grove, but South Beach sounded cooler for a moment. Given that it was the setting for Meet the Frockers and is Dexter’s hometown, the Grove may seem cooler to my tweenager.

This world where we put twelve year olds on planes by themselves is pretty foreign to me. I think I had flown once by that age and it was smack dab between my parentals. My guy? If I told you how many flights he has been on, you would bombard me with the fifty-six known translations of the word spoiled! Yet this one is going to be different.

I am handing him over to a flight attendant who will only be slightly less a stranger than the persons seated next to him and the pilot to whom I am entrusting him. Three hours later he will emerge as just one of the 110,000 daily travelers through Miami International and hopefully be safely escorted into the clutches of his friend’s mother. It frightens me to think that just a few years ago I was holding his hand to cross a street and now he is crossing the border all on his own.

Part of me wants to ride down with him, help the crew refresh the plane, and u-turn right back to Toronto. The other part of me knows I am overreacting. I have put him on a bus for a month away at camp. I have left him lakeside at my parent’s cottage for a week. Less than ten days ago I willingly let him attend a sleepover where the boys were attempting their first all-nighter.

But this is different. I can’t just run over three blocks if he gets a cream soda induced stomach ache or call the camp nurse to ensure he is a-okay.

No this is requiring me to realize he is growing up. That some day he will get on a different plane for a grad trip, university visit,  and eventually for his own career. Not so fast! I still want him to be a junior birdman. A child who wants to sing songs with his Dad. A boy who wants to play with model airplanes, not a VIP passenger on a real one. Sadly no.

So look up in the air. That’s my son.





Child’s Play: Today’s Kids Are Stressed, Too

Do you remember what it was like to be a kid?

I’m talking about being an eight year old. Or maybe ten. Twelve at the most.

What a time.

Your only worries were whether to play baseball or hockey. Go to your friends or have them to your house. Or which magazine to read first.

No bosses. No mortgages. No email.

Look at your calendar. Your June 1st of many moons ago was a welcomed date. It signified that your school year was coming quickly to a close. That your summer break was just a few weeks away. Your teacher was creating fun activities versus drafting tests.

You weren’t thinking of hitting your Q2 numbers, about covering for a co-worker’s vacation or if you were even going to be able to take your own.

Kids have nothing to worry about.

If you believe that, then perhaps your head is buried deep in the sand of your summer cottage rental.

I have no expertise on the subject, but through my work with several clients in the sector, it’s abundantly clear that today’s children face more issues than those of my generation could ever imagine. Divorce. Bullying. Depression. Obsession. Poverty. Obesity. Violence. Isolation. Racism. Continue reading “Child’s Play: Today’s Kids Are Stressed, Too”

Playing To Win

I have made this speech before.

Not on a single stage. Not all in one place. Not completely in one writing. But I have given it a go in various blogs. I have hinted at it in conference presentations. But being at SportAccord in Québec City this week has allowed my thoughts to ferment even further, and now I am going to liberally pour them out to you today.

The speech itself is quite short. It is only three words. But its impact reaches across economics, health care, marketing, tourism, business, international development and politics. “Play to Win.”

Play to Win
is a mantra we should all adopt. Continue reading “Playing To Win”

Hey, Bus Driver!

Riding the bus to Detroit this morning.

Big game at Joe Louis Arena today, playing the Trenton Cobras with a 4:30 puck drop. Wonder how big of a crowd we will get?

The Cobras are from Trenton, Michigan. We are the York Mills Minor Peewee Select Rangers. York Mills being the “skiers league” in Toronto. These Rangers in particular are my son’s team.

What the heck is a “skiers league”? In essence, it’s a hockey league populated by families that have other priorities. Schedule-wise, it looks like a normal hockey league, until the snow falls and then all games and practices are essentially held on weeknights. Weekends are held sacred for downhill pursuits.

So how will this would-be group of Crazy Canucks do against the Cobras? I have to admit to looking for some info about them online. Does that make me an overzealous, hockey-mad parent? Because I Googled a team of 11-year-olds playing tier-three select hockey? Continue reading “Hey, Bus Driver!”