Growing up in southeast Michigan made me fall in love with a sport that the rest of my fellow Americans barely afford a second glance. It regularly registers TV ratings lower than professional poker and horse racing and yet, it features some of the most intense displays of human commitment and sacrifice that can be witnessed outside the battlefield. I’m talking, of course, about hockey. That crazy Canadian sport with the goofy looking players that have gaps in their teeth and hair only a lumberjack or a mother could love. I love hockey. And because I love hockey, I’m currently deeply engrossed in the best time of year - playoffs.
Hockey playoffs are a special, special event for the hockey fan (and player). Every sport obviously features some sort of competition to decide who gets the fancy hardware at the end of the season, but hockey takes it to a whole new level. The NHL playoffs generally last for nearly two months if your team happens to make it to the very end and it requires 16 wins (four best-of-seven series) to hoist the mighty Stanley Cup at the end of the season.
I’m not here to convince you to become a hockey fan (although, you should) but to show you what you can do to approach your own life a little bit more like a hockey player in the midst of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This is the culmination of a long, arduous season and these guys are not messing around. For a lot of players, they may only get one real crack at winning the Stanley Cup. We only get one shot at this life — so let’s not mess it up.
THE SEASON IS JUST PREPARATION FOR THE PLAYOFFS
You gotta do the prep work if you want to dominate. A hockey player plays an 82 game regular season before they even get a chance of lacing it up for the playoffs. Hell, before they even get a chance to do that they have to have committed their life fully and completely to perfecting their skills. They started skating when they were 3 or 4 and have been honing their skills for a lifetime. I remember going outside over the summer and taking 100 slap shots a day off of a piece of plastic to prepare myself for the upcoming season. I fired hundreds of pucks into the tarp hanging off our swing set. Multiply that dedication times a thousand and you have a sense of what it takes to play in the NHL.
What are you honing? What skills are you perfecting? How often do you go out back and fire pucks into a tarp?
PASSION WILL OVERCOME MOMENTARY PAIN
Hockey players are notorious for bouncing back from injury. It’s a badge of honor for a hockey player to get dinged up and not miss a shift. One of my favorite stories is Ian Laperriere. He blocked a slap shot (typically in the 85-95 mile per hour range) with his face last year. He missed a couple games but was able to bounce back and rejoin his team before the series was over. That’s dedication. That’s ignoring momentary pain.
Did your e-book get a bad review? Are your wrists sore from typing all day? Did somebody leave a mean comment on your blog? Who the hell cares? Be a hockey player, spit those teeth out, and get back into the play.
YOU’RE ONLY AS GOOD AS HOW GOOD YOU ARE WHEN IT MATTERS
One of the worst reputations a hockey player can develop is that of a “choke artist.” This may be a highly skilled guy that for whatever reason sucks in the playoffs. Hockey teams expect their highest paid players, their superstars, to produce during the playoffs. Every once in awhile you’ll run into a player that absolutely tears it up in the regular season and then disappears in the playoffs.
Are you a regular season player? Do you talk a good game but never actually back it up? On the ice rink you’d have to answer for yourself with some fisticuffs, but in the online or work world it rarely gets to that point. But when was the last time you shipped something?
SUCCESS MUST BE SUSTAINED
It takes 16 victories versus four different teams to win the Stanley Cup. As we’ve already seen this year with the near collapse of Vancouver’s 3-0 series lead against Chicago, it’s not over until the buzzer on that fourth victory has sounded. Championship caliber teams sustain their success over a grueling 82 game regular season and then an even more epic 2 month playoffs. They can’t rest on the laurels of their last game.
So you wrote one really popular blog post or nailed that extensive project you were assigned at work; give yourself a mental high-five and gear up for the next challenge. You can’t rest on the success of your last endeavor if you want to keep moving forward. Plan, execute, reflect, and repeat.
It’s time to tape up your sticks, tie up your skates, and hit the ice. Keep your head up out there.