Hockey is life #1: keep your stick on the ice

Hockey is a great source of life lessons, and making arcane references to hockey is often a good connecting point for people I meet from the Great White North (hoser).  So forgive me a few posts that draw lessons from hockey as we enter a new season on the ice and wonder who will be hoisting the cup when it’s all over.

Hockey is a fluid, fast paced sport with lots of changes in direction and unexpected breaks emerging from what seems like chaos.  Lesson number one to all young players is to keep your stick on the ice.  This helps make sure you are ready for the unexpected, and can capitalize on it with a will timed pass or shot on goal.

photo from Hockey USA

photo from USA Hockey

It’s simple to say, but takes years of practice to keep your stick down while skating fast and mixing it up with other players.  You always want to lift up and rest your back, which gets very sore after an hour or so of drills. And during games you find yourself cruising along with your stick up while your not directly in a play. I had a coach who used to make us “take a lap” if he found us with our sticks across our knees during a scrimmage.

Eventually it sinks in if you keep practicing.  But it really clicks after you get a goal or an assist in a game because your stick was in the right place at the right time.  You get a lot of credit for being smart, but really your stick was “just there.”

So this lesson is about being prepared, and training yourself to be ready BEFORE the situation demands you to respond.  How do I “keep my stick on the ice” now?

  • Have a well prepared elevator pitch for what I’m working on and why I’m doing it.  This helps me connect with others and get spontaneous “random acts of assistance”.
  • Have regular touch base meetings with close colleagues even when we don’t have an urgent agenda item.  This helps us share ideas, intelligence, and feedback that improves our work.
  • Mystery shopper or Freaky Friday experiences.  Empathizing with clients or customers by walking in their shoes brings unexpected ideas and opportunities for performance improvements.
  • Twitter and Facebook.  Staying connected in social networks brings unexpected ideas, connections, and opportunities that I could never have found without these social exchanges.

2 thoughts on “Hockey is life #1: keep your stick on the ice

  1. Great post John! Maybe it’s my many years playing [ice] hockey or the fact that I’m a hoser from the great white North like Bob & Doug (, but I think you’re totally on target with respect to being prepared.

    The speed of today’s workplace demands that people have much less time to react before they respond to any kind of event. From servicing our clients and stakeholders to to engaging our teams and colleagues, I would argue that all the great tools (technology, social networking, etc) we now have at our disposal in fact enforce the *expectation* of rapid response and engagement.

    Looking forward to lesson #2 🙂

  2. Pingback: Hockey is life #3: win the short races « JFX

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