On the origins of excellence

Generosity is the key

Did ya hear that Walter died?

Words spoken around hockey rinks everywhere. Hockey boards and gossip sites were ablaze with the news: the father of #99, the great one, Mr. Walter Gretzky had died.

This wasn’t news that gutted me. And remarkable. Walter and his son had touched my life greatly as a small child. I have always admired Wayne’s generosity and creativity on the ice.

I met Walter. It was October 5, 2005. We were at the bar at 99 Blue Jay Way that had his last name over the door. The NHL had resumed play after the 2004 - 05 season was lost to a lock out. I was there with my internet hockey forum buds. Buds? It’s been 20 years. This was one of our first meet ups.

The atmosphere was festive, ecstatic almost. Hundreds of hockey fans with pent up aggression and egos ready to scratch the ground and pound chests in some sort of weird ritualistic superiority dance of Canada. It was great. Walter was everywhere. He sat down with us several times. He even led the conga line that night.

He was stoked on hockey. He was stoked on everybody being there. He was stoked on making it great for everyone. His son Wayne was kinda like that. Wayne is the greatest hockey player. Wayne is the all time leader in the NHL: Total Goals. Total Points. Most importantly: Total assists.

I tell the kids I coach about Wayne. I ask them: Why was he the greatest player ever?

They invariably refer to his totals. His accomplishments. What he did.

But the most important stat I tell them belongs to Jarri Kurri.

Jarri Kurri?

Despite not being on the same line - or even on the same team, Gretzky assisted on three hundred and sixty four of Kurri’s six hundred and one career goals.

Quick math?

More than half.

[Those three hundred and sixty four assists account for about eight percent of Gretzky’s nearly twenty nine hundred points]

Bored of numbers yet?

This is a long way to say that his assists were significant.

Wayne was the best player in the world because he made the other players better.

This is what the best players do. They make everyone else around them better.

On our team, everyone has a chance to be the best player.

We all have the chance to practice good-will.

We get chance after chance to be the great one. We all get a chance each game and practice to be generous with the puck and with our play.

We all get the chance to set each other up to be successful.

Because that’s what the great ones do. They make the people around them better.

They live like Walter did and lead the conga line.

It’s likely that Wayne inherited this brilliance from his father. Either way, he learned that in a team game, making the others better is a path to greatness.

And yet? We teach hockey as a skills first game. We do this in school and most education.

What if the first and most important skill was to be like Wayne and Walter?

What if the first skill we taught in school was the ability to generate assists?

What if the first skill we taught in school was the instinct to make everyone around us more successful?

What if people really took the time to realize what the best in the world do?

The best make everybody around them better.

Remarkably Foolish Video of the Week

This is a loop of a song from a recent episode of Teen Titans-Go.

If you haven’t watched it. Start with season 2, episode 3 - The Spice Game.

As for now, enjoy an hour of plop plop in the toilet, Poo poo in the toilet.

An hour.

It’s majestic:

Remarkably Foolish Playlist

This was fun to make. Disco. Bit of funk. Little Tom Waits to transition into some Tom Petty? Good. Then into some storytelling. Next country. Then it’s just smooth till the end. Enjoy:

One Derful Thing

He shoots he scores.

In honour of Walter, try to find a way to inject another weird thing to say into an everyday conversation.

This time? use the the great Foster Hewitt’s famous phrase: He shoots. He scores!

Find fun places to do this.

ie: Your partner clears the table and loads the dishwasher.

As they close the door you can shout: He shoots. He scores.

Adapt this phrase as required.

Tell us where it worked and how.

Share The Remarkable Fools Letter