At the ripe age of 3, when most other children haven’t even learned to tie a pair of shoes, Wayne Gretzky’s dad had his son in ice skates. Wayne joined his first hockey team at the age of six and his father mentored him, often making up drills and training as he went. Wayne’s dad frequently put him on teams with older kids, forcing him to “play up” against larger kids.
In his autobiography, Wayne described a common conversation that would occur at practices with his father. Clearly, Wayne’s father drilled strategy and smarter-than-everyone-else intelligence into his son’s head:
Him: “Where’s the last place a guy looks before he passes it?”
Me: “The guy he’s passing to.”
Him: “Which means…”
Me: “Get over there and intercept it.”
Him: “Where do you skate?”
Me: “To where the puck is going, not where it’s been.”
Awareness of ice hockey strategy made him the envy of other players and, at the time, of other childhood teammates’ parents who would watch in awe as they witnessed Wayne’s skill.
What Wayne’s dad can teach you about your business
The senior Gretzky certainly taught his son a lot. At least once a week, this piece of brilliant advice that Wayne learned from his father echoes in my head:
As entrepreneurs, we find comfort in choosing a business model that others have proven works. Most of us spent the eight or so years between middle school and high school perfecting the art of fitting in. As adults, we struggle to unlearn fitting in and find ways to stand out. It’s exhausting.
We admire Apple and Steve Jobs, yet, we’re not sure we’ll ever truly be that bold or that awesome.
However, if we take a moment to apply Gretzky’s wisdom to our business, it all gets simpler.
If the puck represents buying trends and signals of change, we’ve got to strap those skates on tight and get over there quickly.
We have to resist thinking of business in a way that we knew it or know it today. We have to step outside of it for a few moments each week and spend time (yes, highly valuable, high payoff time) poking around online and talking to people about the trends they’re seeing.
We also have to constantly ask ourselves this question when evaluating what we’re doing in our businesses: will my customers find value in this? Not, “did they find value…” or “do they find value…” It’s critical to use the word “will”.
Most people don’t think this way.
And that’s the good news for you, because saying “most people” is the same way of saying “your competition”. Instead, they’ll go about their days filling orders and dealing with customers. You know, regular business stuff.
You can spend 90 percent of your time doing regular business stuff, too. The other 10 percent of the time, do something wickedly healthy for your business and make the Gretzky’s proud. Consider where your customers’ mindsets and your industry are headed.
Ponder where the puck is going and get there before it’s too late.