Which Circle Do You Want To Be In…The Blue One (NHL) or the Red One (TED)?

Eric GreenspanThink Big1 Comment

The NHL centre ice circle is blue. The TED carpet that speakers stand on is a red circle. Both are highly desired places to stand, speak or skate. But the best way to get to either is to focus on what will get you there, not on getting there. Focus on the work, development, the achievements and the ride, and maybe, although unlikely, you’ll stand in one of those circles one day.

As a TED attendee and TEDx host, I often hear and see the statement “I want to do a TED Talk.” I respond with something like, “Do not strive to be a TED speaker. It’s exactly what TED is NOT about. TED happened because the need to share great ideas and stories about achievement, wonder, and change, happened. Sharing those ideas was the goal, but the achievements came first” It starts with the idea, or the accomplishment, whether it’s the NHL or TED. If you want to deliver a TED Talk, do something important, that solves a big problem, that is transformative, or useful, something that matters. Then, if you do it well, TED will find you, and, maybe, just maybe, you might get to tell your story in the red circle. If you don’t, you did something to change the world, which is far better an achievement than the TED Talk you desire.

Unless you live in Minnesota, most people don’t have children with the intended goal that their children will someday play in the NHL. At least not initially, anyhow, I hope, and I’m kidding about Minnesota. We have children to build a family…to expand and carrying on our family name and heritage…to share the ride with and to love…right? As they grow up, they may choose a path. As parents, isn’t it our responsibility to nurture them and help them achieve? I believe it is. So why not give it all we’ve got? Why not strive to be the best and teach your children to do the same?

Young hockey players all dream to play in the NHL, an important goal. But it requires a ridiculous amount of hard work, commitment and well over 10,000 hours of practice to get even close. Only the absolute best make it. Part of that is luck, genes, and the rest is related to access to resources, and then it’s just their willingness to work and achieve. They may never step inside that blue circle on NHL ice, but they won’t give up either. They will take what they’ve learned along the way, the confidence they’ve gained, and they will continue their journey towards success.

Many kids today dream about being a famous YouTuber. The funny thing about that is the famous YouTuber that inspires them never thought the same…she just became one. She just did it and she worked harder than anyone you know, but you’d never know it, because to her, it wasn’t work, it was her passion. Mine is writing this blog post, indirectly. What’s yours?

It reminds of the Mark Zuckerberg Facebook story. He said, “I never wanted to build a company” and claims it was “never about money.” The story goes that he just wanted to do something cool, something that people needed, solving a problem. But whatever it is, he built it to be great, not be a great company. He built it solve a problem and create something people would eventually love, not to make money. I believe it. It seems common for many success stories. A quick search at TED doesn’t show results of any Mark Zuckerberg talks, and you know what, I’ll bet they’ve asked.

I often meet hockey players that were once one step from the NHL. They got so close, but they didn’t make it. They all have one thing in common…an intense passion for achievement and an unwillingness to give up. You can see it in their eyes. The NHL thing didn’t work out, but the training, development and achievements along the way are deeply rooted within them, and this is helping them find something equally great, or maybe even better. I’m watching this happen in several different cities and rinks. I’m watching and learning how hard work leads to hard work, which leads to achievements, repeatedly, over time, no matter the circumstances, or the stage. I’m watching these once NHL hopefuls move on from the disappointment, and set new goals and achieving them. They are coaching our kids in their spare time, or full time, and IMHO, they are standing in the blue circle, maybe a slightly different one, but it’s still in the middle of what matters. If you ever wonder why I love that my kids play hockey, now you know.

If you want to get into the NHL or on the TED stage, it’s pretty clear it won’t be easy. In fact, it is probably not going to happen. But that shouldn’t deter you from trying. The goal is important, but if you want to get there, just work hard, be relentless, passionate, and you cannot even consider ever giving up. Then, you might, stand in the one of those circles. Whether it’s the blue one at centre ice, or the red one on the TED stage, I hope you get there. Most likely you won’t, but the important part is how hard you tried, and what you learned and shared along the way. You did everything you could do, your best, and it really is enough. Focus on the ride and the moon will soon be in sight.

Added after posting…

My son Jacob just called me while I was writing this post. I stopped to take the call. He was on his way to the Coachella Festival, after recording with a Disney talent. He calls me almost every day to share his latest achievements and his “vibes.” The kid is on fire and he’s a wonderful human. This past week he graduated from Berklee College of Music, and was signed as a producer last month by the Futuristics, and has already sold a few songs. He’s 22 and he is living life to the fullest, in the heart of the music industry in Los Angeles, achieving everything he could ever have dreamed about. But that’s just it, he never dreamed about any of this. He just played his guitar, often, with no goal other than to play and be better each day. He achieved that, and today he gets paid handsomely for doing what he loves. One day I expect he will be standing in a different circle, perhaps the winner’s circle on the stage at the Grammys. It was never anyone’s goal, but it’s probably going to happen, because his work ethic is fabulous, and his talent is fierce, and most importantly, he’s focused on the song, the one he’s producing today, not the stage he will likely stand on tomorrow.

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