tMichaelB is the web site for Tom Bengtson, who writes about business, religion, family and politics.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Miracle on Ice

I remember where I was that February day in 1980 when Team USA beat the Russians – I was a 19-year-old kid bagging groceries after school, trying to make some money. My manager was listening to the Olympic hockey game on a radio and when it was over he came up to me and said, “We just beat the Russians!”

The Americans went on to win the gold medal in Lake Placid. The team was supposed to finish seventh, but coach Herb Brooks and his guys shocked the world in what many people consider to be one of the greatest moments in 20th century sports.

So what a treat it was two weeks ago for me to listen to Mike Eruzione, the captain of that storybook team. He was speaking at a business meeting I was attending in Des Moines.

His message was simple, but nonetheless motivating: success is more a matter of heart, pride and commitment than ability. “My high school coach told me that ability and a dime will get you a cup of coffee,” Eruzione said in his signature Boston accent. “Think about how many times we have been around people of great ability who don’t quite get the job done.”

While teams spend a lot of time measuring a player’s speed, weight and strength, “it’s really the things you can’t measure that make the difference,” Eruzione said, “things like heart, pride and commitment.” Eruzione said these were the qualities that propelled that 1980 hockey team.

“Those are the little things that I firmly believe separate good teams from great teams,” Eruzione said. “And it is absolutely what separates good businesses from great businesses. I call those intangibles old-fashion values… Pride, respect, commitment, belief in yourself… Surround yourself with people whose goals and objectives are the same as yours. That was our hockey team.” And, maybe, that could be your company or business.

Eruzione said there used to be a banner hanging in the locker room at the Olympic training camp. It said: “Individually you can be good, collectively you can be champions.” It apparently meant something to Eruzione and his teammates. Can it mean something to you? Eruzione thinks so. “Everyone has a role, everyone has a piece of the puzzle,” he said.

And Eruzione discounts anyone who says the 1980 team was lucky. “People are successful because they are hard workers, not because they are lucky,” he said. “Time and effort are the ingredients to success.”

Of course, you have to work at the right thing. Hockey was the right fit for Eruzione. The question so many people contemplate is: Am I doing something that makes the most of my skills and talent? Answer that question correctly, pour your heart, pride and commitment into your hard work, and that seems like a pretty good recipe for success.

And while I'm not relying on luck, if there's any to be had, I'll take it for good measure.

Success for everyone won't be a gold medal, but hard work is always part of a winning strategy.


Chuck Yagla said...

Tom, I liked reading your account of Mr. Eruzione's speech at the annual banker's convention. Unfortunately, I was experiencing some health problems and missed the convention for the first time in 20 years. I would have loved to meet him and hear him talk - I really liked the things he emphasized. I was a member of the 1980 Summer Olympic Team that unfortunately boycotted the Moscow Olympics and I would have liked to hear Mr. Eruzione's views on the boycott.

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