Leadership

Making a True Connection

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When I was about 5 years old, I met Wayne Gretzky. To say that it was a highlight of my childhood would be like saying The Great One was just a pretty good hockey player. 

I was a hockey-obsessed kid from Minnesota, and my bedroom at the time served as the shrine to my obsession. I’ll save you from some of the details (just some), but hovering over everything—the sticks, the pucks, the trading cards, the scattered equipment—was Gretzky. I mean this literally. I had a poster of The Great One on my ceiling. It was the only space left after I already wallpapered the room with his posters. 

And I knew everything about him. I knew that at 6, in his first year playing hockey, he scored just one goal, and didn’t get a trophy at the end of the season (you had to score 10 to get a trophy). I knew that a few years later, he scored 378 goals in his final year of peewee hockey. I could rattle off each of his 61 NHL scoring records, all of which he still holds or shares. If you asked me today how many goals Gretzky scored in his career, I’d need you to clarify the question. Do you mean regular season NHL goals? That’s 894. All professional goals, including time in the World Hockey Association and playoffs? That’s 1,072.

Anyway, I just want to fully illustrate how amazing it was for 5-year-old me to meet The Great One—and I’m going to make an analogy for you in a moment. But, first, here’s the most shocking realization from that meeting: He was a real person. Despite all the evidence I had to the contrary, Wayne Gretzky appeared to be a normal guy—a guy that looked short and scrawny next to my dad.

I couldn’t have explained it properly at the time, but in the years since, I’ve realize that meeting Wayne Gretzky was the moment I understood that you don’t need to be some mythical, larger-than-life character or some superhero stripped from the pages of a comic book to achieve great things. Great things can be accomplished by anyone who has the determination, belief and will power to get it done. 

So, enough about me. That analogy I mentioned: As I left the Ratchet+Wrench Management Conference a couple weeks back (and sat down to write this letter), I thought about that moment with The Great One, and the importance of having an experience that triggers self-belief. For those of you that were at the conference, I hope you had a moment like that at the event. 

The goal of that conference is to bring the pages of the magazine to a live format—and that means taking the industry-leading shop operators we profile each month and putting them in front of you. They act as the speakers and presenters. They share their operational secrets. But even more than that, they’re there to be a sounding board to the successes, struggles and dreams you have in your business. 

I’m not saying any of you might have Joe Marconi or Brian Sump posters up on your wall (if you do, I won’t judge). My point is that it’s easy to see your seemingly far-off goals and assume that stage of business is reserved for the Sumps or Marconis of the world. It’s not, and they’ll be the first to tell you that. Sometimes, you just need that one moment to trigger everything. 

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