Thursday, August 6, 2009

Miracles are a team venture

four-ducksThe four ducks in the photo may be looking for a miracle but they are not a team.

Those of us in transition might have a similar problem. We're looking for a miracle but we are not building our team or even getting on our own team to move to the level where a miracle is possible.

The movie Miracle (2004) about Coach Herb Brooks and the 1980 US Olympic Gold Medal Hockey Team (sometimes referred to as the original dream team) has a few sub-themes running through it that are of value to those of us in transition. Let’s face it, for each of those coaches and players, the change from being former rivals and stars of college hockey to being teammates and rookies in the international league was one heck of a transition.

It would be easy to shrug off this example of transition as having no relevance to our own transitions which might not always be a move up (at least they don’t start out as a move up). I’m going to suggest that it doesn’t matter at what point or in which direction a transition starts out because really it’s a cycle and every transition will have points of moving up, moving down and marking time.

Actually I think this is an excellent example of how a seemingly positive transition isn’t necessarily any easier than a seemingly negative transition. It also illustrates how hard people can fight against even the things they actually wished for. (Are we fickle or what?) But the big messages for those of us in our own transitions come through in five sub-themes captured in five revolving questions that get asked again and again through the film.

The questions:

What’s your name?

Where are you from?

Who do you play for?

Why are you here?

Did you leave anything on the table?

I’m jumping in here because somebody is going to get in a huff that these questions don't apply in their situation because they are a solo act. This is probably going way out on a limb for some readers but from what I have been able to observe if you are human you are part of a team. Humans need traveling companions through life. So there is a team or many teams you belong to even if it’s with your aspiring self or your childhood dream incarnation.

If you are going through a transition as a solo traveler you likely have a team-like relationship with your self that filled the roles in your former situation and you also are building a team-like relationship with the self you are grooming to step into the roles in your new situation. So you can put these questions to yourself the same as Brooks and his players put them to each other in the course of transitioning into a new team and coach.

What do these questions mean and why do we care? Let’s take a look-

What’s your name? On the surface this is simply “Who are you?” It highlights that the team is made up of separate individuals with separate names and characteristic. It is not an army of clones. Of course for a solo you might not change your name but the you here in the transition is markedly separate from the one in the situation that has been left or the one being moved into.

Where are you from? This asks where’s home or what’s your history or your background? This is about sounding out your foundation. This can incorporate a lot of characteristics like your family structure, or regional influences, your education or training, and life experience. These are the external things that influenced your path and whether it was easy or a struggle so far. And how the question is answered tells a lot about what the person answering it thinks is important. Sometimes the answer isn’t obvious and it takes work to figure it out.

Who do you play for? This is about “Whose team are you on?” In the film the right answer to this question very subtly changes. The first time it is about who had coached the teams they were chosen from because it is asked before the team is selected. But later that becomes the wrong answer. Everyone in transition has to shift between the coach and roster of the team they are no longer part of and the coach and roster of the team they are now playing on.

Why are you here? In the film this question is about “Why do you play hockey?” But it’s a question that everybody has to have an answer for: why do you this and not that, why are you in transition, why did you leave that situation or why do you want to get into that situation? Be very clear that if you don’t know why, you won’t have a reason to keep going. So it is imperative that you get straight about your why and put it into a clear statement to remind yourself why you do what you do.

Did you leave anything on the table? This is a very subtle presentiment in the film and it can be so easily missed or dismissed, but the issue has to do with the level of commitment and playing all-out even in the face of defeat or failure. The question is “Did you hold anything back?” I have heard the phrase “don’t leave any cards on the table” which is similar to Brooks line. In a card game it can mean did you play every card at your disposal or did you leave something on the table; or it can refer to folding early to freeze your loss.

Brooks himself never answers this question but (and I do not know Brooks whole story) it seems that he hints that his being cut at the last minute from the 1960 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team might have had something to do with holding back; or leaving something on the table. For a person in transition it is a question to get at one aspect of the truth about why they are in transition as well as assess their past performance and make pertinent corrections where needed.

You might ask why you got laid-off ahead of others, or why did you train for a field you actually hate working in. You might ask it to see why you have more talent but less success that your peers. It is especially a useful tool to sort through a failure that was presumed to have resulted in success. The question can tell you what kind of team player you are and if you need to remediate your approach.

So now it comes down to me and to you. Even if our transitions don’t seem as daunting or important as moving from a relatively small college hockey team to the Olympics, our transitions are still events of great moment for us. And really for everyone who loves or supports us in some way. If nothing else we each owe it to ourselves to get on our own team and be our own best team player we can. Answering the questions and reflecting on the answers might bring forth the insight we need to move to the next level of our game of life.

As a sort of post script, I think it is interesting that Brooks never once asks what position any of the guys played. On a team it doesn't matter what position you play; what's important is the position the team needs filling.


7sky said...

A very clever analogy of a person in transition to the transition of individuals into a winning hockey team. Especially meaningful since I just saw the HBO documentary "Do You Believe in Miracles?" about the team and I saw the theatrical film.

Deb said...

My son introduced me to the film and he wasn't born in 1980. I'm glad you liked it.