Randy Pausch, Will Smith, Kevin Neeld?

Over two years ago, Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon professor, gave what was known as “The Last Lecture”. If you were living under a rock during that time period and missed his lecture, set aside 75 minutes to watch the video below. It may be the most powerful thing you’ve ever seen:

Recently, I received an email from Hockey Parent of the Year (whom I announced last week!) Cristi Landrigan with another very powerful video…from an extremely unexpected source. Cristi’s message (because the email was also sent to her children, amongst others) said:

“Guys….if you have time to poison your brain with Jersey Shore, you have time to watch this.”

Having poisoned my mind on several occassions throughout this season of the Jersey Shore, I felt an obligation to heed Cristi’s recommendation. Take another 10 minutes to absorb some of Will Smith’s wisdom.

These are two videos that I think every person should watch. The latter is especially pertinent to aspiring athletes.

When I hear how many people respond to watching Randy Pausch’s video with “he was so brave”, I’m concerned that they may have missed his point. I’m not discounting his bravery. To come face to face with inevitable death and not lose your smile is an incredible act of bravery. With that said, he never claimed to be a symbol of bravery. In fact, his point was quite the opposite. He did not succumb to fear and sadness because he CHOSE not to. He acknowledged that he had the power to decide how he wanted to respond to the situation and he chose to respond by maintaining his happiness. This power of choosing an interpretation to a situation is one that EVERYONE possesses, but few choose to accept/practice. Frankly, it’s easier to blame circumstances than to accept the responsibility of being able to choose your reaction.

Will Smith had a similar, but slightly different message. He repeatedly alluded to the fact that we’re capable of anything we want. The only time that wasn’t true was when we didn’t think it could be. The X-factor in achieving seemingly lofty goals, is an unwavering focus and drive to make consistent progress toward their achievement.

The big take home message:

Where you are now isn’t where you need to stay. You can achieve anything you want if you believe you can and work toward it consistently. Regardless of your current situation, your happiness is a choice you make, a responsibility you have, a power you possess.

I come across countless youth players (and their parents) who are ready to throw in the towel at anywhere from 11 (yes, 11!) to 14 years of age because they didn’t make a certain team or aren’t getting a ton of ice time on that team. Unfortunately the hockey world isn’t always the most supportive, and early talent development in certain players can be discouraging for players that develop later. If there’s one thing I wish I could convince every youth player it’s that you are far from fulfilling your full potential. The road to elite level hockey is paved for some athletes and covered in 4ft of snow for others. Your work ethic, determination, focus, and dedication to skill development will determine your future, not the insults of a teammate or misinformed youth coach. I still think back to a conversation I had with Eric Tangradi several months ago where he referenced an individual I won’t name telling him he would never be anything in hockey when he was younger. This was/is a well-respected coach. Eric scored his first NHL goal a couple weeks back. Turns out Eric’s dreams and determination were more powerful than that coaches interpretation of his abilities as a young player.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. “Being realistic is the most commonly traveled road to mediocrity.” -Will Smith

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