“You can’t be an achiever if you are constantly toasting your past.” – Mike Krzyzewski
Funny how things come to you, isn’t it? Last week I spent considerable time reading, watching and listening to various communications on the subject of leadership, engagement and culture in preparation for a workshop on my campus. I came across an interview with the legendary Duke Men’s Basketball Coach, Mike Krzyzewski by ABC News. At the end of this Nightline Spotlight, interviewer John Berman reviewed the achievements of Coach K, the countless wins, the National Championships, the big salary and the overall record that has made Coach K the “God-like” figure at Duke University. Coach K responded with the above comment and it stopped me in my tracks. Let’s read it again:
“You can’t be an achiever if you are constantly toasting your past.”
Wait!! Who doesn’t love a good toast?!?! I’ll toast a victory, a hard-fought loss, a beautiful sunset, the memory of a loved one, the camaraderie of friends, a clean house… you get the picture. So – I took pause and reflected on this statement and what Coach K was really speaking to as it relates to his program and his personal success. It makes sense, right? But what if the past was good… really good? Why shouldn’t we continue to “toast” to the accomplishment of something pretty darn great? Why shouldn’t we continue to “toast” a national championship, a conference championship? Why shouldn’t we look back and “toast” to the attainment of a goal or to the successes within a season?
We should! And this coach does! But here’s the catch….
We toast to the past, for the past is a bridge to the present.
We gain experience from the past and while we know that we can’t relive it, we walk with it every day. We rely on our past successes to help us with the day to day challenges in front of us; to remind us that we have been here before and we can and will conquer “it” again. That “it” is different for us all – it may be a national championship, or a .500 season or making it to playoffs. Whatever “it” is, the past can influence your present. Embrace it and refer to it.
Every athlete has a past achievement that they can rely on to bolster their motivation, or their confidence which ultimately can lead to success. Our job is to remind them of their past successes and to “toast” those winning moments, so they can draw upon them when they need that confidence boost.
This coach also believes in toasting to the future. Two years ago on the official first day of the season our team met at midnight for our annual “Midnight Madness.” After a series of activities, the team gathered in the locker-room to find 36 individual glasses of sparkling cider – one for each person. While it may have appeared that we were toasting to the start of the season, we instead had them visualize and practice toasting to a National Championship victory! We challenged them to focus EACH day with the end in mind. We told them that all of our daily moments would lead to a momentum and that we had the power to create that momentum of positivity and belief, a belief that we would be toasting to a National Championship in May. Four months later that past toast was re-enacted again at the 2017 National Championship.
So, I say, “Toast away, people!” Toast to the past, toast to the present and toast to the future because life is short! Just be sure to use sparking apple cider so you don’t get a call from the NCAA, nor will you end up with a pretty bad headache.