The Fake It Til You Make It Trap

“How come nobody ever says they were Joe Schmo?” 

Crash Davis – Durham Bulls Catcher

I have always loved this conversation between Susan Sarandon and Kevin Costner in the movie “Bull Durham”.  Sarandon plays Annie Savoy and Costner plays Crash Davis. She teaches part time literature at Alamance Junior College and he is a minor league catcher with the Durham Bulls who exists in a bittersweet space thanks to his being a very good minor league player but not good enough to stick in the majors. They are talking about reincarnation.

I share this video as a segue to the “Fake It Til You Make It.” approach as it relates to sourcing out your next great career opportunity. 

Fake it til you make it!  For the sake of space..let’s go with the acronym FITYMI moving forward. I must preface the rest of this blog with my admission that I am on the fence as it relates to FITYMI! Sometimes it works and more often than naught, not so much.

There is a devilish nature attached to the whole idea of fooling people, adopting the pretending until you can produce approach. It can make for a great story as long as it works out. If it doesn’t work out, consider it a stark reminder that putting in the work and honing your craft isn’t a bad idea. 

Sir Richard Branson (founder of the Virgin Group, which controls more than 400 companies) thinks FITYMI is a viable option. Just get in the door and figure things out as you get going!  Fact is anytime a “Sir” says something, people tend to listen with a little more interest and I did!

First and foremost, far be it for me to disagree with a guy who has enjoyed the success Sir Richard has enjoyed. In fact, I kind of agree with him. Faking it til you make it makes sense when you are in an “attack the learning curve” frame of mind. I think it could work if you are faking the role of entry level sales associate, data entry assistant or a client services coordinator.

Do not go with the FITYMI model if you are auditioning for the role of trauma surgeon, pilot, astronaut, explosives specialist and any other gig that you can think of that places human life at risk. 

The FITYMI strategy has its flaws. Beyond the obvious flaw I just shared, the other fly in the ointment is that those who choose to FITYMI, are often not what one would call a go-getter. Maybe a go-getter in getting a job but not a go-getter in the sense of learning the job. If a candidate is willing to fake their resume..chances are they will fake their effort. 

Human beings are creatures of habit. We have the tendency to get excited and race out of the barn like a Kentucky Derby Champion but soon become the workhorse out in the pasture that we actually are. I am reminded of my 13 year old self when I opened my first bank account. I walked out of the bank with $10 in the account with a steely eyed focus on saving my next $1,000,000. Plans changed when I walked into the corner store. My goal of becoming a good little saver did not stand a chance up against my 12 years of habitual candy purchasing. Wanting to be or do something usually requires work. 

All successful people work.  The clouds did not open up when they were born with trumpets resounding and a higher power declaring them great.  They have talent and they worked. They worked really hard and were decisive. Somewhere along the way, they changed their approach to how they pursued success. They had to get beyond the definition of success and focus on the pathway to success. Successful people fall in love with the journey. They turn their gaze away from the trophy and turn their focus on the trials and tribulations that one must endure to get to the trophy. 

Like an athlete building muscle memory, when you consistently opt for the “fake it til ya make it” approach, you will soon get used to faking it! Before you know it…the faking becomes the norm and not the exception.  Your original destination was the express lane but somehow you got stuck in the collector lane and you are comfortable there.

So, faking it is an option but it only bears value when it is a transitory step toward a greater destination. A step that requires work and an effort that extends beyond adequate. 

FITYMI only works if you are intent on getting out of the faking it lane as fast as you can. It works only if it is a layover between where you were and your next destination. No one wants to spend time at Newark International Airport, Kennedy or LaGuardia! They are hubs that lead to greater adventures.

So, how do we avoid the fake it til you make it trap?

What does it mean to you? We are all going to spend our time doing something. Choose to do something that is valuable to you. Then hone your craft.  The art of developing your expertise and the energy that surrounds that effort transcends any need to fake it. If you are invested you are a sponge. If you are a fence sitter you are watching life go by.

Game plan. Have a clear and concise exit strategy. Have a game plan that features hard and fast deadlines that will force you to get to the next level. Put some pressure on yourself to compete. Don’t get comfortable. 

Be realistic. Set goals that you can reach. Expertise does not come in one fell swoop, it’s incremental and modular in nature. I remember back in grade 3 when I convinced my parents to buy me a geometry set. I vowed I would use every item in the case. I would use both of the set squares, I would protract with the 180° protractor, I would rule the class with the 15 cm ruler, I would never get lost thanks to the metal compass, and so on with the 9 cm pencil, pencil sharpener, eraser and the 10 mm stencil. As expected, I did not use all of them…in fact I barely used any of them. (of note, I had to Google all the items found in a protractor set!)

Change the Acronym: Rather than go with FITYMI…maybe go with another acronym?  IIDFIDS – If it doesn’t fit, I don’t sit!  If the suit doesn’t fit then don’t wear the suit. Find something that fits. Sometimes, you will wear a suit that doesn’t fit. Do not get comfortable.

There is nothing wrong with moving from one challenge that may not fit you to another that may. Sometimes, you will wear a suit that doesn’t fit. Do not get comfortable. Work hard until it fits or visit a career tailor the get fitted right.

Life offers very few absolutes. There are no guarantees. The most valuable commodity we have is our time. What we do with it will determine our path. Spend it wisely! 

Know who you are and who you can become.

________________

Ken Evraire is an award-winning leadership coach and team builder, a single dad to three world changers, aspiring author and a former professional athlete. 

To contact Ken email him at ken@kenevraire.com.

To learn more about Ken, visit his website www.kenevraire.com or visit him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kenevraireleadership/  or on twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17

Dancing With My Devil

“If you dance with the devil, then you haven’t got a clue, for you think you’ll change the devil, but the devil changes you.”  J.M. Smith (Author) – “If You Dance with the Devil

In what had become a reassuring habit I developed over a 2 ½ year span, I was trying to count the number of lights in the surgical lamps stationed above me in the operating room before the anesthesiologist knocked me out.  The answer on this day was 55. There I lay, prepped for surgical procedure number 5 on my left knee. All part of an effort to get back into the game of pro football. The first procedure, the major repair of my torn ACL and meniscus, took place on Monday October 18th, 1993. All thanks to a less than heroic moment one week earlier on the Toronto SkyDome field as a member of the Hamilton Tiger Cats.  It began with my brief chat with Toronto Argonaut receiver Jeff Fairholm as we went out for our pregame warm up.  He stood with the support of crutches and had a full knee brace on his left leg. He looked like a cyborg!  I asked him what had happened and he told me the turf got him.  No one touched him…he had sprained his knee running a route. Nothing more, nothing less…nothing dramatic.  What the mind believes the rest of the body will achieve. For the first time ever, I played scared.  All because of that one singular moment. I should have left the stadium and hopped on a GO Train back to Hamilton then and there.  Everything felt off after that. I had a bad warm up.  I bobbled a couple of passes early on in the game.  I remember telling myself to wake the fuck up before someone tore my head off.  In the 2nd quarter, QB Reggie Slack called a play and based on all of the variables in the moment, I knew I was going to get the ball. I just had to run a great route and I did. Perhaps the best hook route I had ever run in my career. As expected, the passing lane opened up and Slack hit me right on the numbers with the pass. In a bid to avoid a heat seeking missile/Toronto Argonaut defender, I planted my foot into the turf and rather than pivot away to protect myself and the ball that I had just caught, my knee hyper-extended and blew up!  Literally!  To this day, I can still hear the pop!  So could the defender.

Rather than take a moment to develop perspective and re-group, I raced to the operating room and the surgeons scalpel, all in a bid to get back into the huddle. All for a salary of $55,000 before taxes!  As luck would have it, the one thing I do better than play football is build fibrous tissue. My body builds scar tissue. So much so that I endured 3 follow up arthroscopic procedures in a bid to clean the knee up, release the knee cap and increase my ranger of motion. Now I was looking at procedure number 5 and I kind of vowed it would be the last.

“There is a fine line that separates courage and obsession.” Ken Evraire

In Chinese, the term Lingchi translates into “the slow process, the lingering death or also known as death by a thousand cuts”.  It is related to a form of torture long outlawed.  I wish I had known this as I lay on the field that day.  For years after that misstep I put myself through my own form of Lingchi.  Little did I know it was the first step in a long, arduous waltz with my devil.  Rather than be a death of a thousand cuts, the dance was a death of a thousand rationalizations and justifications.  With each justification, with each rationalization I became a better dance partner.  A willing dance partner all in a bid to avoid looking at life beyond football.

What doesn’t kill you doesn’t necessarily make you stronger. It just kind of kills you and makes you more comfortable with discomfort.  

As they carted me off the field, I knew my life had changed.  The distance between my teammates and I was palpable.  Sure, I knew I was never going to play football forever but I never really thought about life beyond the game until that moment. Every athlete needs to feel invincible. It’s why I would never visit a teammate in a hospital if he had undergone knee surgery. Any other surgery, I would be there with flowers but not knee surgery. I went from invincible to invisible in the blink of an eye.

In what is a tad ironic, two weeks before I blew out my knee I sat down with pen and paper and attempted to look at life beyond football.  I was going to build my resume.  The idea was inspired by my taking time to clean my one bedroom rental.  As I cleaned up I found little brown packets.  Two by my bed, 3 in the kitchen, 2 in the couch cushions and a single packet in my gym bag, another in my shaving kit.  Within the packets were tablets. Toradol, percocet, naproxen and Tylenol 3’s.  Toradol was my favorite.

If you look it up toradol is described as “a short term treatment of moderate to severe pain in adults.  It is traditionally prescribed before or after medical procedures or after surgery.  Reducing pain helps you recover more comfortably so that you can return to your normal daily activities”.  Well, when your normal activities include getting run over by guys who take great pleasure in running people over, toradol was the perfect dance partner.  At that moment, I was both excited and horrified.  Excited that I found a stash and horrified that I was excited about finding a stash. 

It was my scared kind of straight moment. It was time to consider my next life chapter.  As I began to write out my resume, the panicked set in.  I immediately realized that if anyone wanted to hire someone who, on 2nd down and 10 with time winding down, could adjust his route in a split second against a safety blitz, catch a ball in the red zone with a guy zeroing in on him with the single minded goal of wiping him out, then I was your guy.  Regrettably, most HR Managers were not hiring anyone with those particular skills in mind.  It was then I first felt an overwhelming sense of worthlessness. 

In that failed resume building moment, somewhere in my sub-conscious I decided that I would dance with the football devil I knew intimately rather than embrace what I perceived as an unknown devil waiting for me on the other side.  I preferred to dance with the devil I knew versus the devil I did not know. I had already sabotaged things with the assumption that a devil waited for me on the other side. I could not fathom that mere possibility that great opportunities awaited on the other side. 

Despite waking up each morning feeling like I had been in a minor car wreck, I kept the chips on the table and opted to let it ride.  I adopted an “it’s better to burn out than fade away” ethos. I convinced myself that sacrificing my body and mind for the game was a fair trade off with the football gods.  Almost heroic! My hips were misaligned, I had torn rib cartilage the season previous, broke a couple of transverse processes in my back, suffered concussions, recovered from a torn quad that was not diagnosed until an attempt to drain fluid in my knee revealed blood instead.  In addition, thanks to a helmet to the elbow earlier in the season, I had a bursa sac that when touched, would send lightning bolts through my arm. 

To this day, I kind of believe I touched the 3rd rail on the train tracks and roasted myself.  By playing host to the mere idea of preparing for life after football, I sub-consciously set myself up to fail.  I created a chink in my own armor. 

So, there I lay in the operating room desperate to feel safe in a game that was not safe.  I yearned for comfort in a game that used competition to keep players uncomfortable.  I wanted to feel a connection, an assurance that my devil could provide but I bought into a lie.  The not so funny thing is, as the anesthesiologist sent me to la-la land, simplicity ruled.  A new clarity entered from the fog.  For a brief moment I admitted to myself that I didn’t love the game anymore.  For a brief moment, I admitted that I hated the game. 

The procedure, like the previous three, did not succeed.  I registered for a computer programming diploma course.  Now, nothing about me screams computer programming.  It was a $17,000 mission failure.  Funny thing is they gave me a diploma for coding.  I think the instructor felt guilty and created it on his home computer using clip art.  I tried on a suit that fit so many others but did not fit me.  Not even close. 

At that time, a desperate Hamilton Tiger Cat team called a desperate Ken Evraire.  Can you run?  I sure can!  Can you help? I sure can!  I would have said anything to get my fix.  The devil asked me to dance again and my being a Ballroom Dancing World Champion, I could not wait to hit the dance floor. 

Why did I go back? Why did I not leave it all behind?  Like almost all long term, dramatic, emotional relationships, breaking up is tough.  Neil Sedaka was right when he sang, “breaking up is hard to do”!  So tough that we do all we can to avoid heartache. We try to work it out. We rationalize. We compromise all in a bid to stay in the same space or go back in time to when things were good. 

This approach stands in direct opposition with our DNA and our need to dance with many partners that make our life chapters. Dance without giving up ownership. Change roles and take the lead!  Fill your dance card.

Embrace opportunities…embrace learning.

The 1st stage in the 4 Stages of Learning is Unconscious Incompetence.  Essentially, we don’t even know that we don’t know.  At first blush, the term incompetence is negative in nature but if you look at it from a different perspective, a perspective of birth…of a new beginning, the term becomes our start line.  We do not magically master something overnight. 

We work our way from stage 1 to stage 2 (Conscious Incompetence) where we acknowledge that we don’t know, that it is okay and then begin the work of knowing. 

Then we make our way to Stage 3 (Conscious Competence) where we begin to hone our craft on our way to mastery.

Once we have mastered the skill we have made our way to Stage 4 (Unconscious Competence) where we can perform the skill without thinking.  Then we repeat the process with a new challenge in mind. 

Once you ascend a mountain you don’t stop climbing.  You look for a bigger, taller mountain! 

In the book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, William Bridges writes:

“Transition always starts with an ending. To become something else, you have to stop being what you are now; to start doing things a new way, you have to end the way you are doing them now; and to develop a new attitude or outlook, you have to let go of the old.”

Dancing with the same Devil over and over again forfeits your growth.  To give birth to something new…something must end. 

We are all going to dance. Find the right partner and when you do take the lead?  

 


 

Ken Evraire is a quintessential team player who loves coaching, team building and talking leadership!  He is grateful for the opportunity to work with a roster of fantastic clients ranging from the government sector, not for profit agencies, start ups, Fortune 500 companies and elite sports teams.

He is father to 3 precocious children, has the best ex-wife in the world, is a former professional football player that has since donated his brain. He has run 3x marathons (Honolulu 2x + Barcelona), done stand up comedy and believes the old school coach was wrong…there is indeed an “i” in Team! 

Check Ken out on the following social media pages… LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/ken-evraire-leadership/ Twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17    Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kenevrairedotcom/   

Perpetual Motion, Learning and Leading.

Oh ye seekers after perpetual motion, how many vain chimeras have you pursued? Go and take your place with the alchemists. – Leonardo da Vinci, 1494

Leonardo da Vinci had no interest in perpetual motion but others did. Attempts by some of the greatest minds, including early designs by Indian mathematicianastronomer Bhaskara II, who described a wheel (Bhāskara’s wheel)  that he claimed could run forever, fell short. He and many others never achieved success thanks to the inherent violation of the first and second laws of thermodynamics which to be honest, I know very little about! I am thankful for Google! 

Yet, perpetual motion from a humanities standpoint is quite achievable. In fact, it happens every moment of every day on this big blue marble we call planet earth, whether we like it or not! It’s about connecting with others and giving yourself permission to be human. To feel human! It’s an energy charged, experience driven journey. 

It’s akin to the ethereal reaction to the first notes of a song that has a way of cutting through to your soul every time it is played. Maybe it’s a line to a poem? Maybe it’s the bus stop where you enjoyed your first real kiss. The first time you held your child’s hand? Perpetual motion arrives in the form of powerful, layered connections we share with others. It’s unavoidable. The Beatles orchestrated so many of those types of triggers for so many. I remember watching the audience at a Paul McCartney concert and every song he played connected on a uniquely personal level with so many around me. It was powerful. I played amateur and pro football for 25 years of my life and I cannot remember the score of a game but I can tell you about the people like I met them yesterday. 

The constant ebb and flow within shared relationships is a driving force in how we live our lives and has a direct influence on our success and our failures. It all depends on if we choose to embrace the moment at hand or turn away.  Connect or disconnect? Relationship driven perpetual motion creates growth opportunities that can make us better people and better leaders, if and only if, we strive to build authentic, genuine connections with those around us. The depth of the relationships within any team will determine the strength of the structure. 

There is an “i” in Team! If you invest in and inspire those around you are creating game changers!

Based on a 40 hour work week, we spend 24% of our time at work. That is significant. If the time spent at work does not fulfill, the natural inclination is to move to a space that does. Sure, there may be an element of fight with the hope of avoiding exiting stage left but overall, the instinct to take flight will rule. People quit leadership, not jobs. Leadership is about creating the right place and right time for others. Accounting for life and its habit of getting in the way beyond the office and being agile from a leadership and game planning standpoint is invaluable. You can’t fire everyone when things get complicated! 

I had a mentor remind me that “the moment you stop learning, you stop leading!”. It is a message that has resonated with me through the stages of my life and with good reason. It shaped my approach to every facet of my life including team building, leadership and coaching. It has transcended time. So simple yet so sublime. By extension, if you stop learning and stop leading, to a degree you stop living. 

When one thinks of Navy Seals, one thinks of an alpha male. A member of a military machine that is mission driven. Yet, their missions are not strolls through Central Park. They are taking on some harrowing endeavors. What drives them to take on such a challenge? It has to be something personal. The justification has to run deep.  The willingness to sacrifice your life for another person or a cause is something you don’t do every day. Any warrior can battle.The authentic warrior is driven by a love for others including his enemy. The authentic warrior is driven by authenticity and a desire to earn the trust and respect of those around him. If I had the choice of a teammate I trusted versus a teammate who was driven by performance, I would choose the trusted teammate every time because I know he/she will be there with me when things go awry. In military vernacular, they would have my six and I would have theirs. There is a shared, I have no doubt this is “my right place and right time” mindset intertwined within the fabric of the group.

A warrior without that connection to his peers does not become a Seal. 

Successful teams enjoy a clarity that runs through each member. People know where they stand and they know what the team stands for. If you don’t know what you stand for, you will fall for everything! 

It is personal! 

Let’s bring it back to “the moment you stop learning, you stop leading!” message. 

The very first thing I do when I begin to work with any client is get to know them, peccadillo’s and all. Doesn’t matter if it’s a Fortune 500 company, a not for profit agency, a family run business, a start-up or an elite athletic team, I want the process to become personal and here is that word again, AUTHENTIC! I want the client to know I am invested in the journey and that for us to attain success, that investment must be reciprocal. 

I remind clients that there are 4-5 turning point type moments in a year that will heavily influence the direction of the team. The rub is, the team has no idea when those moments will arrive. That’s the unpredictable beauty about the entire deal. 

To connect or disconnect. If the team strives to capture every learning opportunity that arises, muscle memory, habit forming decision making will take place and lead you to your destination. If the team opts not to strive and capture every learning opportunity that arises, muscle memory, habit forming decision making will take place and lead you in the wrong direction. 

There are two ways to learn lessons and there are two ways to lead. The invested and eventually, easy way, or the divested, spin your wheels and get nowhere way! 

Live to learn, learn to live!

——————————————

Ken Evraire is a quintessential team player who loves coaching, team building and talking leadership! He is father to 3 precocious children, a former professional football player that has since donated his brain and believes the old school coach was wrong…there is indeed an “i” in Team! 

To contact Ken email him at ken@kenevraire.com.

To learn more about Ken, visit his website www.kenevraire.com or visit him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kenevraireleadership/ or on twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17

 

Is anyone really uncoachable?

Whenever I am told someone is uncoachable, I always wonder who the coach was. Not to disparage any coaches out there but there are a never ending number of avenues available when it comes to coaching people up for success. Patience, fortitude and a willingness to know who you are coaching up is key. 

A failure to coach is usually connected to a “my way or the highway” coaching approach that is limiting to say the least. Fact is, the “my way” approach is now about the coach and not the person being coached. The “my way” approach is lazy. Your way offers a high risk – low reward scenario. Its like winning the lottery once and hoping the exact same numbers will come up again. The odds of that occurring are 1 in 20,358,520. It is not going to happen so you better look at a different combination of numbers…you had better look to a different approach to connecting. That is coaching! 

Now, I know coaching people up offers a greater rate of success but hoping the same plan works each and every time sets one up for inevitable failure. Reason being, when you factor in the human spirit, the perpetual motion attached to such an energy requires an ability to adapt. One must be agile. 

One must be willing to establish a buy in with each team member and the team member must establish a buy in with the coach. The ebb and flow between a coach and the team is constant. 

Coaching isn’t a straight line from point A to point B experience. It’s a meandering, take 2 steps forward, 1 step to the left, 2 back to the right and 3 forward dance. It’s imperfect, it’s fluid and it’s personal.

The silo approach to inter action is no longer of value. Contribution is key. Overlap and inter-play is crucial to a teams success. The transparent sharing of the strategic where, what, who, where and why creates an ownership that makes it easy to justify spending over 2000 hours per year at work.

The fact of the matter is times have changed.  The “I tell you to jump and you ask how high” approach to leadership and coaching has fallen to the wayside.

Any coach worth his or her salt, in whatever realm, be it in business, a not for profit agency,  leading an elite athletic team or perhaps a house league squad, must be agile, willing to adapt and proud to serve.

Robert K. Greenleaf wrote that a servant leader “begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions.”

He emphasized that servant leaders have five important qualities:

  • they are open to listening to others, and to their own intuition;
  • they know when to withdraw and refresh themselves;
  • they are able to persuade rather than just coerce;
  • they accept their followers’ imperfections and have empathy for them;
  • they can conceptualize a clear vision and follow it one step at a time.

Sounds like the servant leader is a fairly progressive coach. Someone who would stand ahead of the coaching curve today. So, its amazing to learn that he wrote it over 50 years ago and that it stands the test of time.

What I love about the list of important qualities is that they are instrumental in the greater search for fulfillment. Human interaction, the ability to connect, communicate, collaborate and conquer is part of our DNA! Our survival hinges on it. As technological advances arrive and as companies morph and mold in a bid to find success, the importance of the human element remains constant. As sure as the sun rises and sets, there is always an opportunity to coach up. A coach worth his or her salt looks relishes the chance to coach no matter the circumstances.

A great coach finds a way!

 

Coaching and leadership is all about finding a way. To serve others.

Ken Evraire is an outside of the box team builder, leadership and coaching consultant who now aspires to become a documentary producer! Stay tuned!

Ken can be reached at ken@kenevraire.com.

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/kenevraireleadership/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kevraire17

What was the score of the game?

50,000- 70,000 thoughts a day!

Researchers believe we have 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts in a day! So when I do the math based on the top end number of 70, 000 thoughts a day and my being 53 years of age, I have had approximately 1,354,150,000 thoughts in my lifetime and counting. WOW.

Now when you consider how much football I played in that time, isn’t it odd that I can’t remember the score of one game? I can remember Darren Joseph, Earl Winfield, Lonzell Hill, Scott Walker, John Hood, Wally Zatylny, Lee Knight, Richard Nurse, Dan Johnston and so many others like I met them yesterday, but scores of games? I got nothing.

It’s true. If you asked me the score of a game I played and I wouldn’t be able to offer an answer. Not one score, be it from a pre-season game, a regular season game or a playoff game. A tyke, mosquito, pee-wee, bantam, midget, junior, university or professional game.

It has nothing to do with my donating my brain to the Legacy program at Boston University, or at least I hope not. At the end of the day, I think it has to do with connections we have to others and drawing what was really important from our experiences. In sport, the final score is so black and white whereas, in life, the score is nuanced.

Fact is, in football, I could have played a great game and the team could still lose or I could have played like crap and the team could still win. The final score did not tell you the story.

Competition and Human Nature

Don’t get me wrong. In the moment, the final score was important because we are by nature, very competitive and there is a value placed on winning. Winning meant keeping my job.

In the pros, winning meant making more money and being able to pay the bills and taking care of myself. It also enhanced my social status and to be frank, from an ego standpoint, I loved the idea of walking into an arena of competition like a gladiator and being envied by the audience. Doing something special that very few others could do was kind of cool.

The ability to compete is directly linked to our ability to survive. Competition is one of the most basic functions of nature and will forever remain a powerful instinctual driver in human nature. There is no chance at all of evading this instinct.

In my mind, the reason why I don’t remember the score of games is directly connected to learning that the most important tally wasn’t on the scoreboard but rather in the dressing room when I looked my teammates and coaches in the eye.

  • Did I do my job?
  • Did I compete like my life depended on it?
  • Did I have my teammates back?
  • Did I honor the pact I made with my teammates?
  • Did I keep my promise?

If I answered yes, then I earned their respect, I respected the game and I slept well at night. I always looked forward to watching the game film when I played well and always hated it when I played like crap. Like they say…”the eye in the sky don’t lie”.

Honorable Bank Robbers

One of my favorite movies ever is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. The story focuses on the friendship between two men who just happened to be bank robbers. It was about the trust, honesty and commitment that they shared in a very unpredictable environment. Their success hinged on their ability to keep it personal and to draw strength knowing the other would be there through thick or thin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9KBOhPXhds

The end game wasn’t about how much money they took but rather about their belief in the journey they chose to share.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KyR7XB0VBPM

When I work with coaches or athletes, I always ask this question.

“What do you want from your experience?”.

They all want to win. They want a ring and a trophy. Many coaches will say, I want to be a game changer…a difference maker.

Then I ask them to think beyond the scoreboard. What do they want to accomplish beyond the final score?  There is usually a pause followed by a vague answer that they hope lands close to the target.

That is when the real coaching work takes place and it is in that moment that I tell them to forget the trophy because it collects dust.

That they will only wear the ring when they are trying to impress. Forget the team jacket, it won’t fit in 5 years. I tell them the real victory could arrive well beyond the completion of the season.I ask them to visualize being out front of the grocery store 5 years down the road.The coach sees his former player or vice versa. How do they visualize that moment? What is the preferred outcome?

Does the coach or kid stop and take the time to say hi? Do they reminisce? Share a memory? Do they pretend to not see each other? Do they turn in a different direction?

Great memories are personal. They extend from a genuine place. Despite competing in the very alpha male world of football, my ability to care for others was the only score that counted.

Ken Evraire is an outside of the box team builder, leadership and coaching consultant who now aspires to become a documentary producer! Stay tuned!

Ken can be reached at ken@kenevraire.com.

Find your lobster suit!

Sometimes wearing a lobster suit can change the entire game.
I know it did for me.

I booked career presentation number 500 today, or at least close to number 500! I admit it’s not a perfect science.

Not sure why it struck a sentimental cord with me but it did. Maybe it has to do with my being 53 years of age, the changing of seasons or watching my kids grow up faster than wheat in Melville, Saskatchewan. Worth noting, Melville was named for Charles Melville Hays, former General Manager of the Grand Trunk Railway which, if you know your 1970’s music, inspired the name of one of the greatest bands ever, Grand Funk Railroad. How is that for a water cooler fact!

Okay, lets get back my getting all sentimental! I believe it has to do with my sitting down and thinking back on the presentations that stuck with me through the years, presentations that stood out for a number of different reasons. Presentations that captured the audience on a level I did not necessarily anticipate. 

I always loved presenting and coaching people up. I didn’t think it would become a full time gig until the spring of 1989.

As a member of the Ottawa Rough Riders, I was often called on to host or attend events the organization

PIPSC Annual Retreat

would run or support. My boss at the time, Jo-Anne Polak, the only female GM in professional football and considered to be a marketing genius, decided the team should host a marquee fundraiser. With her roots in the East Coast, it made complete sense to host a lobster dinner. Great idea? To be honest, it was a good idea but to suggest it was great would have been a stretch. So, the team was going to host a lobster gala. The story doesn’t stop there. In addition to the team hosting the fundraiser, she suggested I serve as the event emcee and that I would work for free! Yep, no pay, which to be honest, I was okay with. Jo-Anne had become my official supplier of free game tickets so as gamblers say, her ticket supply and my working for free was a push. The wild card in all this was the very real possibility that, as my boss, she could have me traded to Winnipeg in a blink of an eye! Melville, SK I could kind of live with but Winterpeg? Umm…No. So, I really had no say in the matter so far. Then things took an interesting turn.

Remember the part about her being a marketing genius? This is where the genius comes into play. She suggests I emcee the event in a….wait for it….lobster suit!

At first, I irresponsibly and irrationally said, “Sure, what the hell.”. Then the reality began to set in along with the discomfort. I had no worry about serving as emcee but had some hesitation when it came to dressing as a crustacean. Now, I could have worn a suit and tie or a team sweater and pulled it off but I knew that wouldn’t work. The fact of the matter was, I had to wear the lobster suit. It was meant to be. I was meant to wear the suit the same way King Arthur was destined to bare the sword Excalibur after it was handed to him by the lady of the lake.

Many of you are likely thinking, “Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.” I agree and I admit that was borrowed from the movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

It doesn’t change the fact that the lobster suit and I were meant to be.

On event day, I was piped into the Civic Center Assembly Hall by the Ottawa Fire Department Pipe and Drum, and it was then that I knew somehow, someway, I would dedicate my energy toward presenting.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Ken-Lobster-2-1-1024x819.png
Teammate Dean Dorsey and I at the Ottawa Rough Riders Lobster Gala!

Rather than embarrassingly make my way to the podium on stage, I opted to walk in like I was the heavyweight champion of the world. I chose to own the room before I even entered it. I walked selling the “I can’t believe I am the only crustacean in the room! How lucky am I?” Before I even said a word to the sold out audience, I knew I had won.

Initially, the suit was a tad uncomfortable but not from the perspective of fit but rather from the perspective of the experience being so new. Sure there were stares of astonishment from everyone in attendance, including teammates and my girlfriend at the time, followed by laughter. Yet, any concerns that I had were soon outweighed by what the moment brought me. Sometimes you need to stand up when everyone is sitting down. Sometimes, just sometimes, you need to be your own crustacean! Stepping out from the comfort zone and out of what we have worn in the past may be just what the doctor ordered.

Having Jo-Anne there with a smile of affirmation certainly helped as well. The power that comes with self determination is significant to say the least.

Today, when I am not introducing, “There is an “i” in Team” concepts or tailoring client specific strategies, I am doing my best to help my children find the courage to wear their lobster suits and discard them after they have learned what they needed from them.

We are all going to spend our time doing something, so make sure it is something worth spending your time on. By doing so, you will find your “right place and right time”.

Wearing that lobster suit opened doors to experiences that went beyond my ability to catch a football.

Find your lobster suit and head upstream like you were destined to wear it. 

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Ken Evraire is a quintessential team player who loves coaching, team building and talking leadership! He is father to 3 precocious children, a former professional football player that has since donated his brain and believes the old school coach was wrong…there is indeed an “i” in Team! 

To contact Ken email him at ken@kenevraire.com.

To learn more about Ken, visit his website www.kenevraire.com or visit him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kenevraireleadership/ or on twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17

 

 

I would have left the bench Razor!

As the day unfolds, this loss is running me over! I am so sad for his family. As a father, coach, former athlete and a real fan of the man, I am crushed.

I remember meeting Ray Emery for the first time during rookie training camp. He was a confident, off the charts athletic young man playing what was and to a degree still is a very white game. In his time with the Ottawa Senator’s he became a celebrity of sorts for the great things he did and the not so great things he did. If he could stop the puck, he was granted an unconditional love from all. If he won, we would turn a blind eye to the behavior that the came with the trappings of success.

Fans loved the fact that he loved to fight but I always wondered why he enjoyed it. Did he enjoy it? Was it about something that ran deeper inside him? Were there demons behind the goalie mask? Was it part of his approach in his bid to succeed? Did it fuel him to succeed and in turn become his Achilles heel?

As a Senator, he drove a white hummer which would not have been a big story if he played in the NFL or NBA, but in the NHL it just didn’t sit well with the traditionalists. Everywhere that white hummer went so to did the attention of fans and critics. The white hummer reminded us of Ottawa’s small-town identity. Many a time I wished he played in New York or Florida.

He always seemed like he was trying to find his way. He got into trouble with the team for his tattoos. I was with The New RO and we did a story on Ray getting a tattoo at a local tattoo parlor on Rideau St. The team reprimanded the station and me for the story. His dying his hair blond created a stir even though a teammate a few stalls down had tattoos and had also died his hair blond all without recourse. I am not saying the team was racist, I just think the team was not prepared for an outspoken black athlete who was trying to find his way. Ray was an athlete trying to find his way in a bid to stay true to himself. He had Mike Tyson painted on his goal mask and the argument that he supported Mike Tyson the criminal, the rapist became a hot topic. The team convinced him it would be a bad idea to wear it after just 1 game. It was not a mistake by some kid who was unaware. It wasn’t about Tyson’s criminal actions. Sadly, very few saw the connection between the challenges Tyson endured as a young man making is way to the top of his sport and the challenges Ray faced growing up with his single mom and then eventually after she re-married, growing up in a bi-racial family. Like Tyson, Ray was a competitor. Ray was fierce and unstoppable. He would not take shit from anyone who judged him. He was okay with going through the door first and getting bloodied. Not sure if he was okay with being the hero in one moment and the villain in the next. Those close to him would know better. Would his fight get the best of him? Sure…just ask the equipment man for the team in Russia he played for. Ray slugged him after being pulled from a game. The mistake was the equipment man trying to get Ray to wear a baseball cap.

Of all his accomplishments he will likely be remembered most (on the ice and off) for his fighting Buffalo Sabres G Martin Biron and F Andrew Peters during a line brawl in Buffalo.

So many celebrated his willingness to fight. So many had hoped for it.

Watch the video and tell me what you see?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulyEnFh9Wvo

Now answer this question. If that had been any other NHL goalie and the opposing team’s tough guy went after him would anyone, everyone have stepped in? You damn right they would have! Would guys have left the bench? You damn right they would have. I was always struck by the mere fact that no one jumped in that night in Buffalo. No one left the bench. No one stepped up to protect their goalie. Forget the argument that Ray can handle himself. That is beside the point. Goalie on goalie fights happen (much to the regret of Martin Biron) but a tough guy going after your goalie is a no-no, or at least it had been until that night. Ray puts on a brave face, a knowing smile. It was as if the moment unfolded just as he had expected. He was on his own again. If Tie Domi went after Patrick Roy what do you think would have happened? If anyone breathed on Mike Vernon or Chris Osgood in Detroit, do you think the opponent gets to pass go and collect $200? Hell no.

The sports news will play his fight video over and over again to commemorate his passing and each time I see it I will get pissed off.

As a guy who has a background in team sports, I can say that if I was on the ice, I would have jumped in and it would have taken me a fucking millisecond. If I was on the bench, I would have jumped into the fray regardless of the consequences, come hell or high water. Someone was going to get fucked up. It may be me but at least I entered the fray. I take great pride in knowing that my teammates knew I would have jumped into the fray, win, lose or if I got my ass kicked. No teammate should ever be left on his own.

As popular as he was, I always felt like Ray was on his own.

One day after a Sens practice when Ray’s star was shining its brightest, I had a brief conversation with him, a conversation that began in the elevator and then down the walkway at the rink. Ray knew I played football and I guess it garnered me some semblance of respect and some of his time.

At the time, I was working with The New RO. the city was celebrity starved. How bad was it? We celebrated the likes of Marlen Copeland who was famous for a diamond nipple on a gold breastplate and not much more! By then the rumors of mischief were swirling around the hockey team like a tropical storm. It was the cities big little secret. Everyone wanted a piece of the team, with Ray being the preferred choice. A couple of my police contacts had told me stories about Razor and his teammate’s antics. The rolled BMW found in the farmer’s field. The pissed off husbands. Ah, the players were kings. Everyone wanted to be close to them. Every Jr. B wanna be wanted to have a beer with them. Single and married women have their tales to tell. The white hummer parked near a certain socialites residence in the middle of the day on a consistent basis traveled through the gossip mill. I don’t think anything can compare to the party that was the 2006-2007 Stanley Cup run. Maybe that’s why it’s so tough to buy into the present edition of the Senators. The party could never be the same. The team was great on the ice and the postgame was greater!

In a subtle, it was none of my business but I really cared way, I suggested he be careful. To keep his head up. That those who love his rise to fame would certainly also celebrate his failure. Again, he smiled that knowing smile, chuckled a little, shook my hand and said thanks. Then he walked on, alone with no one there to jump into the fray should another battle with an opponent or a demon arise. No one would be there to leave the bench.

I will miss you Ray. I will miss the young man who did his best to stay true to himself. The young man who fought, win lose or if you got your ass kicked. Thank you for being a warrior.
Rest in peace Razor.

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Ken Evraire is an award-winning leadership coach and team builder, a talent specialist with Cistel Technology in Ottawa, Canada and is a former professional athlete. 

To contact Ken email him at ken@kenevraire.com.

To learn more about Ken, visit his website www.kenevraire.com or visit him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kenevrairedotcom/ or on twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17

The “Fake It Til You Make It” aka FITYMI Trap!

Fake it til you make it! Better known as FITYMI!

Sometimes it works and the majority of time, not so much.

How many times have you heard that great piece of strategic advice?  I have heard it a handful of times during my life journey and it always struck me as a high risk, rarely rewarded scenario.

Sir Richard Branson (founder of the Virgin Group, which controls more than 400 companies) thinks it’s a viable option. Just get in the door and figure things out as you get going! Fact is anytime a “Sir” says something, people tend to listen with a little more interest and I did! Here is a 13 second clip of Sir Rick (not to be confused with Slick Rick). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoXhoZjkUVY

So, first and foremost, far be it for me to disagree with a guy who has enjoyed the success Sir Richard has enjoyed. In fact, I kind of agree with him. Faking it til you make it makes sense when you are in an “attack the learning curve” frame of mind and not, I repeat, not auditioning for the role of trauma surgeon, pilot, astronaut, explosives specialist and any other gig that you can think of that places human life at risk. The old fake it til you make it approach has a greater chance of panning out if you are kind of faking the role of entry level sales associate, data entry assistant or a client services coordinator.

All joking aside, there is a greater point that I think is important. The FITYMI strategy has it’s flaws.

If someone is going to FITYMI and then hope for the best, the likelihood of their succeeding is slim. Human beings are creatures of habit. We have the tendency to get excited and race out of the barn like a Kentucky Derby Champion but soon become the work horse out in the pasture just enjoying the day as time passes. The FITYMI followers want to be special but fall into the trap because they do not have enough in their tank to actually “make it”.

We beat ourselves up because we are not the next Roger Federer, Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Ellen DeGeneres or Lionel Ritchie! Sure they are all successful but its not like the clouds opened up when they were born and some higher power declared them destined for greatness (Lionel Ritchie is the exception!).  Somewhere along the way,  they woke up believing that it was time to change their approach to how they pursued success. They had to get beyond the definition of success and focus on redefining their pathway to success.  They had to turn their gaze from the trophy and focus on the trials and tribulations that one must endure to get to the trophy. They focused on the work with a steely eyed focus on doing what it took to win.

I love the conversation between Susan Sarandon and Kevin Costner in the movie “Bull Durham”.  Sarandon plays Annie Savoy and Costner plays Crash Davis.

Annie: ...so you see in a former lifetime I’m sure I was Alexandria, the Czarette of Russia. What do you think?

Crash: How come in former lifetimes everybody was someone famous? How come nobody ever says they were Joe Shmo?

Nobody wants to be Joe or Jill Shmo but the majority of us are because we become competent fakers. We tap out on the journey to be genuine. We tap out on the opportunity to be great.

Like an athlete building muscle memory, when we consistently opt for the “fake it til ya make it” approach you will soon get used to faking it! Before you know it…the faking becomes your end goal. Your original destination was the express lane but some how you got stuck in the collector lane and you are comfortable there.

I played professional football. Now, before the trumpets resound and the crowds cheers, it was the Canadian Football League and I made $33,000 before taxes my rookie year. This after being drafted 9th overall! In college I was able to fake it. I had no idea what defense the opponent played. I had no idea about their tendencies or what they were trying to accomplish. I was getting away with being the better athlete.

That changed when I was drafted by Saskatchewan. When my name was called, I walked up on stage to meet General Manager Bill Baker better known as The Undertaker.  As we shook hands he said, “Welcome to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, you are now a free safety!”. “I am a free safety!”.

I just played 3 years of college football and without wanting to brag, I had built a pretty good resume. I was a 2x All-Canadian, conference all star, conference MVP, conference Rookie of the Year etc. I was a pretty good receiver! Yet, they drafted Jeff Fairholm (U. of Arizona) 2nd overall. So, I am now a free safety. I could have faked it in training camp and returned to school but I was done with university life and quite frankly, I  think the university may have been done with me as well!

I wanted to play pro football so badly that faking it was not an option. I had to go into attack mode! By avoiding the trap of faking it I was able to learn and in turn compete at a smarter and faster level. Eventually, I was traded to the Ottawa Rough Riders and shifted back to receiver. Talk about looking at the game from a completely different perspective. Everything made sense. I understood the chess game within the game.

So, faking it is an option but it only bears value when it is a transitory step toward a greater destination.

FITYMI only works if you are intent on getting out of the faking it lane as fast as you can. It works only if it is a layover between where you were and your next destination. No one wants to spend time at Newark International Airport, Kennedy or LaGuardia! They are hubs that lead to greater adventures.

So, how do we avoid the fake it til you make it trap?

What does it mean to you? We are all going to spend our time doing something. We look with envy at those around us who seem to be doing what they actually want to do. Who knows if they actually are? They may be full of crap, living the pretend Facebook perfect life. Who knows? I do know that if what you choose to do means something to you, you are more apt to go the extra mile. The art of developing your expertise and the energy that surrounds that effort transcends any need to fake it. The will to dig in is genuine. If you are invested you are a sponge. If you are a fence sitter you are a stone.

Game plan. Have a clear and concise exit strategy. Have a game plan that features hard and fast deadlines that will force you to get to the next level. Put some pressure on yourself to compete. Don’t get comfortable. Set incremental goals and don’t waver from them. If you are close to satisfying them then great. You have the option to give yourself some extra time. If you are nowhere near the neighborhood of satisfying the goals then you may want to ask yourself the “is this really for me?” question.

Be realistic. Set goals that you can reach. Expertise does not come in one fell swoop, its incremental and modular in nature. I remember back in grade 3 when I convinced my parents to buy me a geometry set. I vowed I would use every item in the case. I would use both of the set squares, I would protract with the 180° protractor, I would rule the class with the 15 cm ruler, I would never get lost thanks to the metal compass, and so on with the 9 cm pencil, pencil sharpener, eraser and the 10 mm stencil. As expected, I did not use all of them…in fact I barely used any of them. (of note, I had to Google all the items found in a protractor set!)

Find another fake it til you make it adventure: If the suit doesn’t fit then don’t wear the suit. Find something that fits or comes closer to fitting. There is nothing wrong with moving from one challenge that may not fit you to another that may fit you. Life offers very few absolutes. Finding what is worth your time is an imperfect science.

Faking it until you make it should be a very uncomfortable comfort zone experience. At the end of the day, the goal is to create your own right time and right place.

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Ken Evraire is an award-winning leadership coach and team builder, a talent specialist with Cistel Technology in Ottawa, Canada and is a former professional athlete. 

To contact Ken email him at ken@kenevraire.com.

To learn more about Ken, visit his website www.kenevraire.com or visit him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kenevrairedotcom/ or on twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17

 

 

Running Naked

 

When everything seems discombobulated in my life I love to run naked! I admit it get’s tougher thanks to the 5 knee surgeries and other football related injuries that have slowed me down but when I get a chance to run naked…I do so without hesitation. 

I didn’t realize I loved running naked until I began training for my first marathon! As sports director for the local TV station, I was afforded many great opportunities including running a marathon as a member of the Team Diabetes project. My mom is diabetic and I thought it would be a great opportunity to honor her and in turn 

 

Have you ever been in a place where you just have so much on the go and you can’t slow things down let alone make sense of anything. As an entrepeneur, father of 3 precocious children aged 8, 7 and 6, patient (undergone 2 ablations to cure an AFIB issue), brain donor, coach and to be honest, a guy just trying to figure things out on a daily basis, my cure is to go run naked!

Of course, I don’t mean literally. I mean, I run naked as in, without the need to block everything out with an ipod, without 4 water compartments attached to my belt, no watch to tell me how long or how fast or how slow I am moving, how many steps I have taken or what my heart rate is. No Advil to help me through the run. I simply begin begin with a light static stretch and then get moving.

I know my left knee will need some time to catch up to the rest of my body thanks to a major ACL repair and 4 subsequent arthrosopic procedures, I  know my hips and back will be tight,  I know my breathing will be staggered and panicked. I know that I will begin the run carrying all of life’s luggage. I will fret over the kids schooling, my parenting style, the increasing cost of living, how I can be more supportive of my wife, North Korea, Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau, my Chicago Blackhawks, how to figure out the Cumberland Panthers RB who decimated my Eagles Tyke football team defence, paying back money I owe family members, planning a family summer holiday, how I can determine my worth as a business consultant and not give in to clients who want to low ball me on every seemingly every quote.

One would think, that with so much going on, I would just take off my running shoes and go lie down, curl up into a little ball and take a nap, waking only when the world stopped spinning so erratically!

Tapping out is not an option. I know the start of the run will feel like a never ending barrage of Mike Tyson body blows. Yet, I always draw confidence in knowing that as I run, I will find clarity. I will be able to begin the process of sorting and prioritizing my to-do list. I will be able to give proper weight to everything that I have on the go.

The endorphins will begin to kick in, I will begin to feel better physically and this change will be matched by a new found exuberance psychologically. I am not ticking like a Rolex quite yet but I am at least a Timex! I will decide to drop some items off of my to-do list. I will figure out new ways to attack and solve problems. I will new plot solutions and develop a new, keen sense of direction.

By blasting the Doobie Brothers in my ears, drinking blue frost Gatorade every 3 blocks, taking 4 Advil and then worrying about taking 4 Advil, I will certainly get through my run but that is about all I will have accomplished. I would have missed out on the opportunity to grow because I was fixated on the trophy…the finishing of the run.

 

I know my body will respond with energy. My breathing pattern will adjust and find a new calm because my mind will go quiet. There is still a crap load going on but by listening to my body and trusting the process, I have created a win that I can build on.  After I have adjusted my speed, taken time to stretch after every 8-10 blocks of running, I have a longer stride, my foot placement is smooth and light, I am running tall. My timing is more precise. By listening to my body and responding accordingly, I am winning.

Now, I am confident about attacking other items that require my attention. I am not thinking about running. I am running naked and on auto-pilot. I don’t remember much of anything from the perspective of the exterior. no thoughts about the traffic, what people think of my running technique etc.  I am tuned into the machinations of my interior, in my heart and soul.

I am coming up with new presentation ideas. I am plotting new solutions that were nowhere near my thought process 35 minutes ago. I am becoming a better parent, a better husband, a better everything all because I chose to run naked.

So how does this to apply to my work as a leadership consultant and team builder?

Don’t be afraid to face the noise. By attacking the noise and the traffic, you can work your way to a clear express line that offers new opportunities. You won’t find a solution if you don’t face the problem. If your team production is down or deadlines are being missed. Maybe people are taking an inordinate number of sick days that may reflect a culture issue within the team. There can be a number of issues and they can only be solved when you get out of the office and go run naked! Once you begin to build some momentum, the possibilities from a problem solving perspective are infinite!

I will be sore tomorrow morning but it will be worth it.  I will relax tonight, sip some blue frost Gatorade, listen to some Doobie Brothers and look forward to the next time I run.

I run naked, therefore I am!

 

 

I am giving my brain away.

“I could while away the hours, conferring with the flowers, consulting with the rain. And my head I’ll be scratching, while my thoughts were busy hatching, if I only had a brain.”

Friday evening…B.C. Place, Vancouver, B.C.

Somewhere in the red zone (between the 20-yard line and the goal line). I woke up to Dr. Mark Aubry looking down at me.

I asked him what happened? He told me I got hit!

“No shit I got hit!”.

I could hear voices.  I could taste blood.  I could hear the opposing players arguing with the officials about their ruling it was indeed a catch and not a fumble.  I could hear the crowd responding to the replay of the hit on the big screen.  I always wondered what an “audible gasp” sounded like.  Now I knew.

I had a couple of teammates telling me to hang in there.  Who they specifically were I couldn’t tell you.

I remember it all like it happened this morning which is odd because it happened back in the fall of 1990.

I had always assumed that you would not remember anything after getting knocked out, but I did.

A few moments earlier I was exiting the huddle after QB Damon Allen called the play.  The play called for me to run a 12-15 yard hook route on the right side of the line of scrimmage.  I went through my usual pre-snap checks and balances.  What is the body language of the defensive back covering me?  Would he play man or zone? Would he play press coverage?  Would he blitz?  I caught the strong side linebacker peeking my way which told me he was looking to cheat in his drop to his zone.  I was not surprised what with it being an obvious passing situation.  Just to be sure, I tracked the free safety.  Where he lines up often dictates the defense you will see.

On this occasion,  he was playing at depth (about 15-17 yards away and in the middle of the field) which told me he was going to drop deeper to defend against any deep passes.

Based on all of the variables, I had a good sense that I was going to get the ball.

As I took off on my route, my first steps widened me away from the SAM linebacker in a bid to avoid his trying to bump me off my route. I knew that once I got passed him I could settle at 12-14 yards in a window between him and the middle linebacker.  It was a route I had run a million times during my career.  I was confident.  Maybe too confident!  I got to depth, settled down and gave Damon a target. This was simple pitch and catch!  He delivered a dime hitting me right in the middle of my jersey numbers with the pass.  I was all set to take off up field in a bid to gain some extra yardage…then BOOM!

The last thing I saw were brown eyes.  The very same brown eyes belonging to free safety Robin Belanger.  The very Robin Belanger that had I failed to notice cheating up on coverage as the play unfolded.  Safe to assume I noticed as soon as he sent me into la-la land!

*Of note, I only knew it was Robin Belanger after I watched the game film a couple of days later!

After Dr. Aubry established that I had been knocked out, I miraculously sat up, yet was wary of the news that was about to come, because I knew something was not right.  I felt like I had gotten run over by a truck!  I asked him what the damage was.

He replied, “Separated shoulder, a broken nose, a few teeth had pierced your lower lip and you likely have a concussion.”. 

All were injuries I would recover from.  It’s not like I blew out my knee (which I did in 1993).  I didn’t think twice about making a recovery and getting back on the field.  The concussion didn’t even trigger an element of fear or doubt.

“With the thoughts I’d be thinking, I could be another Lincoln, if I only had a brain.”

Yes, I was done for the day.  In hindsight, it was also the day I subconsciously decided that I would play the game safe.

It was not the first time I was knocked out and thanks to a combination of forces (an ability to catch punts and being on a bad team) it would not be the last.

The first knockout took place in Ottawa when we hosted the Toronto Argos.  I ran a shallow crossing route and saw the LB on the other side of the field drop back into zone.  Cool, I would just gear down in the space he vacated and all would be good.  Yet, that was not just any linebacker.  It was all-star Ben Zambiasi.  He was a former Georgia Bulldog, tougher than nails and sly…very sly.  I had heard stories about Zambiasi but as a young, seemingly invincible fool, I chose not to give any of those stories credence.  That I regret…a lot.  I didn’t see him but I sure felt and heard him.  As I geared down, I looked to the QB and it was in that moment the lights went out. Zambiasi had dropped a few steps then torpedoed me and I was sent ass over tea-kettle.  The wind was knocked out of me but rather than panic, everything was oddly calm…almost surreal.  The best way to describe it may be he hit my Control-Alt-Delete button.  I knew I was hurt but not injured. I could hear Zambiasi arguing with the ref that I had ran into him but I couldn’t see anything! I tried turning the lights on by opening my eyes and closing them over again but nothing.  I know I scared the crap out of my teammates what with their looking down at me and watching me blink my eyes over and over again! Odd thing is, I did not leave the game. I missed a couple of plays but continued to play.  There was no “how many fingers?” questions.  I was asked how I felt and I said great! I wanted to compete.

(Funny thing is Ben Zambiasi was on the coaching staff when I joined the Hamilton Tiger Cats. My fondest memory was his plotting to steal the team bus after a season ending loss in Edmonton. I was an eager recruit but regrettably, the mission failed.)

The third time I got knocked out was in San Antonio, Texas. As a member of the Ottawa Rough Riders, we traveled there from Memphis as part of a 2 city road trip.  By then, I was trying to recover from a surgically repaired torn ACL, just finishing out the string!  Truth is, I never completely recovered.  My knee doesn’t completely bend.  The knee cap was bogged down with scar tissue despite my going in to have it cleaned on 4 separate occasions!  I was holding on to the game and was a mere shadow of my former self. Life beyond the game scared me.  During my recovery, I enrolled in a Computer Programming Diploma Program  at CDI College, even though there was nothing about me that screamed computer programming.  Everyone was seemingly in computers and they were making money doing it.  Why couldn’t I?  Sure, I wasn’t passionate about it but I was in survival mode.  So much so that I returned to what was in essence, an abusive relationship that was not good for me.  Like they say, “It’s better to dance with the devil you know than the one you don’t know”, and I knew football.  All for $55,000 before taxes!

Did I mention we were not a very good football team?  So much so, that the coach in his infinite wisdom had me return punts.  Now, I was never a burner to begin with but as luck would have it I was one of the few on the team that could catch a punt which is all that I was asked to do.  Why? Because every time we lined up on punt return we tried to block the damn thing.  Great idea if it works but bad for me if it doesn’t.  If we are going for the block, I have next to no blockers available to help me out.  It just made sense what with our being a bad football team, that we would be fail miserably in the category of “blocked punts”.

I swear I could hear the Texans punter Roman Anderson laughing before he punted one my way.  It was in the Alamo Dome so tracking the ball was challenging to say the least.  His hitting the ball about 9 kilometers up didn’t help either.  By the time the ball came down and was caught, I was surrounded by the Texans punt cover team.  I utilized the old “duck and cover” technique which fared well until the 2nd quarter.  As luck would have it Texans FB Tony Burse, all 6 ft. 220 lbs. of hurt, figured out my strategy.  He whacked me pretty good.  There were 2 sounds…him hitting me and my hitting the turf. This time the lights went out and back on quickly.  Just a flash!  I immediately regained my focus but in that moment, completely lost my will to play.  That was when I decided I would retire at the end of the season.  I also decided I was not going to return punts or play football for that matter on that day.  The trainer pulled me from the game.  I went to the locker room, showered, took a couple of pain killers and then drank a few beers on the team bus while listening to the rest of the game with the bus driver. He was pretty chatty and I had nothing to say.

“I would not be just a nothing, my head all full of stuffin, my heart all full of pain. I would dance and be merry, life would be a ding-a-derry. If I only had a brain.”

So, I am giving away my brain.  It may be the only thing worth giving away once everything is said and done. I have had 2 cardiac ablations for an atrial fibrillation issue. My back and hips are stiffer than a Regina wind storm and my memory is starting to go.

I am a father to 3 wonderful, precocious children. I have a wonderful, patient partner in Pamela, who has gone to hell and back with me. I have been impatient, moody, confused and frightened. I have also avoided seeking help for fear that there is some real damage. Again, another example of my dancing with the devil I knew versus the one I don’t know.

I am sharing my story because by going public, I have intentionally forced my hand.

I have chosen to share my story because I have decided to seek help. I have decided to avoid the trap of thinking I am invincible, that I am okay and that I am being brave by “manning up”, by not doing anything.

If I didn’t have kids, I probably would not be seeking help. Picking yourself up and pretending you are okay and getting back into the game is not an act of bravery.  Asking for help is.

I would have continued to live in the silence.  To simply exist but my kids need me.  Elijah, Summer and Nate need me.  Pamela Joy needs me.

I am not regretful. I grew up in Lebreton Flats and spent hours at the Boys and Girls Club.  We did not have much besides big dreams and great parents.  My dad, Ken Sr., played minor league baseball with Pete Rose and Ritchie Allen.  My mom, Paulette, was and still is our Rock of Gibraltar.

I knew as soon as my dad lifted me up on to the ticket box outside Lansdowne Park so I could see one half of the field as the Rough Riders played the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, football would be my way out.

With that said, as much as I loved the game, Pamela and I will have plenty of discussions regarding our kids and their playing contact sports.

Here’s the rub in all of this. I have no idea if what I just shared made sense.  I guess that is yet another reason I have decided to donate my brain. They will likely find nothing (pardon the pun!).

Gosh, it would be awful pleasin, to reason out the reason, for things I can’t explain. Then perhaps I’ll deserve your and be even worthy of you.
If I only had a brain!

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Ken Evraire is an award-winning leadership coach and team builder. As a former professional athlete, he has learned from great coaches and learned even more from the bad ones!

To contact Ken email him at ken@kenevraire.com.

To learn more about Ken, visit his website www.kenevraire.com or visit him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kenevrairedotcom/ or on twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17