The Fake It Til You Make It Trap 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.

——————————————

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

 

Is anyone really uncoachable?

Whenever I am told someone is uncoachable, I always wonder who the coach is. Not to disparage any coaches out there but there are a never ending avenues available when it comes to coaching people. 

I immediately envision a coach that has adopted a “my way or the highway” 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. It is about a coach relying on something that has worked in the past. Choosing the “my way” approach shuts the door on the infinite possibilities. 

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,  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. Quitting is not an option.

As all roads lead to Rome, when it comes to coaching, all paths or activities lead to a center of things, a destination. This was literally true in the days of the Roman Empire, when all the empire’s roads radiated out from the capital city, Rome.

Yet, the trap thought for anyone who takes on the role of leader|coach is the belief that they are the center and that the team radiates out from them, when in fact, the team is the center and the leader must search out roads that will lead to them.

The one template, cookie cutter approach is now passe. Anyone holding strong to those ideals are blinding themselves to the possibilities that come with setting others up to succeed.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

——————————————

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 go run naked!  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 I don’t want getting through my run to be the trophy. My badge of honor is not defined by how I was able to gut it out. The run isn’t the accomplishment. It is not the win. It is the portal to the win!

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 toapply 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