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/   

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.

 

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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 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

Friend first…G.M. second. My time with Jo-Anne Polak aka JP Superstar

I had forgotten that she was given the nickname, JP Superstar! Wow, how time flies. I may have forgotten her nickname but I will not ever for forget how she personalized professional football.

I of course refer to Jo-Anne Polak, the first female General Manager in professional football.

 

For the many who don’t know and sadly, for those who forgot, Jo-Anne joined the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1987 and was named the teams business manager in December 1988. The title should have been Business Miracle Worker! She became co-GM with then head coach Steve Goldman a month later! As general manager, Polak became the first woman to hold an executive role in the Canadian Football League and the first woman general manager of a North American sports team. She held the position of general manager until stepping down in November 1991. I first met her in the off-season of 1989. I was heading into the locker room for a workout and she was there hosting a tour and working on her latest marketing marvel to re-connect fans to a team that had under-achieved like no other. The team’s hopes had been placed on the shoulders of Canadian RB Orville Lee, QB Damon Allen and K Dean Dorsey. Lee was drafted 1st overall the previous year, Dorsey had returned after a stint with the Philadelphia Eagles and Allen arrived from Edmonton thanks to his connection with Head Coach Steve Goldman . The team also acquired warrior OL Gerald Roper and Rob Smith in 1989. Smitty beat Matthew McConaughey to punch when it came to not needing an excuse to go shirtless! All were significant pieces in the effort to build a team that could compete. 

Truth be told, Jo-Anne inherited a 6 ring circus. I could go on about my teammates and their love for Jo and I could go on about how she changed the football landscape in Ottawa and how she excelled in what was an “old boys” setting but that would be too easy and too obvious.

Yes, when we got our pay cheques the morning after a game we would  indeed race to the RBC on Bank St. and First Avenue before team meetings, to get them cashed knowing full well that there may not be enough money in the teams account to cover the payroll! Forever teammates but in that moment, arch enemies! Nothing personal but I got to get paid! Some guys got paid and some guys came back pissed off! Funny how you could pick them out in the crowd!

I could go on about the charity hockey game between the Rough Riders and the Perth OPP and how it got out of hand real quick, like at the drop of the puck. Ah, alpha males!!  Jo was our “coach” and she got out from behind the bench real fast. As the competitive energy rose, she took on this panicked look on her face! She booked it away from the bench and into the stands despite our assurances that all would be fine. She arrived worrying about  about branding and selling and was now worried about a full line brawl! Yes, Damon Allen always played the wing furthest away from the bench so he could extend his shift to about 7 minutes at a time and yes, Loyd Lewis would undo his skates between each shift and get riled up when he would miss a shift as he laced back up!

For me it was about her leadership under very personal and challenging life experiences.

The first came on July 5th, 1989. We had played the Toronto Argonauts the night before in pre-season play. Guys were on pins and needles knowing the roster was being cut down. I was in a special teams film session when I was told Head Coach Steve Goldman wanted to see me. There was a pause in the entire room. Was I being cut? Perhaps traded? I had a great training camp and had really found my groove going into my 2nd year as a pro. When I entered the office I saw Jo-anne first. I had laughed about a million times with Jo by then and when we looked at each other, she had an expression of sadness. I thought, “shit, I am gone!”.  Steve was seated behind his desk. He was clearly uncomfortable so Jo-Anne took the lead and I think Steve and I were both glad she had.

That morning, my cousin David had been struck by a car and had passed away.  He was working for a courier company and had been making a delivery downtown when the accident occurred. David was the oldest of 3 boys. His father is brilliantly funny! At social events, Uncle Gerry would make my dad laugh until his lungs fell out. Still does to this day! Aunt Claudette did her best to eliminate the hi-jinx, largely because Gerry’s humor was at the expense of french hockey players even though he and Claudette were fluently bilingual! David has two younger brothers, Shawn and Chris. Shawn was the quiet thoughtful one. Chris, known as Cricket and Boots, had more energy than anyone I had ever met. I didn’t get a lot of details when I was given the news. I just knew the loss was going to carry a lifelong magnitude that no one should ever have to experience. I know because I had a sister pass away when I was 4 and she was 5. Her name was ‘Jo-Anne”, and she was likely as spirited as my boss. Jo-Jo was riding a bike that was too big for her and she had fallen into a parked car, bumping her head. No need for details but I still cry to this day when I think about her. I imagine Uncle Gerry, Aunt Claudette, Shawn and Chris will always shed a tear for David as well.

Having Jo-Anne there, sitting close by as I called my Uncle Gerry, not knowing what to say or do will be etched in my memory bank forever. She wasn’t just about the bottom line and football. Jo was about the relationships.  In the blink of an eye, she had earned my trust. She was a “show me, don’t tell me” type of leader! Always had been, always will be.

The second memorable, emotional moment came in 1991. I had established myself as a CFL pro by then and was part of a team that had a lot of potential. In the off-season, the team signed big name free agents Glen Kulka, Tony Cherry, the late John Mandarich, and David Williams. Some would argue that the team crossed the line in terms of the unspoken gentleman’s agreement that teams not sign other teams big name free agents. Some would call it the art of collusion! Coach Goldman and Jo-Anne opted to go big and create some positive heat around the team. The result was a vengeful group of competing General Managers. Fortune favors the bold but it could also come back to bite you in the ass.

We played Calgary on October 13th. I injured my knee and had anticipated being placed on the teams injured list. It was an eventful morning after the game because the team doctor opted to drain fluid build up in my knee. I was assured it would accelerate my return to the roster. When he drew back the syringe, there was blood and not the fluid he had anticipated. This was indeed good news. My knee was fine. I did have a 2 inch tear at the base of my quad but that would heal. I was going to miss some time but nothing to worry about. At least that’s what I had thought. Now, in the CFL, teams use re-callable waivers as a tool in building their weekly rosters. If a player is place on re-callable waivers and claimed, the original team can recall the player. Through all of this, the player has no idea all of this is going on. We are just a pawn in the game of football life! The fly in the ointment is teams can only place a player on re-callable waivers once a season. Now, if a player is injured and is placed on waivers, the odds are a team won’t claim him because they don’t want damaged goods. That is in a perfect world but things were not perfect between other teams General Managers and the Riders. Ah, yes…those vengeful general managers?

So, out of the blue, I get a call the next day from a guy I know from my football circle that I choose not to name. He is chatty with me than asks me about my knee. I told him that I would be fine. I explained the injury believing I could trust him. in football, trust, like contracts, is often broken. The next morning, I am called into Steve Goldman’s office. He broke the news that I had been claimed by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. I was stunned. He went on to tell me that I was placed on waivers in a bid to hide me because of my injury and that Hamilton had crossed the line and claimed me. I asked him how that could happen. I then learned that I had been placed on re-callable waivers earlier in the season. WHAT! In a blink of an eye I was property of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. In one moment, I was on the rise and an active community member and the next, I was an after thought. I remember flying to Hamilton and being met by absolutely no one from the team and staying at some roach motel in a sketchy part of town! What a disaster!

When the news broke, I went to my apartment to pack. Jo-Anne had been on her way to Fort McMurray for a charitable event with Bobby and Dennis Hull when she called me. Before I could get pissed off she apologized and was in tears which led to my breaking down. The transaction had not been her call. Our conversation, her dismay and apology was genuine. In that moment, I had resigned myself to the fact that I was no longer a member of the Ottawa Rough Riders but would forever be connected to Jo-Anne. Here is the kicker. She was going through her own difficult time as she and her first husband had separated.

I am grateful. Who wouldn’t be. It’s not everyday you spend time with JP Superstar. I know being the first female GM of a professional football team was not easy but she did it with one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding a diet coke with Wendy Lisowski laughing her ass off in the passenger seat!

The cool thing about Jo was she could sell. Whether it was kazoo or paper airplane themed nights or convincing me to wear a lobster suit and host the teams keynote off season fundraiser!

The next season, as a member of the Tiger-Cats, I paid Jo-Anne a visit with a couple of teammates in tow. No appointment necessary. We walked into her office, hung out with her and laughed. My teammates were astounded. Then, to no one’s surprise, Jo gave the guys tickets to the game so they could hand them out to people we met downtown.  The guys added about 12 new female Tiger Cat fans to our fan base that afternoon while walking around Sparks Street!

There will never be anyone like JP Superstar! She had me at hello! Can’t say the same for opposing GM’s like Cal Murphy, Bill “The Undertaker” Baker or Joe Zuger! All great guys but don’t take this personal when I say, with Jo…it was personal.

I can’t tell you the score of any game but I can talk Jo-Anne Polak until the paper planes land from the top of the south side.

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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