Since it is almost NHL playoff time, I thought I would start this week’s column off with a hockey analogy. Anyone who has ever played hockey, or any other team sport for that matter, is well aware that being successful as a group requires a balance of individual strengths and a commitment to the success of the whole team. What this means is that each member of the team must do what he or she does best, must take the opportunity to shine in the ways that are unique to him or her. To continue with the hockey metaphor, this means that the players with the defensive roles must be steady and reliable, the goalie must be cool under pressure, the playmakers must be creative and far-seeing, and the goal scorers must be ready to capitalize on opportunities. Indeed, to make it very far into the post-season, your team must have a diversity of skills brought to the ice by its players.
This is only half of the equation, however. Any successful team also requires each of its members to see above and beyond their own skills. Everyone involved must be willing and able to take on roles that he or she may not be absolutely comfortable with. Scorers, for instance, must be willing to block a shot when it is needed, and defenders must be ready to drive to the net when the opportunity arises.
Although we can see that this well-roundedness is an essential aspect of successful team play, we often don’t think of the ways that this analogy might apply to us as individuals. From a fairly early age, most of us learn that there are certain things that we tend to pick up easily, and there are other things that we tend to struggle with. For me, sports and math were areas that I received early praise in, and from then on I became increasingly confident in them. Other areas, such as language and fine arts, gave me a lot more trouble.
Some of this, I know, is a result of my individual personality. The truth is, I always have been, and always will be, better at shooting a free throw than painting a cubist picture. However, I strongly believe that some of the differences in my abilities and comfort levels are related to the perceptions of myself and others. Over the years I have found, for instance, that writing and fine arts such as photography are a great source of pleasure for me. Will I be writing the Great Canadian Novel or attending opening night at my one-woman art gallery show in the near future? I would say probably not. But the fact remains that these pursuits are a vital part of what makes me a whole and well-rounded person.
To go back to the hockey analogy, for me to be successful–to lead a fulfilled, rich life–I need to continually make a commitment to developing the full range of my abilities. I need to move beyond my personal comfort zone, to take chances and develop skills I may not even suspect I have. If we are each able to do that, who knows what kinds of successes await us?