#peak performer mindset

You Just Never Know


I am not going to ask how you read that word, because based on the fact that you are taking a minute (a productive minute at that) to read this blog means that you see that word to say, “opportunity is now here!”

How else could it read?

Well, for some it says, “opportunity is nowhere.”

Same words, different meaning. That goes hand in hand with a quote I have come to embrace which is, “the things I looked at began to change once I changed the way I looked at them.” This blog would never have happened had I not recognized an opportunity to leverage a couple of relationships and an already planned business trip to meet James Leath, the Director of Leadership at IMG Academy.

To be honest, when I got in the car at 5:45 am on April 26th to make the drive from Jacksonville to Bradenton, there was no guarantee how much time I would get to hang with James because of his schedule. On top of that, I had no clue that spending time with Jon Gordon was in the cards. Meeting with James and Jon was a major opportunity to learn from two outstanding leaders and thinkers.

This past December, I made a list of people I wanted to spend time with in 2017, so I could pick their brains on what makes them who they are. Jon and James topped my list, and I knew that these men had a great deal of leadership experience that I could gain from.

There was a key statement in the above paragraph that is one of the keys to success in any endeavor, and that was “ ….had I not recognized an opportunity to leverage a couple of relationships….” When I think about my meeting with James Leath and Jon Gordon, I immediately notice the power of deliberately seeking out positive, beneficial relationships, and leveraging those connections to increase your value.

In my experiences with leaders, I see the most successful individuals forging connections with other high-value professionals.

In fact, just yesterday morning I was having coffee with a potential client who is extremely successful in the logistics industry, and has a great story to tell about his journey. Eventually, the topic of discussion shifted to the value of relationships, as it always does when I am talking to value-driven leaders regardless of their industry. We shared stories of the business relationships we have developed and how sometimes the opportunity presents itself when we least expect it. That brings me to my story of how I came to meet James Leath and Jon Gordon last April, and how that experience illustrates the significance, and vast opportunities, of relationships.

Long Story Short

In 1992, I was fortunate enough to be hired by Jim Whitesell at Lewis University as the Grad Assistant for Men’s Basketball. 25 years ago as a Grad Assistant is where my opportunity to meet with James Leath began. Because of Jim,  in 1993 I developed a relationship with someone who is, let’s say, tied to IMG in a way that got me an introduction to James Leath. Now, remember, James was on my list of the people I wanted to spend time with in 2017. James and I got to know each other during the month of March as we would Skype and talk about leadership and our journeys. I asked if I could spend some time with him at IMG as I was going to be in the neighborhood (Jacksonville is a little over four hours away, but a heck of a lot closer than Batavia, IL) and he agreed. However, there was a chance he may not be in town, so we had to play it be ear.

Once we confirmed that James was going to be in town, I could not get to Bradenton fast enough. Though I was amazed at the facilities and level of athletes at IMG, I was most excited to spend time with James to pick his brain, watch him interact with the student-athletes, and sit in on a class to see how the student-athletes responded to him. IMG is an amazing place which screams diversity, so it provided me the opportunity to study the engagement between James, the staff, and student-athletes from many different socio-economic backgrounds. While I was at IMG, I was as impressed not only by the state-of-the-art facilities, but also the cutting-edge leadership. While the sprawling weight room and sports complex offer the student-athletes tools to perform physically on the field of play, the leadership tools employed at IMG are what build truly remarkable athletes, and individuals.

The Power of Relationships

It is hard to know where these opportunities are hidden. Again, this opportunity only presented itself because of a relationship I had with a mentor of mine from a Grad Assistant job I began 25 years ago. When you understand the value of mentors and relationships, you will seek out mentors that can create opportunities where you least expect them. Mentors provide guidance and wisdom, but the really good ones can provide connections with others that you can learn from, as their experiences are greater than your own. Picking a mentor is critical to your success as you can learn from other’s mistakes, and how other’s saw the opportunity in adversity. One of the cooler moments at IMG was when James, Jon Gordon, and I were standing by the tennis courts and James looked at Jon and told him how fortunate we were for all of Jon’s struggles, and thanked him for sharing them in his books and talks.

Again, it is all about relationships and how you build them. Below are my keys to developing and building relationships with people I do not know, YET:

  1. Ask for the introduction
  2. Honor the introduction
  3. Be clear on why you requested the introduction
  4. Ask questions and listen
  5. Follow up and let the person know how much you valued your time together
  6. Be consistent in the relationship and continue to intentionally add value

If you do these things, you will begin to build solid relationships which will open doors for you regardless of whether you are introduced via email, in person, or on LinkedIn.


*Next week there will be 68 teams out of a possible 351 Division I Men’s Basketball teams vying for a NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. Over the course of the next 10 days we will look at the key characteristics and core intangibles which allow teams to put themselves in the best position to “live to play another day” and how those relate to business and life in our March to Mastering the Madness series.  

They say the best teams are those that perform their best when the pressure is the greatest. The reality is those teams can experience such great success because they eliminate, or at least minimize, any of the perceived pressure.   A team’s ability to do this begins with the leader.

I have been fortunate to know a number of great leaders who have the ability to eliminate pressure and reduce stress when most people would lose their mind. Pictured above is one who has had the greatest influence and impact on me, my Dad. This picture was taken this past Thursday, March 2nd, 2017 at the top of my parents’ driveway in Boyne, MI. Yes, that is the same driveway I spoke of in a previous blog about Competing-Every Single Day. The one I could not get up over Christmas break because of the layer of ice under the snow and ended up sideways in a ditch after sliding down backwards. The same driveway that is all uphill and 145 yards (1.3 city blocks in the Midwest in case you are wondering) long.

Well, we decided to take a long weekend and bring the kids up to Boyne one last time to ski and hit the water park. The usual five hour and forty-five-minute drive was going unusually well until we were about two hours out and then the snow started coming down. Hard. It caused a little bit of unrest in the backseat with Maddie and EJ (4.5 years-old and 2.5 years-old), but nowhere near the chaos going on in the set next to me where my wife Nancy sat. I passed a few “no-tell motels” along the way as they did not seem suitable for a peaceful night’s rest with the kids and then as we were pulling into Kalkaska, MI there was one that would work. The timing could not have been more perfect since there was a squad car in the middle of the road which appeared to signal that the road was closed.

Slowly, and with great caution, I pulled up next to the squad car as we both rolled down our windows. I was hoping to get some sort of clarification of the situation ahead and to see if, in fact, the road ahead was closed. When I asked him what kind of shape the roads headed up to Boyne were in he simply smiled at me and replied, “I would imagine pretty similar to this.” Thanks for the help! So, despite pleas from my co-pilot and eerie silence in the backseat, we kept going.

A good deal of time and a few snow squalls (not to be confused with snow squirrels as someone in our car called them) later we found ourselves driving into Boyne Falls, MI.

Then Nancy poses the question she had been asking for the last hour, but I tuned her out. “Do you think we will make it up the driveway!” Well, wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants to have to pull the kids and the luggage up the driveway again. Of course, I would pull Nancy up as well.

But low and behold as we pulled up to the driveway there was my Dad with two flashlights directing us as if we were a plane moving toward our gate. Now the kids are going nuts laughing and I feel a sense of relief. As we turn into the driveway he looks at me convincingly and lets me know that he has shoveled the entire length of the driveway so we should be good to go.


He will be a bit displeased with me when I tell you this, but the man is 72 years-old. Let me point out thought that he is in better shape than 95% of my friends and most 20- year-old folks I know. He shoveled the entire 1.3 city blocks and the stairs and the deck. All to make sure that his Maddie and E.J. made it safe and sound.

Take Away

See, what he really did was the same any great leader does for his or her team. They figure out a way to get their people as far away from the feeling the pressure as possible and that is exactly what he did. Sure, we had just gone through a nutty a car ride, but it is the anxiety of the outcome that is the single most intrusive inhibitor to effective performance and for me that was getting the family up the driveway. My Dad single-handedly turned a threatening situation into an exciting challenge and the kids could not have been more fired up!

Here are the four things our fearless leader did that all leaders can do for their people in stressful situations:

  • Provided a healthy perspective - I shoveled the driveway you should be good.
  • Was conscientiously prepared both mentally and physically - He identified what needed to be done and when it needed to be done and did it…. with a smile on his face.
  • Allowed us to focus on execution of the task at hand - All we had to worry about was the “getting up the driveway” part.
  • Used language of function("how to") - Said the right thing, in the right way and at the right time which conveyed confidence that we would not end up in a ditch again.

Leaders sometimes pay too much attention to problems, rather than paying attention to possible solutions. The "problem" of pressure is very simply, a misdirected focus. Thankfully, Papa (Maddie and EJ cannot say it enough) went old school and brought his A-Game.

On Thursday March 16th The Molitor Group will be hosting a ‘MARCH to mastering the MADNESS’ event at Nobel House in Geneva, IL. For more information and to register go to the Events tab on our website and feel free to email us any questions at info@themolitorgroup.com.