“I don’t skate to the puck, I skate to where the puck is going to be.” ~ Wayne Gretzky

By Leslie Quintanar

Jerry has been a muse of sorts for me over the last couple of years. A resident at one of my former communities, I wrote about him in another article, The Broken Cup. His perspective on life as he shares his wife’s journey in learning how to navigate days with dementia is nothing short of miraculous. Each time he sends me something I find myself looking at the world around me with a fresh set of eyes.

A recent email he sent was no exception. I hadn’t heard from him in a while so I sent him a note just to check in. When I heard back from him a few days later, it was a lovely note, peppered with gratitude and the perseverant constitution I have come to associate with him. And, as usual, one of the things he shared struck a deep chord within me; of all things, it was a sports analogy.

The Allegorical Impact of Sports

Anyone who knows me very well knows I am not a huge sports fan. I can watch them if forced, but I’d much rather be doing something else. Be that as it may, sports do serve as a great way to illustrate many of the things we go through in life. As far back as biblical times, the Apostle Paul used a sports analogy to refer to the fight of faith and pressing on amid challenges and trials.

Team sports promote the ability to collaborate and push through obstacles in other areas of life, to soldier on in the face of defeat or even pain. Individual sports promote self-discipline and perseverance, even when no one is looking. They serve as helpful visual aids to enable us to better understand some of the more complicated themes of life.

The quote Jerry shared with me is from Wayne Gretzky, considered by most to be the greatest hockey player in history (I do know that much!):

“I don’t skate to the puck, I skate to where the puck is going to be. While I occasionally catch up to the puck, I’m still trying to get out front to get a clear perspective of what will be needed as the puck bounces off the wall.”

As I read over this quote, I was struck with what great truth it contains, not only personally, but more importantly, professionally.

Here are a few reasons why it resonates so deeply:

  • How many times do we on-board a new employee poorly and they don’t ever reach the full measure of success we expect?

  • How often do we answer the phone with a less than friendly attitude?

  • How many times does a resident reach their move- in day and not feel properly welcomed?

  • How many times do we let grievances go until they fester and split open, creating a huge mess?

  • How many times do we jump into action only after the disaster happens, because we weren’t paying attention to the warning signs?

  • How many conflicts with other employees or stakeholders could we avoid if we didn’t wait until the crisis hits to understand their needs?

I think you see my point; we could avoid so many disasters by cultivating an attitude of continually looking ahead and seeking to be strategic rather than running from one fire to the next. I challenge you to think about your days; are they filled with emergencies, frenzied activity and seemingly endless running to and fro and still not being as effective as you’d like?

For those of you who read this list and my subsequent challenge to examine your daily activities, you might be asking “I’m that person; now what do I do?”

The answer is simple:  Keep your eyes on the puck.  

If you aren’t sure what that looks like, here are a few suggestions:

  • Make a list. Sometimes just weeding through the seemingly endless number of tasks and prioritizing them can allow you to see more clearly. You get a fresh perspective of what really needs your attention and what can wait a little longer.

  • Put people first. We are in the business of people. When we forget that they come before tasks we are missing a whole lot more than the puck, we are missing one of the core fundamentals of our vocation.

  • Seek to be strategic. In the world we live in, this is a tough one. We are constantly surrounded by so many different things that distract us and we often have so much on our plate that we lose sight of having a plan. We lose sight of the importance of having a direction and a goal in mind, not just going and doing for the sake of being productive. Even if it is only 5 minutes a day, spending time being mindful of having a strategy will reap a multitude of rewards.

  • Be present. When I am in a building or meeting with someone, I seek to be as present with them as possible. I hate when I’m talking with people and they are on their phone, constantly distracted, and look like they cannot wait to move on to the next thing. Not only is it irritating, but you miss the full impact of the interaction because you are already moving on to the next task in your mind.

    I think most of us have all fallen prey to that one, but I’d encourage you to seek to be present when you are in the midst of interactions with people. You may find you are much more effective when you give them your full attention.

Stop Chasing the Puck

I’m sure you could add many more items to this list, but I am confident you understand my purpose in writing this post. It’s vital that we anticipate where the puck is going, and to do that we need to be mindful of those around us, clear the clutter from our ever-changing schedule, and step out of the frenzy that often accompanies the tyranny of the urgent.

Until we all learn to do that we will continue to skate after the puck once we’ve watched it fly by us. Let’s learn to be single minded in our focus on staying with the puck and not chasing it after we miss the opportunity to intercept it and change the game.