One early spring evening, two hockey players celebrated a National Midget ‘AAA’ Championship win with their teammates.
These two players were the same age, with roughly the same hockey ability.
Both were all-star caliber players and among the league leaders in many statistical categories.
They both had received the same coaching throughout their youth hockey careers, and even attended the same off-season hockey camps.
Both were filled with dreams of getting a college scholarship and becoming professional hockey players one day.
By all accounts, their prospects for success were equally good.
Years later, these men ran into one another at a rink in the off season, 10 years after their championship win.
They both still had many things in common.
Both had gone on to play junior hockey.
Both were still playing hockey, and they were once again amongst the statistical leaders in each of their respective leagues.
But there was one major difference...
One of these players was now playing beer league and working 60 hours a week as a construction worker.
The other was making millions of dollars playing in the NHL, living the life they both had dreamed about as young boys.
If you are like me, when you hear a story like that, you wonder what made the difference between these two players?
We all know stories like this, and we know it isn’t always raw talent or even perseverance or dedication.
It isn’t that one person has a burning desire and the other doesn’t.
The difference lies in the compounding effects of our choices.
You see, the formula for success is identical to the formula for failure.
In most cases, failure does not occur in an instant.
It is the unavoidable result of an accumulation of poor choices over a long period of time.
Why would someone continue to make poor choices day after day?
Because they think it doesn’t really matter.
Have you ever slept in or been late?
Late for a team meeting, scheduled workout, or practice?
Maybe you forgot to set your alarm.
Have you ever cheated on a drill? Cheated on your diet? Skipped a workout?
Happens to the best of us.
Doesn’t really matter, right?
By itself, a small oversight or error in judgement doesn’t seem overly important.
It doesn’t usually result in any serious or noticeable consequence.
And since there was no immediate impact, you may repeat this action or others like it again and again because it doesn’t seem to matter.
Even more dangerous than not following through with doing the right thing is not understanding that it does in fact matter.
This is the path the first player in our story followed.
Although he had the exact same goal of playing professional hockey as his old teammate, he would periodically show up late, didn’t eat right, didn’t get proper rest and recovery, cheated on drills and workouts, and got involved involved in some shady off ice activities.
He let the short term excitement of a moment dominate the consequence of the future.
But because nothing of serious consequence was capturing his attention, he continued to repeat little errors in judgement.
Eventually, his poor decisions accumulated to a point where a price was paid for little things that didn’t seem to make any difference at all in the past.
The most dangerous thing about failure to reach your goals is how much it sneaks up on you.
Many times, we do not seem to be failing.
It’s hard to noticeably feel yourself getting slower or weaker.
It doesn’t take much.
Sometimes the things teammates, coaches or scouts discuss or hear about your reputation isn’t brought to your attention.
Unfortunately for the first player in our story, the pain and regret of not doing the right thing was only being delayed.
He could have been living the same life as his friend but he let it slip away.
You know what gets in the way of a great hockey career?
A good hockey career.
This is why it is important to be aware when you make a bad decision and understand that it really does matter.
Now for the good news.
The formula for success is just as simple to follow as the formula for failure.
I didn’t say it was easy…
I said it was simple.
It is the act of simple disciplines practiced repeatedly day after day.
One has a much greater cost.
It’s pay me now or pay me later.
That means understanding that every drill you cheat on, every meal you cheat on, every time you are late for the bus, every time you don’t finish your check or stop in front of the net, every beer you have, every late night out, every class you skip, it all adds up.
The booze, the drugs, the girls, the wasted time on your phone.
IT ALL MATTERS.
Success and failure are the inevitable reward or unavoidable regret of past activities.
So how do you avoid making the wrong choices and consistently set yourself up to make the right ones?
Well unfortunately some players get so wrapped up in today’s highs or lows, they can’t even see or think about tomorrow.
But if you can discipline yourself to think of the future in advance and the consequences for your choices, you can develop new habits that will support your goals, not sabotage them.
This is the path the second player in our story followed.
He understood the value of being able to delay short term pleasure for a greater reward down the road.
He was willing to sacrifice going to parties, he committed himself to his workouts, he stayed on the ice late after practice, he didn’t cheat himself or his team.
Ultimately, all the sacrifices were more than worth it.
The best thing about taking the disciplined approach is the impact it has on your confidence.
When you know you are making positive choices on a daily basis, your confidence grows and you become aware that you are making concrete progress toward your goals.
It definitely has a snowball effect.
Think about walking into a test without having studied versus having put in hours upon hours of reading.
Preparation makes all the difference.
In your case, whether you think about it or not, the clock is ticking…
Your window of opportunity gets smaller every passing day.
As time goes by it’s easy to get lulled into doing just what you HAVE to do and not everything you NEED to do.
Just enough to get by.
But before the season starts to slip away from you, you have to ask yourself why are you playing hockey?
What are your goals and how do you picture your future?
If you are just playing for fun and wish to follow the path of our beer league friend that’s great, no harm.
On the other hand if you want to make an impact in this game and follow your talents and efforts as far as they will take you, then you have to conduct yourself with purpose every day.
Although results are never guaranteed in hockey, I have no doubt that whatever new disciplines you begin to practice daily will produce exciting results for you as a player.
But if you make a consistent effort to change your poor choices into positive actions, you will be well on your way to reaching your goals.
Just remember that it’s not always about skill.
Sometimes the more important factor is will.
Now get to work on your story!
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