By Mike Babcock
Everyone wants to be on a winning team.
Yet some of us are satisfied with being just good enough.
Good enough gets us by. Good enough keeps things comfortable and familiar. Good enough lets us play it safe.
But settling for just good enough should make you afraid. Very, very afraid.
Somewhere out there is a competitor who’s not settling. Someone who’s relentlessly driven to get better and become the best. Someone who’s constantly learning, testing and pushing their limits and taking risks.
Detroit Red Wings bench boss Mike Babcock is no fan of just good enough. He says it’s his one fear and motivator.
“That fear keeps me activated,” says Babcock, the only hockey coach to lead teams to Stanley Cub, World Championship and Olympic Games victories. “It keeps me grinding to get better. It’s a fear that has helped me take every step in my career.”
Babcock says it’s a good kind of fear, one that doesn’t paralyze or wear you out. “It can push you to break through and hit your potential – to make a difference. It can push you to a success that at first seems unreachable. Good enough is where you find average.”
The drive to be better is where you find and realize your potential. It’s where the fun is. It’s where you come up big, be a gamechanger, get to your dreams and find joy.
And it’s a fear that can get you to the podium for an Olympic gold medal. Not settling for good enough was part of the credo that Babcock and long-time friend and ad exec Rick Larsen came up with for Team Canada in 2010. The credo hung in the dressing room throughout the two weeks of the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Leading off that credo was leave no doubt.
“Doubt is the biggest energy-taker there is. It eats away at our emotional core. It drains us of mental energy and physical energy. It demoralizes, distracts and demotivates. A lot of people say ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’. But they never do.”
Babcock says if you’re feeling doubt, go first. Jump in and give it a go. Putting yourself out there is a great way to learn and grow. And the more you push, the more you grow.
Babcock faced a world of doubt in 1993. He’d just been fired from the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League. He and his wife had a three-month-old baby, no money in the bank and few job prospects.
But then Babcock got two offers. One was with a business consulting firm. The other was with the University of Lethbridge, coaching a hockey team that had never made the playoffs and was at risk of being shut down.
The consulting gig offered more money, stability and a clear career path.
Babcock pushed past doubt and took the coaching gig. In his first season, the Lethbridge Pronghorns won their first national championship. Babcock went on to coach the WHL Spokane Chiefs, the Canadian team at the World Junior Championships, the American Hockey League Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, the National Hockey League Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Detroit Red Wings.
“I’m not sure that anybody would have looked at me in 1993 as I began my stint as the head coach of the University of Lethbridge, and figured me a good bet to be the head coach of Canada’s hockey team at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Then again, if you put yourself out there, if you take a risk and face your doubt, good things can start to happen. I’m living proof of that. Don’t doubt your dreams.”
Anyone who’s leading a team on or off the ice will learn something from one of the best coaches in the business. That said, Babcock should have taken his own advice and hired an editor who wasn’t just good enough. While Babcock sings the praises of Shea Webster, odds are his Red Wings will break the bank to make defenseman Shea Weber their top free-agent acquisition this off-season.
@jayrobb works and lives in Hamilton and is a long-suffering Washington Capitals fan.