The word “coach” means different things to different people. To the athlete, it is the person who pushes them to perform at their very best. The coach motivates and inspires the athlete to operate at peak performance, often in the framework of a team, but on occasion, in an individual effort. These special advisors are no different than the business coach who works with individuals to discover untapped talents, to achieve goals and objectives, once thought unobtainable without their counsel.
People at the top of their game, the best in their profession, still need a coach. Some might be surprised that the greatest golfer in our lifetime, Tiger Woods, still has a coach that pushes him to be the very best. No one reaches the top on their own – often you need a successful network and perhaps many different mentors and coaches for you to be the very best you can be.
Recently, I was in Washington, D.C. attending a legislative conference with the U.S. Chamber and meeting with our federal delegation. Past Lake Norman Chamber Chairman John Hettwer and I saw a poster that indicated that former NBA player Bill Walton was speaking on Technology and Innovation, and we decided to attend. Walton met John and I at the door and the event organizer took note of the name tag I was wearing when he said, “It’s not every day we have Bill Walton and Bill Russell in the same room.” I’ve become accustomed to the kidding I get bearing that famous name. I often retort back, “I’m sure the former Boston Celtic ‘Bill Russell’ gets his fair share of being mixed up with the nationally renowned chamber executive.” Well, perhaps not, but if the NBA Russell is a legend, I’m at least a legend in my own mind.
Walton had some great advice that he shared with us that afternoon. Much of it was lessons taught by his mentor and UCLA Bruin coach, the legendary John Wooden. Walton reminded each of us, “It’s the skill, timing and position not the size and strength that counts.” He also shared, “it’s not how high you jump – but when” and perhaps one of his better gems “never mistake activity for achievement.”
As I listened to the words of Bill Walton, I could not help but think of the mentors that have served me so well over my career. I am fortunate to have had a business coach, a political coach, and a spiritual coach. However, one that perhaps made the most impact on the field I have chosen is Coach Ray Parlier. Ray was the Athletic Director of Furman University and a Past State President of the South Carolina Jaycees. Parlier was a former football trainer that rose through the ranks to become a driving force in Furman’s national championship run in the late 1980’s.
“Coach” would have me placing little sticky notes on the refrigerator and the bedroom and bathroom mirrors with goals he expected us to obtain – and obtain them we did. Those reminders, which I once thought unobtainable, became my focus. Ray was my first coach who pushed me past self-imposed barriers to reach my potential. Perhaps his greatest advice in leading a non-profit, whether a chamber of commerce or a civic organization, was simply to “love your people.” Before you can lead them, you have to show them that you care.
My life has been full of mentors – Charlie, Chip, Ray, Joni, Dad and the list goes on and on. I can think of no greater reward for anyone than having made a difference in someone else’s life… helping them chip away the stone to unveil the beautiful statue within. Bill Walton closed that afternoon with a line that Wooden impressed on the young men that he led to their countless national championships, “Make each day your masterpiece.” The Lake Norman region is our canvas, painted each day by the countless numbers who call this community home. Painted not by a single artist but all those whose dreams are bigger than their visions, and their actions – which are louder than their words.