Archive for June, 2010

You’ve Got Some Swagger There

Recently, my sister Linda, who puts Indiana Jones to shame with her ability to dig up artifacts, sent me an electronic copy of the program from the 1963 Northern Kentucky Swim League Championship Meet.  In it was a photo of one of the many swim teams I was a part of as a child.  I immediately saw myself, in my eight-year-old splendor, seated in the front row among 53 teammates.

Since I thought my adult children would get a kick out of the photo, I immediately forward a copy to them.  My son, Brian, quickly responded with, “You’ve got some swagger there, pops.”  My first reaction was disbelief.  Although 1963 was a while ago, I still remember all the insecurities that came with being an eight-year-old boy.  At eight, my hands, feet and ears were clearly designed for a body much larger than mine, and my hair was curly, when curly wasn’t cool.  Clearly,  God either had a sense of humor, or was just having an off day when he designed me.

Then, I decided to have another look at the photo.  Sure enough, there was definitely a swagger.  If a picture tells a thousand words, the words coming from this young boy was, “welcome to my house and my team!”  Where was the insecure kid I knew myself to be?  How could this be?

Upon further reflection, a story started to form, providing context for the photo.  When I was eight, swimming was a big part of my life.  In addition to swimming in two summer leagues, I competed year-round on an AAU team, which involved interstate travel.

A typical summer day consisted of me waking at the crack of dawn, walking about ½ mile to the swim club where morning practices occurred.  Every morning, I would arrive about one hour before the rest of the team.  Upon my arrival, I would give the swim coach his wake up call, by knocking on the door of his apartment located at the club.  While the coach enjoyed breakfast, my job was to prepare the Olympic size pool for morning practice.  I would start by swimming behind a 2’ X 2’ window screen in order to skim the bugs off the water’s surface.  Usually, the coach and the rest of the team would show up just about the time I would have the lane dividers in place.

Following a two-hour practice, I would stay in the water to swim an extra mile.  I did this for endurance.  I didn’t know what endurance was.  I just knew that, if I wanted to be the best swimmer in the league, I needed it.   Following lunch, I would spend most of the day playing in the pool until late afternoon, when someone would pick me up to drive me to a nearby country club where I was on another team that practiced every evening.  As I got older, these daily routines were accompanied by weight training routines designed specifically for swimmers.  No, I didn’t do this because I had overbearing parents driving me to be an overachiever.  I did it because I was good at it, and I wanted to be the best.

That same “need-to-achieve” and “internal locus of control” is something I have experience time and again in successful entrepreneurs and business leaders.  It is a self-confidence that is rooted in hard work and dedication to a specific industry, customer set or domain.  It comes from working hard to be the best, not from an over-inflated view of self.  It is a swagger that says, “welcome to my house, and my field of expertise!”

©Mark P. Loschiavo

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