Jim Craig: Miracle on Ice 40th Anniversary

Jim Craig
February 02, 2022

Jim Craig

Olympic Gold Medalist; Goalie, 1980 U.S. "Miracle on Ice" Hockey Team; Owner, President & CEO of Gold Medal Strategies
Personal Growth Business Sports

Transcript

Jim Craig: [00:00:00] Brian, I always tell people: "Winning comes in chunks. Winning is a learned habit. Losing is a learned habit." And so what you have to do is you have to learn each and every time you're out there on how to win.

 

Brian Lord: [00:00:22] Hi, I'm Brian Lord, your host of The Beyond Speaking podcast, and I'm excited to have on today Jim Craig NCAA champion and more importantly and more well known Olympic champion, gold medalist, one of the heroes of the Miracle on Ice team. Coming up here for the 40th anniversary. So, Jim, thank you so much for coming on.

 

Jim Craig: [00:00:43] Brian, my pleasure.

 

Brian Lord: [00:00:45] And so one of the big things in addition to the 40th anniversary, is that your new book, We Win Lessons on Life Business and Building Your Own Miracle Team is coming out. So I'm definitely excited about that. And you're somebody who has done a lot of different things. So, you know, obviously, an author coming out with your next book as an incredibly successful speaker. And then also somebody who's been really successful in business for a long time. Why do you think you've been able to be successful at so many different things?

 

Jim Craig: [00:01:22] Well, first, I love to compete and I love to learn. So that's something that I think is really important. And in life, you need mentors and you need to have dreams and you need to build ask people on how to help you. So all my life, I think really early on, I was able to distinguish the difference between preparing to compete versus preparing to win. And I've always enjoyed that fact that, you know, to compare yourself to the best, to compete against the best and to constantly learn from the best and also in your life there are 20 different chapters, Brian. You know, you're a young man with dreams and you're by yourself and you're totally committed to yourself. And then you get married and then you have a spouse and then you're sharing your life with your partner and then you have children. And so it goes on and on. But in this process, you always have to be able to reinvent yourself. And so for me, I love the motivational speaking and the [inaudible] training part, because in my life I've had to reinvent myself so many times. And so I know that I can relate to the people and the challenges that are there. And so it makes it very interesting for me.

 

Brian Lord: [00:02:50] What was the moment when you kind of switched from that mindset from learning how to compete, to learning how to win?

 

Jim Craig: [00:02:57] You know, sometimes when, you know, I was one of eight children. And so, you know, I always tell people I had you know, I had three dreams. I wanted to get a full scholarship to college because basically I wasn't going to go if I didn't get one. Our family didn't have the funds. And I always wanted to be an Olympian. And I always wanted to be a professional athlete. And I learned really early on is you can have a dream, but it doesn't ever turn past the dream unless you turn it into a goal. And then a goal has a timeline. And so all my life, that's kind of the mantra that I've done is I've found mentors on people who could help me. And I think a real differentiator for me was understanding the difference between personal sacrifice and opportunity. And when you get older and you're a parent and you have children, you realize you spend your life making personal sacrifices for your children. And all you care about is that they take advantage of that opportunity. When you think that you're making personal sacrifices, when people have provided you an opportunity, I think it's wrong. And so I always have tried all my life is to "A", appreciate when somebody is providing me an opportunity and "B", making the most of that opportunity when given.

 

Brian Lord: [00:04:21] What are the ways that you approach that? You know, if you were to give advice to someone I know you've talked about having great mentors. Let's say you're mentoring someone. How do you take advantage of those opportunities?

 

Jim Craig: [00:04:33] Well, I think first and foremost, you have to understand that if you want to achieve anything in life, you have two choices. You can be a victim or a victor. And your attitude has so much to do with whether you're gonna be able to succeed or not. And to me, it was I loved competing and compare myself to someone that was always better because that was a driving force for me to reach that goal. And so when you decide that you want to do something, you have to realize and when I wrote the book, We Win, it was to make sure that people understood that winning is a journey and there's a lot of failure in there. And I have a quote in the book where I say the hardest climbs have the greatest views. Meaning that it isn't easy. And so failure is is a lesson that you need to learn in order to be successful. And so it's determination. It's you know, Herb Brooks in the book, I say was our architect of the dreams that we all had. And so he was able to, you know, solidify people and help them reach their goals. And, you know, when I speak to groups and I talk to individuals where I'm doing any life coaching- One of the biggest things is you always ask people to define what winning is for them. And sometimes when things get really difficult, Brian, people redefine winning because the real ending is too hard. So they just redefine it and they redefine it and they redefine it. And that's not what it is. I remember I was with this company and I said, well, how is your company doing? He goes, "Great. We're in second place." But the funniest part is he said, "I'm in second place." And I said, "Well, how many people are competing in the marketplace?" He goes, "Two." And I said, "Well, no, you're in last place." And it was more of, you know, second place can sound great if that if that's your definition of winning. You know, and but to really win, it's hard, you know. And, you know, it comes with a platform of a number of different things. And that is you have to earn and make your team every year and you have to earn your position. And, you know, as an athlete, that was easy. You know, they drafted to replace you. They traded to replace you. There was a training camp to evaluate you. And that was every single year. And so that type of mentality on what it takes to win... And then we go a step further and we talk about inside the winning locker room. Right? Because there are a million locker rooms, but there's only one winning locker room. And every year you have to re-evaluate and learn how to win. And sometimes when somebody wins once, especially in sales, they think they can take a year off. But the really good ones, ones that really compete? The one who helped develop people. Right? And that's what that's really what a great team is about, is developing players on your team and being competitive and appreciative and holding people accountable and not in a way that's negative. Accountability is not negative, totally negative when the person isn't doing their job.

 

Brian Lord: [00:08:12] Right. Right, and speaking of course, about the great, you know, Coach Herb Brooks, you know, with Miracle on Ice story, one of the things that people really remark about is that, you know, there was one U.S. Olympic hockey team, but it was really kind of two groups of hockey players and sort of broad sense that were put together that really didn't like each other. You know, you kind of had the Boston area guys and, you know, Minnesota and that sort of region that are, you know, historically, you know, rivals keep telling about how to groups of people that not only came together to kind of get along but also to be, you know, world champions. How did that come about and what role did, you know, Herb Brooks, play in that?

 

Jim Craig: [00:09:03] Well, it's really interesting because if you think of acquisitions and you think of companies and they acquire, you know, they never really lose sight of what their name is. So Herb very simply said, you know, "The name on the front of the jersey is more important than the name on the back." But the part that really resonates with me is, is more of when you put on the jersey, you represent yourself and your teammates. So what really people have to do is as a leader of an organization or anybody, you don't want people to follow you. You want them to believe that you care about them and you develop them. And so what happens is Herb had to take 20 individuals who had the same dream, which was to play in the National Hockey League and have them be part of something bigger than themselves, which was representing our country. And, you know, in the book, I have a chapter on this. It says, "You can't imagine what you're going to accomplish when you don't need to take credit for it." And I think the biggest thing about our team was we were able to accomplish this epic thing because we couldn't have done it individually. We all understood that. And in order to win. And Herb recruited players, all the players on our team had won at every level. They knew what it took to win. And, you know, there is a huge difference between potential and talent. Potential is somebody who hasn't quite figured it out yet. Talent is somebody that maximizes their ability. And in a lot of businesses, you know, everybody wants to get a system or something in place and then they hope that their work is done. But in sales and in life, there is no finish line. And when you reach that finish line, it's not a very good ending. You know, he means you're done. So if you're going to have that mentality that every year there is no finish line and you're starting it all over and from you know, I know you like to run. Right? So was your first race in a marathon. You're overwhelmed with excitement and things like that. But then you get older, you get more experienced, you get a little bit more prepared and you learn how to compete or you learn how to win. But at the start of the race, you're going to try to do one of the others, you know. And I use that example all the time, Brian. I'll say there's something in the audience. I raise your hand if you've ever run a marathon. And they raise a hand. Right? And, you know, they're all excited. And I'll say, how do you do? And you know what? Ninety-five percent of them say, "I finished, I finished." And I say to those, "Well, some people actually prepare to win." You see that that's an example because for somebody to run that much to them is incredible. So they defined what winning was. But in all actuality, the winner of a marathon is a person who has the best time. So if you're not preparing to be that one, then you've already redefined what winning is. And you what people like to do is they like to be comfortable. And what I like to do is make them realize that comfortable is being uncomfortable, especially in life and in sales, in that, you know, when you think of change. Right? Some people say change is a couple of things. Right? People who don't accept it, people who accept it and people who embrace it. But what Herb Brooks did is he drove change because everything else you're following. So if you really want to create change, you're in charge of it. You drive it. And that takes a lot of courage. That takes a lot of courage. And in life, people like like-styles. You know, how many parents do you know that, you know, become their children's friends instead of their parents? It's really hard. Right. I mean, the easiest thing in the world is to be your children's friend. The hardest thing is to be their parent. And I remember the gift I had. I had that conversation with my son. And I said, you know, JD, someday we will be best friends. And when he got married, he asked me to be his best man. And there was a time when we will be best friends. And that time is now. Right. But my job was to develop him and prepare him for life. And it's not easy. Life is difficult.

 

Brian Lord: [00:13:40] Definitely. And, you know, in taking that sort of the next step and when you're coming in from the miracle story, where did you really feel like you had first or were able to overcome those things other people thought were impossible? So, you know, you've got the semifinal game, you know, against the Soviets or, you know, even going for the gold medal the next game. Where did you sort of start to believe that you could actually win?

 

Jim Craig: [00:14:10] Well, it's really funny is preparations so Herb Brooks drove change. We played 61 games in preparation for those things and we did it in a little over four months. No Olympic team had ever done that. And so during the journey is when we prepared. And, you know, the biggest thing that we did against the Russians and I say in the book is when whenever anybody played the Russians, they were never in good enough shape to compete with them for three periods and Herb Brooks spent six months training us on how to be prepared. And when we got ahead with 10 minutes left, we didn't hope to win. I always tell people when I'm speaking, hope is not a strategy. Think is not a strategy, but preparation is. And so we were prepared. And in the last 10 minutes of the game, we attacked. We didn't sit back. We weren't hoping to win. We're going to make them beat us. And that's the difference between preparing to win versus preparing to compete.

 

Brian Lord: [00:15:18] How many games did you play before in- within the actual Olympic Games- How many games did you play before you met the Soviets?

 

Jim Craig: [00:15:27] Five. We played a total of seven games. Yes. So that was the sixth game.

 

Brian Lord: [00:15:34] So what was the approach the same way for every team? Was it all building up towards the Russians or the Soviets are or how did that preparation go about?

 

Jim Craig: [00:15:44] Brian, I always tell people winning comes in chunks. Right. And a lot of times you have to get people to believe. And so in business, especially if you wait till the end of the year to reward good behavior, you lose a lot of people on the way. And so winning is a learned habit. Losing is a learned habit. And so what you have to do is you have to learn each and every time you're out there on how to win. And that's what we did in those first five games. And we were prepared. And so we never looked further than the next opponent or the next period. And to me, sometimes when challenges are so hard and I talk about this in the book, you have to compartmentalize. So for me, one game against the Russians was like playing one period against a different team. And how do you become laser focus on the most important part so that you will be prepared? And for me, it was the first five minutes of a period in the last five. And I would go into the locker room, get totally undressed and start again to mentally prepared for Game 2, which was actually period to at the end. I in the whole Olympics would focus on winning. I didn't give up a goal in the third period in any of the games. And that's a really important factor.

 

Brian Lord: [00:17:11] What do you think of- because I know, sort of famously in the movie, you have the part where you know- I guess maybe describe that for the people who don't know it- where you're really singled out as somebody who is- I don't know if you want to say difficult or stubborn, but that plays in good ways and bad ways. Can you describe that story for us?

 

Jim Craig: [00:17:33] Sure. Most people who watch a movie see that I don't take the test, but what they don't realize is that you know, my dream was to play in the Olympics. My mother and I made a promise after she died of cancer that I wouldn't turn pro that I would go to the Olympic Games. But during the Olympics and right when Herb asked me to take that test, my father lost his job. He had no support. My mother had passed. And so I thought it was very selfish of me to continue my dream of being an Olympian and not support the family. So I didn't take that test. So Herb would send me home. Herb already knew all that. And so even though the movie doesn't do a good job of that, Herb wanted to see what type of character his players had by having them do this DISC assessment or a [Myers Briggs] test. And my willingness to give up my dream to help my family was exactly the type of person that he wanted. And so from that and from caring, he was able to provide a loan from my father just asked me if I could do the job. And even though I physically didn't take his test, I did. And it was out of doing what I consider and when I talk about all the time is and call it a moral compass. Family's always first. Doing the right thing is always the most important thing and keeping your integrity. And so that was the challenge I had and the movie just didn't have enough time to go deep enough.

 

Brian Lord: [00:19:06] How did he- How did Herb Brooks develop you as a leader and how did he develop others differently? It seems like he very much had a way of- sort of his own way- But how did he tailor that to different people?

 

Jim Craig: [00:19:20] You know, it's very interesting is that in the last 10 years, it took me 10 years to write this book. What I want to figure out is in the movie, he says, "I'm not looking for the best players. I'm looking for the right players." And I really dug deep to figure out what that meant. And I came up with a conclusion and it was he recruited people that he could coach. And so that's an important ingredient. And so when you think about the players that he had in this team, we were all cut from the same fabric. We had no harder win. We were what I call "winning underdogs." We had a chip on his shoulder. We were tough enough to be pushed and pulled and go through that grind that he was going to put us through for six months. And what Herb's ability was, is he didn't have a cookie-cutter approach for everybody. What he did is he recognized what the person's skill set was. And I say this all the time, Brian, you don't put greatness in people, but you can pull it out of them. And her Brooks was able to pull greatness out of each and every one of us.

 

Brian Lord: [00:20:35] One thing I think is really fascinating and many people don't realize this. I didn't realize it at first, but the victory over the Soviets was not the gold medal game. That's what so many people make from it. And I know you've talked about earlier, you know, with sales and other things, it starts over every time. And how what was the mental process that you had to go through that you have, you know, beat the Soviets, which a lot of places say is the biggest upset in sports history. But that wasn't the last game. That wasn't the gold medal game. What did you in your teammates and Coach Brooks do? I don't know if "bounce back" is the right [phrase], but focus and still compete in the gold medal game.

 

Jim Craig: [00:21:22] Well, that's why before every keynote I do and as we do our conference call, the first question I ask is "Define winning for me, right?" Because if you don't define winning, the people who work for you will. And so it was really easy for us. Winning was defined. It was a gold medal. The Soviet game was a semifinal game. We didn't accomplish anything except the right to play in the gold medal game. And so if some people think, "Oh, my God, we beat the Russians" was winning, then we wouldn't have been prepared to play [inaudible]. But that's the difference in making sure everybody goes from what I call the same dream to a shared dream. A shared dream is when you are committed to the overall objective. So think of it, in sales, they have Presidents Club. They have Salesman of the Year and if you only care about whether you make Presidents Club and the Salesman or Woman of the Year and you don't really care about the team, then it's not the same as if everybody cared the most about the team.

 

Brian Lord: [00:22:30] What do you want people to take away from this book?

 

[00:22:33] Well, the biggest thing I want to inspire people to dream, right? I want them to learn how to think differently. I want them to understand that you're going to have to reinvent yourself a number of times. So you don't ever want to get in a position where you're playing not to lose. You don't want to be in a job that you're just trying to hang in there for. You want to be inspired and you want to be able to realize what your dreams are and you want to pursue them. And then you want to figure out how it is that everybody can win. And so for me, when people read this book, they should be inspired. They should figure out what it is that they want to do. They should take some chances. But what they're going to learn is that what we did was not a miracle, it was extremely hard work. But hard work isn't good enough. You have to not only do hard work, but you can't confuse being busy with being productive. And that's where you have to compare yourself to people that are better. When you started in this industry at Premiere, you weren't doing half the things you were now, because you had to adjust. You have to evolve. You have to drive change. And some people say, "Well, I really like the way I used to do things." And we were all like that, too. But what you have to do is you have to be able to understand that this is a life's journey. And in your life's journey, you're going to reinvent yourself and it's OK to fail. And, you know, I always tell people, "Everyone fails. Winners get up the fasters."

 

Brian Lord: [00:24:15] That's very true. So to put you on the spot here, what is your definition of winning with this book?

 

Jim Craig: [00:24:23] My definition of winning this book would be to inspire people to look at their life and take a risk and to ask for help. And when they didn't succeed at first, figure out a way to win.

 

Brian Lord: [00:24:39] Something I really like, sort of in addition to this book- I know you're your first book was Gold-medal Strategies: Business Lessons for America's Miracle Team. You have this one, but you're also very big family guy I love- you've got a chapter and fathers and daughters in sports. What are some what are some things that you've passed along that you learned when you were young player with with your daughter, who was quite an athlete herself?

 

Jim Craig: [00:25:05] Well, you know, the biggest thing is you can't have a business plan for your child. What happens is they have to be allowed to be passionate. They have to be able to be exposed to different things. You can't do everything for them. And so in the book, I write a lot about how important community was for me and what I mean by that is I lived in a community in Eastern Massachusetts where you didn't care how big your house was or what kind of car you had. You were part of that community. And people within that community helped out. And family did that. And so what we taught our children was, you know, just look for the goodness and everyone, compete, enjoy competing, and find a passion. And then and continue so you understand what passion is, but don't as parents or as mentors think because you don't have the energy to do it or you don't think it's possible, that it's impossible. And the quote I end a lot of my talks is, I always tell people, "The impossible becomes possible when you believe." And if you don't help your child or your neighbor or someone within your community or someone that you are a coworker or are managing or developing believe. Because you have never asked them what they want to do, then it's crazy.

 

Brian Lord: [00:26:47] And I guess just to close it out, you know, as you're going through this journey with this book and with everything else. What are you hoping to accomplish within the next 10 years?


Jim Craig: [00:26:58] Well, the next 10 years is to build up gold-medal strategies so that what we can do is help inspire and drive people to reach their full potential. And there's a number of different ways to do that. But to build a legacy so that my daughter, who works with me and other people will have an opportunity to get in this field where it's not a niche. It's hard work. And you have to constantly stay relevant to a whole bunch of people. Brian, I got to laugh the other day, I was talking and at the end I took Q&A and one of the folks in the audience says, “Mr. Craig, what do you think about millennials?” And I said, "We created them." And basically- so basically what I meant by that is every generation thinks something different of another. Look at what each of these generations can accomplish, inspire them and enjoy the journey and learn while you're there.


To book Jim Craig, visit https://premierespeakers.com/jim_craig

Listen to the episode at http://bit.ly/BSPMiracle

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