March 23, 2012 § Leave a comment
The window in my bedroom, half open to the world, allowing a warm breeze from the early morning air gently sliding the silky off-white curtains like the ebb and flow of a warm summer’s tide teasing my body with a familiar sense of freedom and nostalgia from my childhood summers at Goose Rock Beach, Kennebunkport, Maine. I awaken with this warm but cool sensation hovering two inches from my body. The birds not yet in full swing, just rising with me to an easterly sky that’s more reminiscent of the Painted Desert than the suburbs of Chicago. I lie still for a few more moments, alone with my thoughts and orgasmic sense of fulfillment before I rise to enjoy another day disguised as a career. It’s 5 a.m., I slowly raise my head, ignoring the alarm clock on the night table to my left, made of cherry wood, with its two perfectly aligned drawers and antique brass horse-shoe shaped handles gracefully standing tall from its curved yet simplistically ornate legs. I turn to my right and see Ruth, my wife of 30 years sleeping in what appears to be a deep REM stage, no doubt on an excursion fulfilling her wildest imagination. I slowly turn to the left pulling my legs from the warmth and security of the loose cotton blankets covering three quarters of my body, careful not to make a sound to awaken Ruth and fearful of stirring our golden-retriever, Sawyer, now 12 and although not the playmate he was at two, still with the healthy heartbeat and the spunk of a pup. Slipping my feet into my favorite pair of UGG slippers, gingerly walking towards the hallway, Sawyer at my side we make the 15-step journey to the main level of our classical colonial home as I brew a fresh pot of dark French-roasted coffee and carefully measure three nourishing scoops of food for an awaiting and patient loyal best friend.
As I prepare a simple breakfast of various berries, nuts and yogurt, I lazily watch Sawyer’s routine of swallowing his food, grabbing his favorite toy doing a few laps around the kitchen, eventually making his way upstairs to wake up Ruth with his prideful smile and full stomach. I follow him up, jump in the shower where I enjoy a seven-minute deluge of 95-degree water beating on my body, cleansing it with Oil of Olay, and a quick shave readying myself to tackle the world.
While Ruth showers, I dress in my casual but impeccably put together outfit resembling a Ralph Lauren commercial more than a high-level executive responsible for the world-wide marketing operations of the three most visible hockey organizations in the world.
As the coffee brews and Ruth gets ready, I walk through a pair of French doors into my home-office adorned with a wall of technology, accented by high ceilings, skylights and sliding glass doors that has such a sense of comfort and style it allows me to be in the thick of the action or alone with my thoughts.
It’s now 6 a.m., I log onto my computer, check the correspondence from my European colleagues, visit my blog, favorite websites, news sources and the relevant dialogue of hockey opportunities around the globe.
I leave my thoughts and muse behind me, joining my wife for an hour of company, conversation and nourishment. We pleasure our taste buds with ingredients that keep us healthy, young and energetic, clean up and take a brisk 3-mile walk with Sawyer.
Upon our return, we’re off to our separate ways, she to the Federal Courts for a half-day of testimony as an expert witness for Social Security and Disability, while I hop into my little Mini-Cooper S Convertible for my 20 minute commute to the office in the heart of Chicago’s Loop business district.
I park in the space designated for me in the garage adjacent to the office building, The Sears Tower, and make the familiar ride up the elevator to the 47th floor. The number has always had significance in my life, it was the age my father, a hockey legend, died.
I enter my office promptly at 8:30 with a view of Chicago; the skyline in front of me, Chicago River to the west and Lake Michigan to the east, a view that would make Olmstead himself green with envy.
I look around my eclectic 600 square feet world filled with a sleek combination of Scandinavian office furniture, contemporary light fixtures, antique accents of Japanese and Indian decent and a technological suite that would make a nerd’s head spin, juxtaposed against the plethora of hockey memorabilia, signed pictures from the greats of the game, letters, political acknowledgements and my prized possession, my family.
I spend the next 45 minutes privately reviewing the events that happened abroad, collecting my thoughts and preparing my game plan for the day. In the six years I’ve been here as the Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations for the Global concern, The World-Wide Hockey Initiative, I can count on one hand the amount of times my day went according to plan. What I’ve come to expect is the unexpected. Part of what I set out to do years ago was to find a job that not only consumed my passion for hockey and skill in marketing, but also incorporated excitement, creativity, fun, innovation, all with a competitive spirit that’s totally invigorating. The unexpected nature of this passion I call my career keeps my heart beating at a rate that is consistent with trained professional athlete and my mind racing at the speed of light. It’s the thrill of the deadline and being able to think on my feet with a precision and swiftness that makes my colleagues tired just by watching me. I am in my element. The true definition of creativity. Thinking, strategizing, solving challenges happening instantaneously that not only affect the sport, but changes peoples’ lives.
At 10 a.m. I head into the conference room with a folder slipped under my arm that my assistant gave me from our session the day before. It’s filled with research, creative briefs, demographics and the new marketing challenge we’re facing today. Our goal is the Southeastern United States not only trying to bring another NHL team to three markets simultaneously, but for the first time in our existence, we’re attempting to embrace the communities they serve from every level starting with youth hockey development in the inter-city. It’s a novel approach, my brainchild, and our team is assembling to brainstorm pros and cons and see the viability of our approach.
I’m so blessed with a group of professionals with such varied disciplines, ages, strengths and skill sets, that we meticulously dissect everything six ways from Sunday with one single objective in mind: to make hockey the greatest game on earth.
There are so many things to discuss, everything from marketing a semi-pro team, involving the community, city officials, sponsorships, player personnel, security, food services to branding and event driven initiatives. We’re just scratching the surface as our plans filter up to the NHL level and down to the youth hockey community. This is our kick-off meeting that will begin in earnest this summer for a launch next fall. Our meeting lasted for two hours and we have begun a framework from which to build upon, very productive for our first meeting.
As we hit the lunch hour, I walk back to my office, stopping off to chat with my boss and mentor, exchange a few pleasantries with some of the staff and decompress in the confines of my home away from home —my office.
With my feet firmly angled on the edge of my desk and my body situated in the comfort of my favorite black leather chair, I reflect on the hours just passed and pinch myself to make sure this is all real. I pick up the phone and call my son Matt, a copywriter at Leo Burnett just down the street, four blocks away. He’s climbed up the ranks like a shooting star at the speed of meteorite. Now the Associate Creative Director responsible for the agency’s largest accounts in just three short years. He shares my passion for hockey, as he’s not only made his mark on the game with a productive career through college, but continues to play today and finds time to volunteer coaching young boys in inter-city Chicago. I tell him about our plans and some of the thoughts we had for the new teams in the Southeast, we suggest to meet for lunch, but postponed till evening, as I wanted to put in a workout prior to my afternoon meetings with my creative staff.
It’s a little before 1 p.m., I head to the elevator, black leather bag in tow, and push the button for the 77th floor where the gym with a panoramic view and every conceivable workout gadget one could think of awaits. I change into my black Nike workout shorts, cobalt blue Under Armour shirt; light grey mesh socks and steel grey Puma low top sneakers equipped with day-glow green laces to make sure no one misses me. At 62, I’m a medical marvel, with the heart and body of a 45-year old with the humor and laugh more reminiscent of my grandkids than of a middle-aged man. I start my routine by stretching for 15 minutes, elliptical for 10, free weights for 30, legs, abs and finish with 100 sit-ups. A nice easy stretch for my cool down period of 10 minutes, then a refreshing shower, yogurt and fruit, 16 ounces of water and I’m recharged for the rest of the day.
I’m back in my office by 2:30, with a half hour to prepare for a creative brainstorming session with my staff, this time in the comfort of my own office.
With a few minutes to spare, I text my wife; “I love you,” and make a quick call to Allie who’s two years into her career as a junior business consultant for an alternative energy company that has offices around the globe. Allie mainly spends her time in the corporate office in NYC, but travels a bit to Latin America, as she is bi-lingual combining Econ and Spanish as a dual major in college. I knew from the time she was a toddler, she was destine to become a CEO, and she’s well on her way to being exactly just that.
One of the highlights of my day is a brainstorming session, with three of my favorite creative people, a copywriter, art director and strategist. It’s what I call “the magic,” there’s so much chemistry, so many ideas, so much fun, it’s almost criminal.
So I start as I’ve started my creative sessions throughout my entire career. We play. I have a great little basketball net, a perfect course for matchbook football, Playstation Five, Wii and X-box Supreme. There’s also plenty of research material and creative magazines to influence and inspire us. It’s like a workout for the brain. And although I’m technically their boss having the final say, there are no hierarchical stigmas. It’s all about the work. Egos are checked at the door and it doesn’t matter where a good idea comes from, as long as it comes.
For the next two hours the four of us banter back and forth, and generate a plethora of ideas to name, brand and market one of the teams in the expanded Southeastern division representing the great state of Louisiana. After only 90 minutes my wall was filled with 10” x 14” pieces of white bond sketch paper. Ideas from the most mundane to incredibly brilliant. For the four of us, they all appear brilliant and we’re eager to pin them up to see if they’re worthy of a push-pin and last the test of time by reviewing them the next day. If they still make sense, then their worthy of pursuing further, if not we keep going. Those are two of the gifts I bring to the table, generating a plethora of ideas, being able to sort them out, what works, what doesn’t, and the ability to keep going. The tenacity to persevere, to continue the plight even when it seems hopeless, never to settle unless its great, it will always come. It is this spirit my colleagues are drawn to. There’s no arrogance, no authority, no ego. It’s always about the work.
The sun has long gone from the middle of the sky and it’s starting to descend towards the west, bringing a new day somewhere else and waning on today. The four of us are spent. Nothing drains me more than “brain sessions.” We were non-stop today, maybe because we had a morning meeting laying out our entire plans or maybe because it was Tuesday. Who knows, but the good news is we were very productive today. The sponge had gone dry, it was time to pack it in and say our goodnights. We’ll meet again on Friday. We loved working together and the awards that lined the hallways were proof positive of our efforts.
I sat on the ledge of the heater adjacent to my window that gave me a view one would die for. I reflected on the day and thought about my family, my wife and how lucky I was to be where I am.
I grabbed my worn, brown leather briefcase, turned off my lights, said goodnight to the young “up and comers” staying late to get ahead, and headed off to my evening paradise I called home with my bride of 30 years and grateful heart.