Your Life As An Unrestricted Free Agent

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pro hockey

Today is the first day of free agency in the NHL

What if many companies or people were clamoring for your services?

What if nobody wanted you?

Free agency in the NHL began at noon today.

Prior to that hour NHL teams could only interview potential unrestricted free agents. No offers could be made.

I don’t pretend to understand all the intricate nuances of NHL free agency. Every professional league has their own quirky rules, but  basically most leagues have two forms of free agency: restricted and unrestricted.

Restricted free agency usually means the player can accept offers from other teams, but his existing team has the opportunity to match or best the offer and retain him. In that regard, he’s not completely free to go anywhere he likes.

Unrestricted free agency usually means the player is available to accept offers from any team of his choosing. He can decide for himself, for reasons of his own choosing, where to play next.

In both instances, free agency is typically based on years of service. That is, it’s based on how many years the player has been in the league. Each professional league has their own CBA (collective bargaining agreement) negotiated between the players’ union and the ownership to determine the rules of free agency.

A player’s value in the open market is determined by what teams think he can do for them.

Value in professional sports is determined by lots of things. Age, skill, mental toughness, injuries (or not) and much more. Teams determine a player’s value based on how well they think the player can help their team win.

Every season – in every professional sport that has free agency – fans anxiously watch their favorite team to see if they might snag the free agency prize and get that star player coveted by every team. The NHL represents my favorite sport so today I’m watching things carefully to see which teams land the best players available.

And as I watch, I can’t help but think about our lives. What about our value? We’re not pro athletes, but we’re free agents. We can take whatever job we may be able to get. We can start our own “job” and launch an enterprise. We can seek permission to be hired by somebody or we can blow that off and create our own. But no matter which course we take, we can’t succeed unless somebody wants us.

The NHL experts rank the free agents based on their subjective judgments. Here’s one such list. The point isn’t whether NHL fans or front offices agree with it. The point is, there is a ranking that goes on all across the league. Today, front offices likely have big boards in their “war rooms” where they’re watching and tracking the players they find most attractive. Each team has unique needs. GM’s all over the NHL will be doing whatever they think will best help their team for next season (and beyond).

The player can only do his best to build value in his own career.

This much is sure. If a player didn’t excel in a prior situation, it’s unlikely he’ll garner the highest rewards (or be the most sought after) when he’s a free agent. Teams will likely base their desires (and their offers) based on past success. Past failures and problems will only hamper the player’s ability to maximize his value on the open market during free agency.

I learned as a young man the value of “grow where you’re planted.” That meant, do the best job where you are because that will likely determine your future. It made perfect sense to me because I understood the value of habit. If I was in the habit of doing lackluster work, then I knew I was unlikely to do exceptional work if I were put into a different circumstance.

Sometimes players need a change of scenery. Sometimes they’re unhappy with a previous coach. Sometimes players get in a funk in one place only to blossom in a new place. It happens.

However, their stock – the desire for teams to want them – is only enhanced by their ability to soar wherever they are.

Are you waiting for a better situation? Maybe you’re a player who thinks, “If only I were on that team, then I’d show them.” But that team isn’t likely to want you because they don’t see the value based on your history.

Here in Dallas, we were blessed to have Bill Parcells coach the Dallas Cowboys for a few years. I loved watching his press conferences and it was evident the man knew how to coach football. He often said in his press conferences, “We are who we are.” He meant, our team is however successful we are based on our performance. Parcells didn’t much concern himself with potential. He was concerned about accomplishment and performance. Who cares if people (including players) think you’re a championship caliber team? If you don’t win more games than you lose, then you “are what you are.” It’s blindingly obvious, but brilliant, too.

You are who you are!

But, is that good enough? Is that good enough for people to want you? Is it good enough for customers to hire you? Is it good enough for companies to hire you? Is it good enough for you to succeed?

I don’t know. We each have to answer that question. We have to live each day doing the things that bring value to others so they’ll want us when we’re available.

Few things are sadder than the professional athlete who feels he’s got value to offer, but based on his past performance…nobody sees it. And he gets no offers. Nobody wants him. It’s the ultimate professional rejection and too many players end their careers not being wanted by anybody.

You must expect more from yourself. You must be honest in your work. Bring value every day. Grow where you’re planted. Be highly sought after.


It’s Great To Hack Learning, But How About We Hacking Doing Instead?

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Yep, change this format to HD if you like. Red and Splotchy are even more vivid in HD. It’s only 8:38. I think you can stand me that long in HD. 

Mentioned in today’s video:

• The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything . . . Fast! by Josh Kaufman
Josh appears to be quite bright. I even call him brilliant, but I’ve been known to dole out that adjective with reckless abandon.
• The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton
• I’m fond of applying Pfeffer and Sutton’s lessons to personal living, too. Not just to companies because I don’t much care about companies any more.


Day 20,503 Won’t Be Nearly As Great As Day 20,504

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daycalcI’ve done the calculation before, but it was years ago. I think I was in my 30’s but I’m not sure.

Then, the other day I was wondering around the interwebs and visited the site of Robert D. You know Robert D, don’t you?

Well, I do. He doesn’t know me, of course, but that’s beside the point.

I read his blog, but I don’t remember ever visiting his home page. These things happen when you subscribe to a blog via RSS or you stumble onto somebody’s site because a link got shared via Twitter or Facebook.

On his home page he has a Day Calculator that will tell you how many days you’ve been alive. I’m betting you tried to enter them over there at the left didn’t you? Go ahead. Admit it. I can’t blame you, but that’s just a screen snag of what it looks like over at John D’s site. Go over there and enter your birthdate and you’ll get what you’re looking for. I’ll wait for you.

I’m betting your number is lower than mine. Am I right?

Forget that 10,000 hour rule. It’s time to have a new rule. The 20,000 day rule. I don’t know what that rule would be except I did do the math. It would mean you were 54.79 years old. Yeah, I know. That doesn’t tell you much.

It’s just a number.

I’m a John D fan and I think it’s a really cool device he’s got there on his home page. And even though I know it’s just a number I was thinking of how numbers define us. I started to say, “How we allow numbers to define us” but that’s not entirely true. Numbers DO define us. In so many ways.

And not just our age.

I’m betting the most important number in your life has a dollar sign in front of it. I don’t know what that number is, but it’s important to you. Maybe it’s the number of dollars you have in the bank or investment accounts. Maybe it’s the number of dollars you still owe a mortgage company. Maybe it’s the phantom number you think you need for a killer retirement. I don’t know. But I know it’s a number.

I’m also betting it’s monumentally important to you. Maybe more than you’d like to admit. Probably more important to you if you’re a guy, than if you’re a gal. I could be wrong, but I’m betting I’m not.

And I’m betting if you’re a guy past 45 it’s a number that is weighing heavier and heavier. Right? Sure I am.

Because maybe I’m beginning to see the 20,000 day rule after all. By the time you’re 45, you’re only 16,425 days in. You’re in deep enough to be scared. Really scared. Scared you’re not going to make it to your number with a dollar sign in front of it. Scared your wildest dreams really aren’t going to come true. But you’re driven to press hard. Not yet wise enough to chase the most important things, but wise enough to know time is running out.

Enter mid-life crisis…the quest to escape reality. For some a red sports car. For others, a younger woman. For yet others, a Harley. And still yet others, a desire to revert back to what you were good at as a kid.

If you’re like me, you suppressed that desire. Mine was that last one. I sat on it for another decade before I’d actually do anything about it. A decade!

Ten years. Think of it. I chased money and career for another 10 years because like you, I had a number with a dollar sign that defined me. Sure, it changed constantly. But that’s the thing about a number with a dollar sign. It’s not a definite number. It’s always on the move. You’ll never pin it down. The dollar sign is like a wild card. It gives the number the power to become whatever it needs to become. In this case, it becomes elusive!

So, 3,650 days later – give or take – and the proverbial wall began to inch closer for me. It’s there. The wall. I don’t know how close or far away from it you are, but it’s coming. Just wait for it. Or run headlong into it like I did. Either way is fine really cause you can’t avoid it. It won’t kill you. You may wish you were dead, but the wall won’t ever kill you. It’s just another number, a moment in time defined by something you did or something that happened to you. Or an epiphany. Those are rare. I know ’cause I’m constantly looking for them. I’m like a bird watcher except for epiphanies.

For me, the latest wall came into view at about the 20,300 day mark give or take. What’s a day or two when you’re talking about approaching a wall. Another wall. A new one. By the way, they’re all new. That wall you hit last year won’t likely resemble the one you’re gonna slam into tomorrow. Different day. Different wall. Different number.

Life has many walls. I stopped counting sometime around wall number 57 I think. No, they’re not all huge. Some are really like those enormous speed bumps that you can’t go over without ripping the muffler off your car. Others are small enough you sort of go over them like you would railroad tracks. But then others stop you cold. You’re going along like nothing is the matter and BAM! Right out of Stephen King’s “Under The Dome” you hit something you never saw coming.

I’ve been laid out, knocked out, dazed and confused. At other times I’ve been embarrassed like when you stumble up some steps in a public place. Walls have degrees of hardness.

Today my number is 20,503. Well, to be more accurate, based on John D’s calculator, those are my days alive.

I don’t know what my dollar sign number is any more. I’ve had so many of them I decided to let them go.

I don’t know how high my days-alive-number will go. Today is day 32,777 for my father. So, if I live to be as old as he is today, I’ve got another 12,274 left before I expire.


Sure, in light of recent events I’m thinking of days. And hours. But not really the numbers.

More in how the numbers are invested. More in trying to come to grips with what am I doing with them.

Here’s the big difference – well, one of the big differences – between your number of days and the other numbers that define you. Especially those dollar sign numbers that you’re busy chasing.

The numbers that define us really are the numbers we’ve got. It’s who we are right now. That’s what matters. Who are you today? What are you today?

That lake house you think would be cool to own doesn’t matter ’cause you don’t have it. So are you gonna waste your life sitting around looking at nice photos of lake houses? Are you gonna stay at the office a few hours extra so you’ll have enough money for the lake house? How is lusting for a future lake house going to make you better today?

You know what I’m gonna do?

Me neither. But tomorrow is day 20,504 and I can tell you I’ve got big plans!