When I played high school basketball, one of the plays we used to run was called “the Gretzky.”
When the coach called “Gretzky,” the guy with the ball at the top of the key would pass to the wing, and then the wingman would pass the ball down low. The Gretzky was the first pass. It was the pass to the wing before the pass to the post.
The big idea here was that the Gretzky created an opening. The defender down low wasn’t in a position to block a pass coming from the wing, so the first pass allowed the second pass to work. And then our guy got the ball close to the basket and made a move to score.
Ever since my high school basketball days, the Gretzky has come to symbolize any step I can take that will put me (or my family, or my friends, or my team, or my community) in a better position to accomplish a goal.
Assists are treated differently in basketball and hockey.
In basketball, they only give an assist to the player who passed the ball to the scorer.
In hockey, they give two assists per goal. This means that not only the player who passed the puck to the scorer gets an assist. But so does the guy who passed to the player who passed to the scorer.
Hockey rewards the pass before the pass as instrumental in the scoring of a goal.
I regularly work on projects that are impossible to complete singlehandedly. Their scope and complexity require a collaborative and hardworking team.
Projects like this might take hundreds of steps to complete, as well as steady, incremental progress over months or even years.
Each step is important in and of itself, and each step also sets the stage for all of the work to follow.
If assists were awarded for these projects, they’d have to give dozens of them, if not more.
Wayne Gretzky is a legend.
He scored more goals than any player in the history of the National Hockey League. He won four Stanley Cups, and he was named league MVP nine times, including a stretch of eight consecutive years.
But here’s the stat I find most incredible: Wayne Gretzky is not only the all time NHL assist leader, but he also had more assists in his career than any other player had goals and assists combined!
Wayne Gretzky was gifted at putting the puck in the net. But he was also a prolific and masterful passer, and he set up more goals for his teammates than anyone that’s ever played the game.
As I get older, the Gretzky has become more of a mindset for me.
Each and every day, I focus my energy on working as well as I possibly can with others, because the more I make great passes to the people in my life, the more they make great passes back to me.
Great passes create great opportunities. And that’s where the magic happens.