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Many of you know that I grew up playing a good deal of competitive golf. While I still play in tournaments, “competing” is more of a relative term these days. When I play in events today, I do my best, but the trajectory my golf “career” is on the downward side for sure.

If you look at great athletes, great minds, great businesses, great people, most of them have something in common – high end early trajectory. They showed promise early. They had a “Blue Ocean” opportunity early (see Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim). They had great family support early on. People who fulfill the highest end of their potential destiny have trajectories that begin on a pathway that looks more like a hockey stick (straight up) than a gradual steady growth (think long-term 401k strategy).

Examples of hockey stick type trajectory? The “Chosen One” LeBron James was a basketball prodigy in middle school. Similarly, Tiger Woods was on national TV at age 2 hitting golf balls (trivia note: Tiger and LeBron share a birthday, December 30th, born 9 years apart). “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky began playing competitive hockey at age 6 and was the best player on his team filled with 10-year-olds. Serena Williams started playing tennis at age 4, moved across the country to attend an elite tennis academy at age 10, and competed in her first professional tournament when she was 14. For all of these great athletes, their early trajectory led to record breaking success years later.

I’ve been thinking about this trajectory concept for our 4-year-old son Brock. When we brought Brock home from the hospital he was pretty small (his birth parents had drug addiction issues at the time which was handed down to Brock, the birth parents have since both recovered which is awesome). At Brock’s first doctor’s appointment, he scored between 17th and 23rd percentile on the various measures – height, weight, and head circumference. Over time we filled his tank with both food and love and as he aged, he also grew. After a couple years he had caught up to his peers. His last checkup (at 4 years old) Brock’s numbers ranged from 73rd to 87th percentile, with a body mass index ranking him in the top 7% of kids his age.

While Brock hasn’t had any issue thriving in the right environment (and he loves to eat), I’m certainly not implying he will be a world class athlete or even a business tycoon. His trajectory may not even “hockey stick”, it may just be a gradual growth curve like most people. Nobody knows how this will turn out, but the mere investment in our little man by dozens and dozens of people have put him on the right track (the right trajectory) to be successful over the long haul.

So how do we apply these stories to our own tribes? We have to look for ways to intentionally invest in those around us, so their trajectories aim more steeply upward in the future. These investments can take many shapes. You can mentor someone, invest in their new business, coach them on a professional development topic that you have expertise in, or for your work team, you can simply make sure everyone has the right tools and is sitting in the right seat on the bus. There are so many ways to create more “hockey sticks” that we couldn’t list them all here. The key is that these investments are made intentionally and that they are made consistently.

The goal for this week is to fill the tanks of others and put them on a great trajectory. Go out and help someone “hockey stick” their future.

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