"Most of us arrive at a sense of self and vocation only after a long journey through alien lands." - Parker Palmer
For years I have heard Jon Mack, VFCC athletic director and men's basketball coach, repeat again and again the words, "It's all about the journey." It is written in large letters in our gym. It is printed on most Athletic Department documents. But until recently, I had no idea why it was important to him.
Jon was an outstanding student-athlete at VFCC. I have told him that the only possible person who will perhaps break his basketball scoring record of 3494 points might be when his three-year-old son grows up and plays at VFCC. Because of his leadership potential, I asked him to serve as the VFCC men's basketball coach just after he graduated. He was only 22 years old.
In his quest to excel as a leader and not just as a player, he attended a clinic for coaches led by Coach Mike Krzyzewski a.k.a. Coach K. Prior to this clinic, Jon hated everything about Duke and its athletic program, especially basketball. He always loved it when they lost.
During this clinic Jon was walking along and, as he says, "There was Coach K coming directly toward me. We were destined to meet. As we came close to each other I stopped and asked him if he would have any advice for a young basketball coach who was just starting his career."
When I first heard Jon tell this story I almost felt like this was a sacred moment in his life. "Coach K stopped, put his hand on my chest and simply said, 'Follow your heart.' Later that year Coach K came out with a book and in it is this poem."
In the words of Coach K,
During the season, your team should be led with exuberance and excitement. You should live the journey. You should live it right. You should live it together. You should live it shared. You should try to make one another better. You should get on one another if someone is not doing their part. You should hug one another when they are. You should be disappointed in a loss and exhilarated in a win. It's all about the journey.
No wonder Jon became an instant Duke fan. And if you doubt it, you should see the photo a friend of his took when he visited the home court where Duke plays and there he is, bending over and kissing the Duke logo in the middle of the court. The Duke license plate on the front of his car and the Duke floor mats inside also tell the same story.
Yes, it is all about the journey. Phil Cousineau said, "The journey of the hero is about the uncanny discovery that the seeker is the mystery which the seeker seeks to know." We are all on an amazing journey, the journey of life, and on our journey there are challenges innumerable.
Throughout antiquity the tradition of ancient pilgrimages moved the traveler to sought destinations. Parker Palmer's "journey to a sacred center" required him to travel in the dark before he could "come to that center, full of light."
Warren Bennis, a leader of leaders, says that the most reliable predictor of success is a leader's capacity to find meaning in negative events and to learn from the most trying and frustrating situations: "Put another way, the skills required to conquer adversity and emerge stronger and more committed than ever are the same ones that make for extraordinary leaders."
We all have challenges on the journey of life. Some are as minor as a bug on a windshield. Others come like an F5 tornado. And through it all, we keep growing. But whether the sun shines or we are facing a hurricane, it really is all about the journey.
Think about it.