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Adams: The Templates for Life Success

On Monday, with all of the staff and teachers of the Caston Schools on hand, I shared my 2 hour seminar on life lessons we can take from Lake Placid and the Miracle on Ice.

Photo's courtesy of Charlie Adams
Photos courtesy of Charlie Adams

Superintendent Cindy Douglass wanted her team to take the tools from their story and apply it to the second half of the academic year, as they are on a mission to impact the lives of young people.

“You were born to be hockey players, every one of you,” said coach Herb Brooks to his team as thousands above their locker room chanted USA USA USA!” “You were meant to be here tonight. This moment is yours.”

That is so significant for a school in a small town such as Fulton, IN because most of the Miracle on Ice players came from small communities like White Bear Lake, MN, Winthrop, Massacusetts, Babbitt, MN, St. Clair Shores, MI, and Scituate, MA.

Every young person in the Caston school system was born for a reason and has the potential within to excel. Many kids today come from challenging home situations where the father is not around. I shared the story of Eddie Eagan, who lost his Dad early in the 20th century in a train accident, and then made the choice to model his life after Frank Merriwell, the fictional dime novel character who made straight A’s at Yale, never drank or smoke, and excelled in boxing and other sports. Young Eddie, despite growing up in a low income home, excelled academically and went to Yale undergrad, Harvard Law and earned a Rhodes Scholarship. Along the way he served in WWI and WWII and won a gold medal at the Summer Games in 1920 and Winter Games in Lake Placid in 1932, becoming the only person ever to win golds in Summer and Winter Olympics in two different sports. He later would be appointed by President Eisenhower to a Commission.

A young person from a very challenging home background can grow up to be appointed to head a Commission by the President. Eddie showed so, by making the right choices. We are not born winners. We are not born losers. We are born choosers.

What I love sharing about this story to audiences of all kinds is that in the case of the Miracle on Ice team, we can relate to them. We can’t relate to 6’8″ 260 pound LeBron James – although we can admire and respect his work ethic – but we can relate to the hockey players because some were 5 foot 8 and all earned their accomplishments through uncountable hours of practice on the ice. When I was in TV News I would interview young gymnasts and they would say their goal was to reach the Olympics. Really? Willing to put in the hours like young Neal Broten who on a typical Saturday in the winter would have Cream of Wheat breakfast and head out around 8 and come home after 12 hours or so on the ice? The future Miracle on Ice player one time was so exhausted that he got stuck in a snow bank on the way home at night in 20 below temps, and was rescued when his father heard his cries in the night.

Their story shows that whether you want to be an excellent pianist, or actor, or sales success, putting in the time and effort is the way.

I love sharing how the stories of Lake Placid keep going, making the Talk fresh. For all of us, life is about one challenge after another. In 1980 figure skater Scott Hamilton was chosen to lead the USA in the opening ceremonies because the athletes had learned how he had been adopted at birth, and overcome a condition where he quit growing. He was in the Olympic Village watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind when they burst in and said they wanted HIM to lead, not because he was the best (he would not medal in 1980) but because of his spirit. Hamilton would go on to face and beat cancer twice and not too long ago he and his wife adopted two children from Haiti.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 1.41.53 PMPresident Jimmy Carter has always said 1979 was his most challenging year because of the Hostages in Iran and the Soviets in Afghanistan. Today, in his 90’s he was just out with his wife building a home in Memphis for Habitat for Humanity, and recently said he was clear of liver and brain cancer.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 1.42.59 PMDave Silk was part of Al Michaels’ historic call “Morrow up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles? … Yes!” Not too long ago Silk, at 57, completed the Lake Placid Ironman of 2.4 miles, 118 mile bike and 26.2 mile run. That challenges us all to take that next physical challenge.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 1.44.19 PMIt was late at night, but Silk set his mind to it, and did it!

One of the points of my message is having Principles. Billy Fiske won gold in Bob Sled in 1928 and 1932 but skipped 1936 in Germany because Hitler was their causing world unrest, and Fiske stood for the principles of disgust with Hitler and of caring for his own Jewish friends, so he said no way to a historic 3rd straight gold leading the bob sled team. Fiske also had the principles of caring for the English, where he had been educated. As an American, he joined WWII in 1940 to help the English vs the Nazi’s in the Battle of Britain and died 16 months before we got in the war. He died at 29, standing to inherit a fortune from his banker family, and became the first American to die in WWII.
Because of principles.

You know what is sad? I mentioned to a Lake Placid official that 99% of my audiences have never heard of Fiske. He said it was probably 99.9. That’s true. I have never met anyone that knew of Fiske, which is one reason I am so passionate about sharing these stories. I have also found that many people have no idea who Herb Brooks was, and I believe the man was a genius.

With Fiske, it was principles. For Bob Suter, it was about a life motto. Suter is the first Miracle on Ice player to die, having died of a heart attack in September of 2014 at age 57. He had a life motto of “It’s all about the kids.” He dedicated his life to inspiring young people in hockey and the game of life as he ran a hockey center in Madison, WI. He was so revered that when he died there was no church there big enough to hold the ceremony so it had to be in an arena.

What is your life motto?

Who are you mentoring? Coach Herb Brooks was in a St. Paul diner writing a motivational speech as he was one of America’s most in demand speakers, when a tired boy came by. Frustrated from his home situation, the boy had dropped out of high school. He saw the Miracle on Ice coach and walked in and asked if he could speak to him. Brooks wiped away his notes, ordered him breakfast and talked to him for hours. The boy enrolled in school again, graduated, and had a good job.

He was the young man still crying in this pew at the Cathedral in St. Paul, long after Herb Brooks’ body had been taken out to the cemetery.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 1.46.04 PMThe story of Lake Placid and the Miracle on Ice is as powerful as any I have ever researched. This Fall I was up there speaking and I told regional officials that I have traveled all over the world and I have never come across a place like this village of 2800 that has had so many on fire people and so many surreal stories.

As the presence told me the first time I went there, the templates of success are here. With America so divisive today, the story of how a bunch of blue collar hockey players from humble, patriotic, hard working homes created the greatest moment in US sports history, is important to know. With many young people falling into entitlement, the story of how these young men earned their win over the USSR and the gold, and that it was NOT a miracle, is important to know.

Charlie-Adams-e1378206959986-150x150Born in Oxford and educated at Ole Miss, Charlie Adams is a motivational speaker who specializes in sharing the fascinating back story of Lake Placid and the Miracle on Ice. His 90 minute to 2-hour presentation is filled with patriotism, the American dream, and the power of team. It is delivered to corporate, educational and church audiences. He can be reached at charlie@stokethefirewithin.com.

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Adam Brown
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