In business, the quest for success is often described as an individual endeavor. While success absolutely requires self-motivation, hard work, and relentless determination, there are almost always unsung heroes behind the scenes that truly enable someone to achieve their goals. These heroes are the spouses and family members who make immense personal sacrifices in order to help you succeed, yet rarely ever receive any recognition for their key role in the success. I speak often about the importance of building a great team and how strong teamwork is the key to achieving your dreams. Even in the individualized world of business, teamwork is required within a relationship and family in order to perform at an optimum level. Therefore, a successful team starts at home. My story is no different, and I certainly embody the old saying, “behind every successful man is a great woman.” This edition of the Mentor Series is dedicated to an amazing teammate and the person whose strength and support has allowed me to get to where I am today: My wife Sharlene “Charlie” Craig.
Charlie and I met nearly thirty years ago during the tail end of my professional hockey career. As my career was winding down and the looming question of “What’s next?” needed to be answered soon, Charlie made it clear that she would have my back and be there for me in whatever endeavor I took on after hockey. That kind of support is almost indescribable in how it reassures and boosts your confidence, especially in the face of an uncertain future. With Charlie’s support, I took the first leap in my transition from hockey to the business world.
From the beginning, I was driven by the idea that my primary goal as a husband and provider was to simply make as much money as possible for my family. That mindset, while meaning well in purpose, is not one that is really conducive to happiness and, perhaps more importantly, maintaining healthy family dynamics. While I used this mindset, I did do well “on paper” in terms of sales numbers and recognition for my work, but it just did not give a sense of fulfillment. I also saw so many other guys in the office who shared a similar mindset and it ultimately led to situations where they would go to work early or stay late, not because it was actually required but instead to avoid duties or tensions at home. That was a situation that I desperately wanted to avoid and Charlie was the one who successfully shifted my mindset.
There are so many ways in which Charlie has been one of my key mentors that I could honestly write another book on it. But, perhaps the most important thing that she taught me is that striking a positive life/work balance is the key to success. By focusing on spending more quality time at home with her and our kids, everything became more meaningful and enjoyable, including work. I started doing my best work once we established this dynamic and it’s been our goal to maintain it ever since. I truly attribute the majority of my personal successes in my career to the positive work/life balance that my wife Charlie opened my eyes to and I urge anyone out there to take steps in order to find such a balance in their lives. It makes all of the difference.
One last area that I want to acknowledge and thank Charlie for is the personal sacrifice that she has made over so many years both to support me in my career and to support our family as a whole. Too many times, the sacrifices of spouses and family go unacknowledged and, sadly, unappreciated. In order for a successful team, in this sense, there needs to be a mutual appreciation of the sacrifices made by ALL parties involved. I think there is a flaw in the perception of “personal sacrifice” in that it is not about “what I do” but rather about “what WE do.” Appreciation has become a lost art and I believe that personal sacrifices need to be mutually appreciated.
Perhaps the best example I can give to illustrate this comes from the time when I was preparing to take the step away from the corporate world and to branch out “on my own.” I use the quotation marks because the journey to start Gold Medal Strategies was never just about me. I was preparing to make a big leap into another unknown area and I was admittedly nervous. If you ask Charlie, she’d probably tell you I’m understating it and that I was scared to death. But, what gave me the confidence and strength to fully jump into it was the steadfast support of Charlie and the kids and the fact that I knew she appreciated all of my hard work while I also appreciated all of hers.
We’ve maintained that balance and appreciation to the best of our abilities to this day and we will continue to do so going forward. I am a better manandhusband thanks to all of the lessons my wife has taught me along the way. I am so proud that my best friend and I will soon be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary. My hope is that we, as a society, can turn the tide a bit and do a better job of acknowledging and appreciating the efforts and sacrifices of our spouses and family members because they’re often the ones who truly make it all happen.