On Saturday, I learned to take a proper hockey slapshot.
It was part of an intense adult hockey school called "Weekend Warriors." While I played goalie for two decades, three years ago I felt the need for change, so I left the crease and became a forward for the first time since I was 12 years old. Although I still score WAY more than my share of goals due to positioning, scrappy play and sheer fortune, I decided I would have to "up my game," hence the Weekend Warriors program.
After years of futility and no lessons, when I finally learned how to bang one off the glass, one of the coaches said the beam from my face transcended the full-face cage I was wearing and could've, in his words "Lit up all four ice surfaces at this arena."
I wasn't alone. There were similar breakthroughs throughout the weekend from almost everyone there. And WE weren't alone. There was a yoga retreat at Mont Tremblant where I'm sure more than a handful of people finally were able to master an intricate pose, or reach a new state of zen. And who knows how many others among us were able to "crack the code" on something previously unattainable.
There are few thrills greater than "finally getting it." It's a Eureka Moment shared by chefs, scientists, infants, high-priced lawyers and blue-collar workers...frankly, by anyone who crosses the chasm from not knowing to knowing. It's what drives me, and what this blog is all about.
Which brings us to the lesson of the week -- which is about the thrill of learning -- and to what you are about to read.
As most of you read this on its Tuesday morning posting, I'll be delivering a welcome speech to about 5,000 incoming McGill students outdoors at Percival Molson Stadium. More than just "starting school," if they play their cards right, they'll be embarking on a journey of advanced and continued learning.
And after what I experienced this weekend, I'm jealous.
Here's what I'm going to say:
I must start by noting the ironic timing of this speech, as tomorrow marks the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights March on Washington, and Martin Luther King's legendary speech there. Two weeks ago, I was on vacation in Washington, and like most tourists, I stood on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial. While I am nowhere near the man Dr. King was, looking out over the sea of you, I can at least channel a bit of what he must've felt at the time.
Dr. King's speech was one for the ages. His final, soul-stirring words were: "Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty we are free at last." I want to assure the administration at McGill that he was NOT talking about tuition fees.
As inspiring an ending as that was, the words that resonated most that day 50 years ago was when Dr. King reached down into his heart and said: "I have a dream."
Well, today, I too, have a dream.
And my dream is that right now, I wouldn't be up here, but I would be amongst you.
You see, I never experienced any of this, any of the social elements of school, the out-of-classroom stuff. I worked while went to school; actually, I went to school part time and worked full time. My routine was from office to class and back.
In fact, my first time ever in this stadium was at an Als game two years ago, when I almost tackled the CFL commissioner at midfield...but I digress.
Back to my dream. To be brutally honest, I don't just want to be amongst you today...I actually want to BE you.
Because, truth be told, I envy you. Yup, I really envy you.
I envy you because you're at one of the world's great international schools, a melting pot of intelligence and drive and potential from around the globe.
I envy you because of the long-lasting, life-changing relationships you are about to build, personally and professionally. Perhaps both at the same time.
I envy you because you have, at your fingertips, the technology that allows you to reach out to, and collaborate with, peers all over the world. Technology that will enable you to create tomorrow, and redefine the possible.
I envy you because you also have the power to shift, modify and customize your educational experience. You are at a crossroads of what a University is, and what it can be. You decide.
I envy you because you are what the world needs now. What the world needs now, is you, sweet you (I'm paraphrasing a Jackie DeShannon song; ask your parents. Or grandparents). In the law of supply and demand, you are optimally positioned. The world needs your skill, your ideas, your guts, and your audacity.
I envy you, because instead of "going with the flow," as my generation was urged to do, you have the freedom AND the responsibility to upset the apple cart, to reinvent the wheel, to rock the boat, to burn the bridges...and to have fun while doing it.
I envy you because all this is happening to you in a truly unique city...albeit one that is a little off its game and needs a kick in its butt to re-establish its greatness.
I envy you because some of you out there will actually stick around to do the butt-kicking and re-establishing.
I envy you because, put all together, you have the ability, the contacts, the tools and the smarts not just to change your lives, but to truly change the world.
But most of all, I envy you because you have no idea how incredible the next four years here are going to be.
Don't just enjoy them. Make me envy you even more.