Jim Craig, Gold Medal Strategies, Goalkeeper of 1980 Miracle team
Miracle: Jim Craig tells the story of his success in business and on ice
On this episode of SPx, Joe is joined via Zoom by Jim Craig, founder of Gold Medal Strategies. Craig was the celebrated goalkeeper of the 1980 Olympic gold medal-winning hockey team, known as the Miracle team. Craig shares the story of his success in professional hockey, what it taught him about business and how he has shared those lessons with clients through his books and renowned consulting practice.
- Jim Craig was the goalkeeper of the 1980 Miracle Hockey team, the team that upset the USSR and went on to win the gold medal in the 1980 Olympics.
- Now, Craig, who lives in St. Petersburg, is a motivational speaker and owns his own consulting business, Gold Medal Strategies.
- A gifted player from early on, when Craig started playing hockey in his first league, he didn't really know the rules. He fell into playing goalie, he says, because they played the whole game and the team provided equipment for him.
- Craig had big dreams, to play get recruited by a Division 1 hockey team, and eventually play professionally. But finishing up high school at 5'3'', weighing just 130 pounds, Craig found that no teams were interested in recruiting him.
- It was at a local community college south of Boston that Craig met his first mentor, Neil Higgins. Higgins was an All-American goalie out of Boston College, and took Craig under his wing.
- "I always tell people I had three dreams," Craig said. "One was to get a full scholarship to college, the other one was to play in the Olympic games, and represent our country, and my last one was to play as a professional athlete in the National Hockey League."
- "I had to go to an area of being one of the best in the world at something to knowing nothing about it," Craig explained, leaving the world of hockey for the world of business. "I don't really think that I got a running start, I think I was dealt a little harder deck."
- On his first book: Gold Medal Strategies: Business Lessons From America's Miracle Team. "It's nine strategies that nine mentors of mine helped me with in my path and I wanted to share them with people. But more than anything I wanted to make sure that they understood that when we beat the Russians and went on to beat Finland for the gold medal, it wasn't a miracle, it was hard work.
- Craig explains his management strategy and what he learned about business through his career as a professional athlete.
- On dealing with fame and gold medal status: "The past is the Olympics and the gold medal and it's a great chapter of my life, but I've done a lot more since then, and I will continue to do a lot more."
- Why put the 1980 hockey memorabilia up for sale? Craig explains his reasoning, why he eventually didn't sell his gear, and where it will soon be displayed.
- On speaking, "When I became a motivational speaker,I didn't want to be hired because I was an Olympic gold medalist. I wanted to add value."
- Craig discusses the 2004 Disney Miracle movie and what it was like to work as a movie consultant.
- On Miracle: "I became very good friends with the gentleman, Eddie Cahill who played me. And it was great, I was really proud of the work that he did. You know, I thought Kurt Russell was absolutely fabulous as Herb Brooks."
- Craig tells the story of the flag that was draped over his shoulders after the USA's huge win in the "Miracle" game.
"I always used sport as a vehicle. And the first way I wanted it to be a vehicle for me was to utilize my athletic talent to get me into college and to get me into a college that would pay for it because that was about the only way that I was going to go."
"You can only recruit people that you can coach. It doesn't matter how talented they are. If you can't coach them, then they're not any good for your team."
Table of Contents
(00:00 to 3:10) Introduction
(03:10 to 05:40) Jim’s Hockey Background
(05:40 to 10:23 ) Athletic Success and Business
(10:23 to 14:02) Gold Medal Strategies
(14:02 to 29:50 ) Defining What Winning Is
(29:50 to 36:20 ) Jim’s Writing Career and Beyond
(36:20 to 43:51) Jim’s Sport Collectables
(43:51 to 47:50) We Win: Lessons on Life, Business, and Building Your Own Team.
(47:50 to 52:30) Being Pragmatic and Reinventing Yourself
(52:30 to 55:00 ) The Movie Miracle
(55:00 to 57:45) The Flag
(57:45 to 59:40) Conclusion
Transcription begins [00:00:54]
Joe: Joining SPx is Jim Craig, welcome sir.
Jim: Joe, it’s a pleasure.
Joe: So, you have had a – I think by any measure – an interesting life most known in the hockey circles for a little win over a decent Russian team back in 1980.
Jim: One of the dreams I had was the play in the Olympics and I was very fortunate to be able to do that because I had so many people who made so many people that made so many personal sacrifices that gave me an opportunity to give it every effort I could to make it and was fortunate enough to be on a great team.
Joe: When did hockey start for you and why was that the sport?
Jim: Well, it’s interesting. I grew up just South of Boston about 40 miles and one of eight children. And so I had three brothers and four sisters and my two younger brothers and I would always be competing, depending on what season it was. And there was a pond behind the house that froze a lot and so I used to love to go up there to skate and play. And you know, you talked a lot about mentors, and how important mentors are. And so during my youth Bobby Ore and Big Bad Bruins were really good and so I decided to play. And the local postman would walk by because he delivered mail and he told my mother that your son Jim, he’s a really good hockey player, you should get him into a program. And so what I remember most, and I tried to write it in one of my books is how important community was then and is to me now.
Joe: And when you were out on the pond I’m assuming you were more skating frontline competing, scoring, and moving. When did you make the transition to the net?
Jim: Well, when I got into my first league it was called the Eastern Junior Hockey League, I didn’t really know the rules. And I knew that my parents — because we didn’t come from much money — were making a huge investment. And so the goalie played the whole game and they provided me the equipment. And I was a catcher in baseball and I really liked the mental aspect of the game. And so hence a goalie.
Joe: So, as that progressed you went and played in school and was that the definite leading sport taking you into university?
Jim: You know, it’s an interesting road even when I was in high school. I was only 5’3’’, and weighed about 130 pounds. And even though I had these big dreams of being a Division 1 college goalie and being recruited on a full scholarship there were really no colleges and no teams interested. And I went to a local community college, something that my family and I could afford. And that’s kind of where I ran into my first mentor. His name is Neil Higgins, he was an All-American goalie out of Boston College and he took me under his wing. And so, sport was always to get me some place that I wouldn’t be able to get to on my own. I always used sport as a vehicle. And the first way I wanted it to be a vehicle for me was to utilize my athletic talent to get me into college and to get me into a college that would pay for it because that was about the only way that I was going to go.
Joe: And what would have been your academic pursuit?
Jim: I always wanted to be in business, I loved business. And so, the sport was really kind of interesting because, you know, you’re playing on teams. And you have good coaches, you have bad coaches, you have really good team players, you have some that aren’t such good team players. And so, I always thought that that would be a lot like life and I enjoyed the challenge of sales. So, I wanted to go into college and pursue business.
Joe: And at that point what was the level of entrepreneurial energy that you had? Or did you think of business at that point and you’re mentioning teams as being part of a company? And did you sort of fall into your business later on? Or was there always a little bit of that in you?
Jim: You know, I always tell people I had three dreams. One was to get a full scholarship to college, the other one was to play in the Olympic games, and represent our country, and my last one was to play as a professional athlete in the National Hockey League. And so, all of those dreams came true through a lot of hard work and a lot of luck. And so the business aspect really wasn’t something that I was pursuing, it was more of the professional athlete Olympian aspect. But it was a great learning field to become in the business.
Joe: And obviously your athletic success gave you more than a running start in your business career. When did you get your first awareness that having success athletically, and I’m sure it was a super-charged moment with the Olympics, when did you start to understand that your athletic success could actually propel your business success?
Jim: You know, I always tell people you have to reinvent yourself. So, I remember I was playing with the Minnesota North Stars against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. And that morning I was offered a three year one way contract. So, back in my day they didn’t offer Americans in the National Hockey League one way contracts. So, this is a huge, huge success story for me athletically. And then we’re about three minutes into the game and I tore a hamstring in three spots and they never signed the contract and I never played again. And so it’s amazing how quickly I learned that people will want to meet you for what you have done athletically, but they’re not going to give your business unless you know what you’re doing.
And so it was very interesting that some might think that I had a running start, but I happened to think that I started really late. I was in mid-20’s, had to go back and finish up college. I had to go to an area of being one of the best in the world at something to knowing nothing about it. And so, I don’t really think that I got a running start, I think I was dealt a little harder deck. And yet I always talk about that, you can’t be a victim of circumstances, you have to be a victor. And so it’s just reprioritizing, utilizing all that skill that got me to be one of the best at a profession and taking the time and the energy and putting the work in to become the best in a different field.
Joe: That’s a really interesting thing to go through, I hear what you’re saying. So, a regular occurrence then, coming out of your fame in the Olympics was a lot of energy around that to start the engagement with the person, talking about it, reliving it, even getting an autograph and a picture. And then there’s this transition into the actual business conversation. And I’m assuming that you went through that hundreds of times.
Jim: Oh Joe, you know what’s really interesting? The people who wanted to hire me wanted to hire me to get into meetings that maybe they couldn’t get into, but through my help they could. And I wanted to be that, I wanted to be a professional at what I was doing. And so I didn’t take that as a way that I wanted to run my life. I wanted to learn the product, I wanted to learn the industry. I wanted to take that same zeal that I had to be the best as an athlete and turn it into a business. And so, it was very hard, you know? Because you’re going into an area and you’re learning on the job and you’re fearful, you know? And what you’ve been used to doing and loving to do all of your life now has changed. And it was a very unique time of mine to learn really what I was made of.
Joe: So, sort of bittersweet to go through that to have that power to open doors but to have that not really fulfill you in what you wanted that next phase of your life to be. But eventually you got there because you did implement the name Gold Medal Strategies with your own business and your books have been themed about the Olympics. So, how did you find peace with that to find that right balance?
Jim: Well, it’s kind of interesting. So, I was fortunate enough to be at a charity golf event. I helped them raise money for a cause, I think the cause was cancer at the time. And I met a guy who offered me a job in selling advertising space. And it was wonderful, it was a private company and these gentlemen took incredible interest in me and taught me quite a bit about business. And then all of a sudden their company was bought and it was bought by a different company. And this company had a policy that they didn’t hire people that didn’t have a college degree. And I had just gone to BU for three years and hadn’t graduated as of then. And so even though I was salesman of the year for that company, the policy for the company that bought the new company was that they didn’t hire people without a college degree. So, what I learned really early on is that there’s always going to be pitfalls, right? And one of the themes that we work on really hard in all of my motivational talks and executive-level trainings is you need to make your team every year. In athletics you go to a training camp no matter what sport it is and you have to make the team. And you have to keep developing and there’s no rite of passage because you have been there a certain period of time.
And matter of fact as an athlete the longer you’ve been there the less comfortable you are and the less likely that you’re going to be able to make the team. So, the thing that I learned interestingly enough was when that company wasn’t going to hire me is I’d call them up and say, “Hey, listen, I can’t wait to compete against you.” And the next day they hired me and I spent 20 years there being mentored. And I remember distinctly coming home to my wife Charlene and saying to her, “I can’t work for this company anymore.” And she didn’t understand why. I had great benefits, I had won every award there, I was making great money, insurance, car, everything. And I said, “Because they’re playing not to win, they’re playing not to lose. They’re preparing to compete, not win.” And I said, “I can’t do that.” And then I took on my own challenge and I said, “I’m going to start my own company.” She says, “What are you going to call it?” And I said, “Gold Medal Strategies.” So, the idea was obviously to have people understand the name and it has some correlation almost like needing a boat, right?
But the standard of a gold medal is the highest, it’s the hardest thing that you can do is to win a gold medal. You’re not competing against 14 cities or 30 cities, or even the United States, you’re competing against the world. So, Gold Medal Strategies to me was something that I would have to live up to. And so it evolved and it’s been incredibly helpful. And when I wrote my first book which is called Gold Medal Strategies: Business Lessons From America’s Miracle Team, it’s nine strategies that nine mentors of mine helped me with in my path and I wanted to share them with people. But more than anything I wanted to make sure that they understood that when we beat the Russians and went on to beat Finland for the gold medal, it wasn’t a miracle, it was hard work. And so I spent my life creating Gold Medal Strategies, and products, and services to help people, and at the highest level with the highest standards.
Joe: So, given that even just logistically one of the highest standards you can possibly achieve is a gold medal, and you did that pretty early on in your life, it makes sense that that sets the bar. And it makes sense that would make a company that’s playing not to lose not a good fit because of what you’ve been exposed to already. Is there an element of trying to get back to that level, that height, that you’re able to achieve in the Olympics? And how do you redefine what that success is when you’re running your own business to relate back to getting that feeling for yourself again?
Jim: Well, every time I work with a company I have them define what winning is. And they think it’s really easy, but it’s hard, it’s very, very hard. And sometimes you hear them tell their version of what winning is and it’s basically a mission statement, right? So, if I said to you, “Joe, what’s the most important thing in time management?” What would you tell me?
Jim: And I would say that you were wrong. And I would say the most important thing in time management is knowing how much time you have. We can’t do any strategy without knowing how much time you have. Every single decision you make and every strategy you do is based on time. And so I’ll start with a company and I’ll say, “Define winning for me.” And then I’ll say, “Well, how much time do I have?” Because how I would go about the training or the type of products that we put in the portfolio to help them would be based on how much time they had.
Joe: So, then what’s the next step after you do that with a company? How deep do you get with the consulting?
Jim: As a motivational speaker, or a sales trainer, or an executive coach, you can’t make people win. You can teach them how to win, you can let them know how much work there needs to be done, you can give them great business habits and work habits to do it, right? But before anything is done what you have to do is clearly define what winning is because if you don’t everybody else will. And so, when I use an example of our team, we had 26 of the best players our country had in the sport of ice hockey. Every one of them had been individually successful at the highest levels. So, individually they were very, very successful. We all came in there with the same goal, same dream. But our coach, who was brilliant, realized that wasn’t good enough because our goal was not to win the Olympics, it was to get to the National Hockey League. So, he had to take 26 individuals, get it down to 20, and then take these people who had individual dreams, which I think companies have defined winning individually.
Some people might have it as a life balance. Some might have it how much time they have off. Some might be successful how much money they make, but that’s not going to help the company win. And so, we develop what we call a shared dream. And then you have to set a timeframe. And Herb and our team, we had six months, he had a strategy. The strategy was very specific, he had very single goals. And so what I always tell people is that it’s really important, I call it meticulously recruiting people. And our movie we talk about — or Herb talks about — I’m not looking for the best players, I’m looking for the right players. And in the 10 years it took me to write We Win: Lessons on Life, Business and Building your own Miracle Team, I had to figure out what that meant. He wasn’t alive so I couldn’t ask him. And I did tons and tons of research until I figured it out. And you can only recruit people that you can coach. It doesn’t matter how talented they are. If you can’t coach them, then they’re not any good for your team.
Joe: And how you’re talking about solving those problems I see two distinct hurdles that are a little different in business then in sports I think you’re really on to something there with the timing because when you have an event that’s happening, the Olympics are coming and it sort of peaks and it’s over. Whereas in business it’s sort of eternal, it just goes on and on.
Jim: But I would argue with you because the Olympics happen every two years, just different people make the team.
Joe: Sure, but typically in a business environment, not that people don’t move in and out, but the norm is to go and work for five, 10, 15 years, less so now than in the past.
Jim: With the same company you mean, right?
Joe: With the same company, yeah.
Jim: Right, right.
Joe: And so, you know, you’re kind of defining two problems. With the Olympics you’re playing for your country even though I know there’s individual interest. But it’s a somewhat easier sell to say we’re playing for our country than it is to say we’re working for a company.
Jim: I don’t agree with you and I’ll tell you why, because it takes an incredible leader to get people to play for their country in their team and not for themselves. And it doesn’t matter if it’s your country, what you can get individually or how you can define winning for yourself is so individual like a siloed business.
Jim: It’s when you have a leader that can have people be part of something bigger than themselves that it’s interest. We do a thing called The Lake Placid Experience. We take big leaders from companies and they go for this experiential training. And when they get there the first thing we have them do is go to the rink in Lake Placid which is now Herb Brooks Arena. And what they’ve done is they took the seven countries that competed in the Olympic games and they have their locker rooms. And they take the name of the country. So, for example, it would be Sweden, or it would be Russia, or it would be West Germany, or Romania, and they list the coaches, and they list all the players, and all the trainers. Now, when I have people walk through all seven locker rooms I ask them a simple question: “What’s the difference between all those locker rooms?” And most people come back and they say well, one was bigger, one was smaller, one was close to the ice. And I say, “No, only one team wins.” Only one. Even though they take the very best from their country, the very best.
And so when you define what winning is it can’t be generic, right? I’m preparing for an executive level conference call for tomorrow and I said define winning for me for your team. And it’s so generic because it has no timeframe, it has no specifics, right? What sport does that makes me understand winning, it has a scoreboard. And if in hockey after sixty after 60-minutes if one team scores one more goal than you, then you lose. And so you really have to tighten up and you really have to define what winning is and you have to get people to commit to that.
Joe: That’s kind of what I was getting at is the challenge. Because, you know, in both business and in sports people are going to be individually motivated. All the things in sports you said they wanted to get to the NHL, and they are in fact almost individual businesses in of themselves as professional athletes. In business they’re looking for raises, and the perks, and the accolades. But even in business the mindset tends to be when you join a company is that you’re going to sort of stay, you know, you don’t think about when the end is, you just assume you’re going to grow and go there.
Jim: Because nobody defines it for you.
Jim: Right? So, I remember when I was younger — Joe, I don’t know how old you are — but when I first got into the consumer package industry everybody went to Proctor & Gamble. And the reason they did was not to stay at Proctor & Gamble, it was so that they could go run another company, right? And so what a lot of businesses do, you know, I have a daughter that works for me and a son and I say to my kids I say, “You know the difference between micro-managing and managing is?” And they’ll say, “Dad, tell me what the difference is.” I’ll say, “Micro-managing is when you have a person that only wants to teach you so you’re not quite as good as they are. Managing is going to make you uncomfortable so you’re better than they are and they continue to grow and they have a path for you. So, if I’m going into your business, the first thing I’m going to say, “Joe, how long are you going to work here? Who are you developing to take your place? How long are you going to give this person to do that?” Because at some point in time either that person is going to be the fit and you’re going to able to develop them or you’re going to be able to say no, that person is not going to be able to do this job and then you have to re-recruit.
Joe: Those parameters become the framework over which you lay the value, the why.
Jim: The why, exactly. In today’s young generation of millennials if you don’t explain to them the “why” they’re not going to stay. In all these companies they look out there now and the biggest cost is training, and hiring, and have somebody leave. And they’re scratching their heads saying, “Why are these millennials just taking off?” Because they don’t understand the why.
Joe: Do you think that’s a shift in values where some of the traditional values or frameworks that people use or have when they go to work disappeared? Or do you think that companies haven’t done a good job of providing a why that resonates with millennials?
Jim: Millennials are fearless, they’re absolutely fearless. You have to sit down and ask them what they want to do. You have to have them define winning for them, not for you. And then you have to adapt and realize, is that the hire for you. And what they want is a clear path on where they’re going and they want timeframes. And so, they want to know that I’m going to be coming here. So many times Joe when you are getting interviewed or a person is interviewing they’ll take the job, but they want yours. But nobody is explaining to them to get your job at this company you’re going to have to do A, B, C, D.
Joe: Do you see that then as a super-charged individualism akin to the team before Brooks got ahold of you when you had individual led the way? Do you see the millennial situation as a super charged version of that? Or slightly different?
Jim: I think there’s a fearlessness which is great. And what I mean by fearlessness is they’re not hoping to be successful, they’re expecting to be successful. I always tell people hope is not a strategy, right? And if you hope somebody stays with your company it’s because you already know that you’re not providing the development or the path to keep them. And not keeping them is okay. You can develop them and you can keep recruiting them. I just don’t think a lot of companies at the higher level have management teams that make their management teams better. I think they have individual goals that are separated and they’re judged by how that individual team that they are leading does financially. I think the big shift now has to be, how are you developing the people within the organization and when you hire them?
See, in sport, if the Tampa Bay Lightning had a draft pick in three years from after that person is drafted, if they aren’t where they should be at the NFL level, they move on, right? Because they didn’t hire them to become or draft them to stay in the American Hockey league. They’re looking at their roster and saying, “Oh, this defenseman he is this age and we’ve got to get another one. We got to get them developed by this age.” Right? It’s a natural strategy. I do a lot of work with the Patriots on winning and how to win and it changes all of the time.
Joe: Does CEO Herb Brooks of a company today, is he as effective leading a team of millennials as he was in 1980 leading a hockey team?
Jim: Yes, because he was ahead of his time. The biggest thing in the new book is I talk about the unintended consequences that all great leaders have to see before they become an issue. And I give plenty of examples of it. If you look at what a normal coach’s job was that Herb Brooks was doing, if he just did what every coach does as they understood their job description, we never would have won. It’s the unintended consequences that you realize by listening, learning, and leading. One of my biggest mentors was Jack Luther, chairman and CEO of Dunkin’ Donuts. And when he became chairman the first thing he did is he had all of his leadership team get together and they spent three days together. And if they didn’t fit his moral compass, he let them go because he realized in order to create the future he needed to drive change. And he wasn’t going to get the support of buy-in or commitment by a number of these people. And so his point of view was there’s two types of influences, positive and negative. And I can’t have any negative influences on my company, not in my leadership role.
Joe: So, it sounds like when you work with companies you have two distinct paths, one working with leadership and one working with sort of the general population of the company.
Jim: We have a whole thing and so we call it sustainability. How do you keep a message sustainable? And so we start out with a keynote and then we do — and you coined it — executive think tanks, and then we do a conference call series. And the conference call series is built down to within division to drive the overall sustainable message or culture that you want to have. But keynote is great, but it lasts for about an hour. So you create incentive programs and it’s all about developing. And so we just have different ways to keep score and to judge, right? So, do you watch hockey at all? Okay, goaltender, right? Most people say stop the puck, if you stop the puck you’re a good goaltender and if you don’t you’re not, right? But a goaltender needs to know all of the strengths and weaknesses of his players to make his own abilities better. So, if I said to you here’s how you rank a goalie, did he win or lose? And how many shots on goal did he have, right? I go into companies and say if this goalie is in a great position and a guy doesn’t shoot it, that’s really good. There’s no statistic on that but you should get one. And then I’ll do another one that says you know that goalie he stopped it, but he gave up a terrible rebound and that rebound stopped you from getting out of the zone and they scored a goal. So, you’ve got to look at things differently. So, our biggest thing at Gold Metal Strategies is we want to make people think differently. Now don’t confuse being busy with being productive.
Joe: And you mentioned sustainability, I know it’s slightly different context, but working with companies they’re always going to be more affected by you right when they finished experiencing you. So, over the years how have you learned to get your message and to get your energy that you inspire in people to stick after your team has left the building?
Jim: Well, first, every single company that hires us, we hire them. So, we know whether or not it’s the right fit or not. So, a lot of companies think that they’re just hiring us, but we’re really evaluating if we can do the job for them or is the leadership in a position to really have an effective message for that team. And then we would learn a lot about that business and so that when we go in there we’re customizing and crafting a message that has got platforms for them to build off for the whole year. And from that is development. And the development starts with a theme and it’s really important that you pick the right theme, right? And if there’s a lot of work to do it might be the path to the podium, right? It might be creating inside the winning locker room, right? There’s a bunch of things, but from that we’re most proud is that a company that hires me normally in the industry I’m in, you’re done in one, right? I have an 80% rehire rate and we go back in and we really understand what the strengths and weaknesses are and we cultivate a winning atmosphere.
Joe: So, the latest expression of that is the book We Win.
Joe: What’s your relationship with writing books?
Jim: Well, I first got approached in the first one by Dawn Jaeger who was a writer for Sports Illustrated and he wanted to have me do a book with him. And I said, “Well, I don’t want a book that just tells a story, I want a book that can help and that I can build and have a platform for Gold Medal Strategies. And so we wrote this book and we always target the demographics to help everybody, not just one. And we don’t want to say what’s – You know, Good to Great, right? You know the difference between good to great but does he tell you how to get there?
Joe: Well, no, it really explains archetypes.
Jim: Right, exactly. So, both of these books are designed to make you think and have you figure out how to get there with a lot of guidance. And over forty years I’ve learned so much from so many great mentors of mine and so many great companies that have hired me and I have a thirst for knowledge every single day, that’s why I was so interested in this podcast is because your questions are different, it’s enjoyable to have this type of conversation.
Joe: Thanks. And there’s actually a few other things along those lines that I’d love to dive into. One thing I’m always fascinated by is fame. You know you had obviously a massive peak, cover of Sports Illustrated, professional hockey player, what’s been your relationship with being known, being called a hero? I think I read in your Wikipedia page that Dave Grohl called you a hero from the Foo Fighters.
Joe: And then how that sort of aged over the years.
Jim: First off, everybody needs mentors. So, I had mentors or heroes. And so when you look at it that you’re not taking it and have it go to your head, but you’re looking at it as a tool on a vehicle for someone, it was fun, it’s a nice obligation, right? And I needed so many heroes and mentors in my life. And so we try and be thoughtful, humble, and respectful. And over the period of time it’s been something that I’ve learned that has become an asset more than it’s been a liability. You know, every day you realize that there was some reason you were put on this earth to do things, right? And you want to take advantage of those opportunities of being able to help people, that’s kind of the focus that I do.
Joe: And one of the strangest pieces would be people having familiarity with you that you’ve never seen before walking up and just introducing themselves knowing a lot about you. Does that ever get old? Or does it always remain strange when it happens?
Jim: You know there were so many times it’s humorous, and it’s thoughtful, and it’s a great honor. But I thought somebody said, “Didn’t you used to be Jim Craig?” And I would laugh and I would say I still am. And I know that one time I was in a hockey rink and I was watching my niece play and the parents came over and said, “Oh, Mr. Craig, my son and daughters watch Miracle all the time. And they would love if you could just say a word, come into the locker room.” And I said, “Sure, I’ll go.” So, they give an introduction and then they say, “And here’s the goalie, Jim Craig.” And a little kid will look at you and say, “No, it isn’t.” You know what I mean? And so, there is some real perspective that is kind of fun. But if you focus on the fact that everyday you’re trying to improve who you are and what you do. And I always tell people either you’re creating the future or you’re living in the past. So, the past is the Olympics and the gold medal and it’s a great chapter of my life, but I’ve done a lot more since then, and I will continue to do a lot more. And so, if somebody is thankful and has a good memory about an event that myself and my teammates and coaching staff and trainers did then that’s wonderful.
Joe: That’s very logical of you and you have a very healthy perspective on that. Are you able to understand the pull that people who don’t handle it as well or maybe try to take it too far versus reinventing themselves or versus being willing to move onto the next chapter? Do you understand why that happens to people? And have you sort of seen that in any of your peer group?
Jim: It’s dangerous, it’s so dangerous. You know, a lot of professional athletes play for the adulation. And they don’t balance what I call work/life balance. And the work/life balance is are you risking your health later on and are you being so individually selfish that your wife is going to have to take care of your kids, and your kids are not going to be able to see the father or the mother that they should have had? And their kids aren’t going to see that because you need to hear people cheer for you. You need to have people recognize you. So, there’s a real danger in that. I’m one of eight, you know, family has always been first and most important. So, I can see the ones before they even know that they’re going to have a problem.
Joe: It can lead to anger I would assume?
Jim: Well, it’s self-worth, right? If you have to tell somebody what you used to do, then you’re not creating the future, are you?
Joe: Very true.
Jim: Look how many times you’ve changed and the things you’ve done. And it just seems Joe that when I look at your bio, and I did, and all the stuff you have done is you have to have a sense of value in the things that you do. You have to have something that feels really good about the spirit of your soul and you continue to follow that, right?
Joe: Yeah, I had a parallel to you in that I traveled in my 20’s first in the states and then I spent five years backpacking around the world and didn’t start anything professional until my early 30’s. And so it seems like the same sort of thing when we talked about the running start earlier having to come so late to the game and having been in a position that’s completely different then a professional track and having to start later in the game and make up for lost time. But it definitely carried a lot of the values that drove me to travel and to explore that translated into my professional career too.
Jim: Yeah, but to me, and I never met you personally, the thing that makes you as good as you are at your job is you’re very comfortable in who you are.
Joe: Yeah, and I would say the same back to you. You’ve gone through some interesting things and you’ve handled them all with a pragmatism. The one thing I noticed when I was looking into prepping for this. How I made my living and paid for college was through selling sports collectables actually. So, and game-used equipment and that’s how I expressed myself entrepreneurially and when I was in my teens. And you went through the experience of considering and deciding to let go of the package of your jersey, and the mask, and the gold medal and what not. You know, I understood the logic behind it, with kids and you can’t split a gold medal and things like that. But was it sort of just a utility of moving this on now has greater utility to me or it’s the best utility, has the best use of this collection at the moment, and what were sort of the emotions that swirled around that central pragmatism?
Jim: Well, the thing that was really interesting, I had a lot of people come up and say, “Jimmy, do you need money?” Then I would laugh. And they said no, no, no, there was a different strategy behind it. And the strategy was in order to be able to insure anything it has to be appraised, and it has to be appraised by a high-level company. And so that’s what we wanted to do. Second priority was it was a non-working asset, so you had to consider that, right? And but the most important thing to me was it needed to be displayed by somebody who really cared as a collection. You didn’t want to fragment it. So, I was hoping that a buyer would have it to have the display where I couldn’t so it would continue. Because for as long as I’ve had the medal it’s either been in the Boston Sports Museum or the NHL Hockey Hall of Fame, and the jerseys as well because my teammates and I won, right? I know what I won. And I wanted to make sure everybody could recognize history from that, right?
So, we didn’t sell the gold medal, we didn’t sell the jersey, we didn’t sell the masks, we didn’t sell practically anything, but we did insure it now. And in Colorado Springs it’s going to have an incredible 90 million dollar museum which it’s going to go into. I just needed to know what the value was and make sure that it wasn’t given away and make sure that my kids, or my kid’s kids if they needed it had access to it. And so the memory and the fact on how we’re fortunate enough to do it, I hope that financially that we continue to work hard enough that the kids do the same thing that generation after generation will watch this stuff in the new museum, that’s my goal.
Joe: And that’s the pragmatism I speak to because when you say it’s a non-working asset that’s so very true. And you can still get the utility out of it because it still exists and it’s still displayed and tied to you, but it can be displayed bigger, better, and more usefully in this environment. And if there is the potential to bring the revenue in from it then that seems like a double layer of value.
Jim: Well, what you have here is they have this Sports Museum of America, it was in New York City, but it folded. It was such a great idea and I was a big part of that and I believe that. So, what we did was a moment in time, not just sports, but it was a moment in time that I hoped to be able to have that story shared. And I want my kids and their kids to know the part that I was of that. And so, to me, the collector portion of me said how could you ever sell that is absolutely right. I mean, how could you? But what can you do? How can you be pragmatic as you’ve said about that and protect your generation’s generations, right? And so I’ve tried to do it in the most fair equitable way for everyone.
Joe: And I guess I feel like there’s going to be some number of people who just say, “How could you sell it?” I could very easily understand how you could sell it.
Jim: Well, I haven’t sold it.
Joe: Well, I’m just saying theoretically.
Jim: Yeah, but you’re never going to win with that, that’s like politics. You know, we have a teaching seminar for executives that I started with the Patriots and it’s called There’s No Loyalty In Leadership, right? And it sounds harsh, but it’s truly not hard because being a leader is really difficult. It’s hard work. And your job isn’t to be liked by everybody, it’s to make sure that what’s best for that team or what’s best for that organization. And so as the leader in my household I make decisions that are best for my family, right? And not everybody is going to like it, people in my own family might not like them, but if you’re in that leadership role you’ve got to make some tough decisions sometimes. And if you’re worried in your life about being liked then you’re never going to be a great leader. It doesn’t mean you can’t be liked as a leader, it just means that it can’t cloud your judgement.
Joe: Right. And I think where I was going with the question is whether you overcome it or not or whether the people – Like you said, it’s not about pleasing people, but it is about them throwing a perspective at you with pressure. And that perspective then lets you reflect on your own thoughts around it. And then that’s where you sort of have this, I guess, the equivalent would be the Buddhist not be weighed down by possessions. I guess where I was going with that is, is there an element of weight to the possessions in this regard? And as you move them into a different environment, or whatever, was there any element of weight that exists for you there?
Jim: Well, what a lot of people don’t understand is what happens if somebody would want to break into my house and steal it and my wife was there? That’s terrible. What happens if somebody stole it? It can never be replaced. If you find a dinosaur bone, what do you do with it? You’ve got to have somebody who knows what they’re doing with it to preserve it, right? Preserving it, but then what are you going to do? Lock it in a safe and nobody sees it? The book, right? It’s called We Win. And so all the premise of what we do is winning is collective. And so this decision is based on what’s best for everybody.
Joe: Right. And so logistically the last I saw in the news was you did the thing with Lelands and the mask sold and a couple of the items sold. And then what sort of happened after that auction?
Jim: Well, basically items that I knew didn’t represent like incredible things. So, I have two masks, you know, so it wasn’t – The goalie pads somebody could really like them. And so as you know auctions they don’t want to have people that have reserves on them because they don’t think people will bid on it if there’s a reserve. So, we put what the market value was for them if someone wanted to go over them and then that would have been the risk. But it was always to sell as a collection. And so all I did is bring it back and now it’s going into the Colorado Springs 90 million dollar museum that will be seen internationally all around. So, we’re really happy. There wasn’t a place to put it Joe. There wasn’t a safe place. The hockey in Eveleth, Minnesota is not setup. It has no real funding. You couldn’t put anything in there and have it last. The NHL hockey hall of fame wants to keep it, you can’t have ownership. This is a loan, this is what this is.
Joe: Right. So, it sounds like you solved a couple of different pain points.
Joe: I do want to dig a little bit more into the book. You talked about how and why you were approached to write the first book, now there’s quite a bit of time has passed and you’re coming back again with We Win: Lessons on Life, Business, and Building Your Own Miracle Team. What happens for you after the book goes out? So, does this become a year of going around with the book and tying these new themes in? Or are you going back to previous clients with this sort of new insight?
Jim: Well, the first thing we wanted to do is we self-published because I wanted total control of the book. And so the only way anybody could get the book is going through my website Gold Medal Strategies. And then it’s a teaching tool that we use in our leadership programs, and think tanks, and things like that. And it’s also a sustainable gift for a lot of companies. So, when I come in it helps keep the message going when they read the book. They can read the book beforehand or off. We are doing an awful lot of reinventing ourselves, so we’re doing virtual book clubs. We have what we call Miracle Motivation where we’re taking conference call series from the book and helping them do it virtually. I’m doing virtual keynotes for people. And so, the book is what I call my legacy piece, it’s through my eyes. So, yeah, I don’t know if you’ve seen the front or back cover but Brian Fox who just won the artist of 2020 he designed that. And the back of the book it shows me in a goalie mask and you can only see my eyes. So, this story is through my eyes.
And it’s explaining in detail how I won individually to be successful in my life, but how we won as a team. And it really is set up to have people enjoy it, get stories they never knew, there’s pictures in there that nobody has seen. And so it’s really about – And at the end of it I have 13 principles for leadership. Those are all separate what I call think tanks that we go on and we build off. So, it’s a really fun book. I know people will learn a lot. I love quotes and so I use them and build off of them. And the way that I framed it is almost like in four pillars. It starts with dreaming and everybody has a dream. And then an architect, and in our case an architect of our dream was Herb Brooks and it’s really quite brilliant as I became more in tuned in business and life and older to be able to see what he did and appreciate it now and share it with the reader.
Joe: And are you ready to call it a legacy piece? Because just before that you were talking about how you were pivoting and reinventing the business. So, how are you processing that internally?
Jim: That’s a great question Joe. You know, one of my goals when I became a motivational speaker is I didn’t want to be hired because I was an Olympic gold medalist. I wanted to add value. So many times people are hired and they tell a story and people love it and an hour later they forget everything. And so my goal was to always have them have takeaways and something that is going to help them better their life either personally or professionally. And so, when I say this is a legacy piece, there’s no more to write about the team. There might be more to write about me and business, and what I see. And if I can develop a platform where people, you know, I feel like I have that to offer or value and they’re taking things that I have trained and learned and they feel that is valuable, then there might be something different. But it wouldn’t be based off any more Olympic stuff, it would be based off Gold Medal Strategies and what we do as a company and how we help motivate, inspire, and pull greatness out of people. I’m a believer, Joe that you can’t put greatness in people, but if you look hard enough, and if you listen hard enough, you can find it and inspire them to pull it out themselves.
Joe: So, given sort of the trajectory of our conversation talking about not getting a running start at the beginning and sort of the energy that you have in how you said that if there’s another book, or if there’s more to come that it won’t be – It’s almost as if you’re putting a full stop on the Olympic aspect of it. So, my favorite author is Hunter S. Thompson. And he had a persona, and his happened to be just random, but to some extent he got defined by it. And he’s in Colorado too, kind of out in the same area as where the collection is going. But it became a thing that people just wouldn’t let him be just something different then that after a time. And for you, I think it’s unavoidable to go anywhere or have any interview to have really any sustained engagement unless they just simply don’t know your past without them talking about the 1980 Olympics. And so, to some extent is it fair to say that has been a limiting factor?
Jim: No, because I get to reinvent myself all the time, you know? I got an email today from a guy that I haven’t seen or talked to in about 10 years. And we had sent out stuff on Miracle Motivation. And Howard had sent me this thing on how I changed his life. You know, he wanted to meet me because I was an Olympic gold medalist and that’s why he went to this thing. But the time that I took with him and helped him was nothing to do with a gold medal. And so, am I going to get the opportunity? Yes. And so what I always tell people — and maybe you can agree or to disagree — I’ll tell my kids what do you want? Equality or fairness? Joe, if I asked you that question, what do you want? Equality or fairness?
Joe: I would say fairness.
Jim: Yeah, because equality is impossible. And so what you do when you have that concept there, you don’t get jealous of somebody’s opportunity because he or she has got a contact because a guy they’re going to loves golf and he or she is a great golfer, it just happens to be a tool, it’s a great opportunity, right? And so for me the tool that I have is people are interested in the 1980 or people are interested in a gold medalist, right? That’s great, because that got me in. But now it’s my job to do my job at the highest level, that’s why it’s called Gold Medal Strategies.
Joe: I think that goes back to your pragmatism because you can be at peace with that always being an element, a flavor, or a factor in everything that you do and then be able to take that and then skip over and then use it as a jumping off point into the real you or what you’re really into in there and you can perform and do your thing. I think that’s again we’re having that cleanliness of pragmatic perspective get you there when a lot of other people would get tired. It’s like you hear singers, James Taylor will say he never wants to sing Fire and Rain again, right?
Joe: It’s just because at this point if you go to a James Taylor concert and he decides not to play it that night, you might actually leave a James Taylor concert angry, or some people would, because he didn’t play the one song. And to some extent that can be a trap, right? He can’t go out and be a different artist. When people go to see James Taylor they expect to hear Fire and Rain. And it’s one of those things in life that nominee people have happen to them and the initial first is it’s a great achievement and you get to ride it and enjoy it for a long time, but it’s not 100% positive.
Jim: It’s interesting, right. So, some people might say, well yeah, Jim Craig he’s a good speaker, but the Olympics was 40 years ago. Well, so what? You know what I mean? Why would you be hiring me? What is your criteria? What can I do? How are you comparing me to someone else that you could be hiring, right? And so, to me, you have to add value. And as soon as you lose interest then you probably lose your audience. And so for me I love doing what I’m doing because I get to learn from really, really smart people how to add more value. I get smarter as I get older which is always a good thing, right?
Joe: Yeah, that’s probably the key difference is you’ve got something going underneath and a lot of people may just show up, give the talk, collect the check, and move on with their life and maybe that’s where they run into trouble. Whereas you’ve got a bigger reason to be there and a bigger thing going on.
Jim: Yeah, well I would be pretty bored if I did that. And I’m challenged everyday by the people who work with me. They challenge me all the time. When this pandemic came about, we didn’t miss a beat. We just figured out a way to win.
Joe: I would like to spend a couple of minutes talking about Miracle. And I saw the movie that Disney did about the win. And it’s funny you often tell I see stories where the kids that watch don’t believe it really happened and it was quite cute. So, how were you initially approached about the movie? And then what was your kind of involvement with it? And what was the experience like for you?
Jim: Well, the Miracle movie is a second movie done. So, you know, there was one that was really early on and then there was a great documentary. And so when Disney came up and wanted to do this movie, five of us on the team were given the role as movie consultants. And so that was very interesting. And so for me what was really interesting was the business side, right? I always loved to learn about the business side. I learned that a movie is done in two hours or it misses a show at a theater, every theater around the country. And so you have to make this thing in two hours from a money standpoint. But when they came up to us it was because the people that were going to do the movie were so inspired by it when they were kids our game affected them in such a way that they wanted to give us tribute. They wanted a movie that would be a legacy piece for different generations to enjoy. And they really felt as though that they could do a good job with the actual portraying of the hockey aspect of it and kind of tell a story that would be directionally very accurate and something that people would want to see even though they knew the answer, you know, they knew the outcome. So, it was incredibly enjoyable for me for multiple reasons. Not because it was a movie named after our team or it was by teammates, but it gave my kids a chance to know a little bit more about what their father had done, they were a little bit older. And now it has given my kid’s kids, and grandchildren, and nieces and nephews. And so, it is generational. And when I go speak, you’ve got these kids that weren’t even born 40 years ago that know everything about it because of the piece that Disney did.
Joe: That’s great. And were able to spend much time on set?
Jim: Yes, we had a lot of fun on set. I became very good friends with the gentleman, Eddie Cahill who played me. And it was great, I was really proud of the work that he did. You know, I thought Kurt Russell was absolutely fabulous as Herb Brooks. And they did an incredible job within a two hour time frame to explain something that could have been eight hours long.
Joe: And at the end of the game, and this the artwork on the new book as well with the flag draped over your shoulders, that flag actually had an interesting history. And I’m assuming you’re familiar with all of this. The flag maker brought it and handed it out to ask the players to wear it, and they did, and actually gave it back to him and then he brought it to the next game and repeated the process. And I think eventually he took the flag home with him, but then sought you out to give it to you. What is sort of your memory of the life and times of that flag that you first wore at the game?
Jim: Well, what’s great about it is the patriotism, right? In today’s sport, in today’s Olympic, it’s so commercialized that you have agents that are telling you where the camera is, they’re telling you to put a flag on you. 40 years ago the spirit in Lake Placid developed over a period of time, a country, the world fell in love with our team. And people went up in their attics and they found flags and they brought it in. They weren’t bought. So, when you see flags that are at Lake Placid – In the book I figured out how that chant “USA, USA” came from and it came from two firefighters that were working the game in our very first game in Sweden. And we were losing and so they started saying, “USA! USA!” And so now you hear that every time something patriotic happens. So, here you have this gentleman who has the flag, he drapes it on me. I grew up in an era where you respected the flag, you did the pledge of allegiance, you didn’t ever let it hit the ground.
And so here I am just involved in my own thanking of my father remembering my mother, and I’ve got this flag on me. Well, at the end I had a flag in my bag that I thought was the flag forever. And I traded that flag with Pelly Limberg who played with the Flyers and he gave me his jersey which I gave back to him after he died and he gave me the flag back. Or he had what he thought was the flag that was draped on me, it wasn’t. And the guy who put the flag on me, he did take it home, he had it. And he forever was trying to get through to my agent saying, “Hey, I got that flag.” And I’m thinking no, he doesn’t, I have the flag right here. And then he gave it to me at a ceremony I think it was in Syracuse. I was in Syracuse with my son and it was the real flag that was draped on me. So, that flag has a great story of how it got to me and how he wanted it to get to me.
Joe: That’s great. So, what’s next?
Jim: Next is my call tomorrow, preparation for a team I’m trying to make better and then just enjoying the day trying to stay safe. And when everything gets okay to see our little granddaughter and continue working and having fun.
Joe: That’s great. I enjoyed the conversation. I appreciate you sharing so much of your story and your insight with us.
Jim: Great questions because honestly your viewing base is going to be completely different. They’re going to listen because you have valuable content. And so my objective today was to provide you with content that your listeners would enjoy.
Joe: I think once again you won.
Jim: [Chuckle] Well, hopefully you’ll have a good following on this and I get to meet you someday real soon.
Joe: I hope so, thank you.
Jim: You bet. Have a great day.
Transcription ends [00:58:39]
1 Reviews on this article
About the host
Joe Hamilton is publisher of the St. Pete Catalyst, co-founder of The St. Petersburg Group, a partner at SeedFunders, fund director at the Catalyst Fund and host of St. Pete X.