Messages from Ausland

Play Like a Champion Today

The past month couple months, I have grieved the passing, and celebrated the life, of my Grandfather, Clement “Chelly” Chelminiak, who lived to be 96-years old. He lived in the house he built for his family in 1948, right up until his passing. Naturally, his home is packed-full of cherished family mementos and memories.

As all families do after the death of a loved one, we made our lists of his belongings we wished to bring into our own homes. At the top of my list was the “Play Like a Champion Today” sign. You’re probably thinking, “What would Kelsy want with a cheesy decades-old football sign?” I want the sign because it stands for the way my grandfather lived and inspired those around him. Winning is not an accident, nor is it luck. Nor is it something that just a few of us are blessed with. The potential to be a champion exists in each and every one of us. But it’s a daily commitment to certain behaviors and disciplines that make us champions.

Below are the daily habits of champions that I learned from my Grandfather:

Champions aren’t afraid to leave their comfort zone.
My grandfather was raised in a polish family in South Bend, Indiana where he worked in a soda fountain through the Great Depression. He gave up it all and took a bus to the West Coast for a chance to pursue his dream of designing airplanes, as his way of serving the country during WWII. Boeing took a leap of faith on this bright young-man, who had lofty goals to become an aeronautical engineer. Over the course of 42-years, he became a self-trained champion of aircraft engineering. Up to his death, we could talk planes and hydraulics engineering, and he would glow with excitement as he recited calculations out-loud for the hydraulics of the landing gear for the Boeing 747. These accomplishments began with his willingness to jump outside his comfort zone on a leap of faith.

When we are willing to step outside our comfort zone, success gets easier. When your co-workers are willing to do the same, the workload from a tough week suddenly lifts off the shoulders of one, and into the confident hands of many. When we act and think as a team, our potential is limitless.

Champions see the good in their teammates.
Winning is contagious. Not because a winner’s luck rubs off on the rest of us, but because winners encourage those around them to rise to a greater level of play. As children, my Grandpa choose to take my sister and I on trips to meet retired Boeing Engineers and to the Museum of Flight. He taught us to play Cribbage as young children, so we could grow confident with math. It’s not a coincidence that my Mom is a mathematician, my sister and I are engineers, and our cousin just got accepted into Gonzaga University to study mechanical engineering.

Champions are most proud when they inspire their team members (or loved ones) to succeed. (Yes, success looks different in every family, we are one of math geeks). The most successful people I’ve met are humble, and work to bring out the best in everyone around them.

Champions Make Goals and Have a Plan.
Winning requires setting clear goals and creating a plan to reach those goals. My grandfather’s version of this was a remarkable calendar tracking system of tasks. Even at 96-years old, he maintained a discipline to these daily organizational habits. Write your goals somewhere you can’t miss them. Share them with your team. Commit to hitting those milestones, and you’ll be amazed how winning suddenly seems easy.

Champions Make Choices.
Mediocrity is a choice. Excellence is a choice. Champions make a daily choice to seek excellence in every part of their lives – business and personal. Whether it’s running a project, playing an instrument, or listening to a friend in need – you have a choice to do your best.

Do you think you lack the time for excellence? Or do things keep getting in your way? Champions wake up each day anticipating that they will face adversity and prepare to overcome those hurdles. When snow or ice hindered car travel in Seattle, my Grandpa would put on his golf cleats to walk outside! Champions are tenacious, and while they sometimes stumble, they are not defeated by the challenges life throws us.

Champions Work Through the Pain Until They Hit Their Stride.
If you’re an athlete, you know there is nothing quite like pushing through the pain and getting a “runner’s high.” It’s that point where you’ve pushed through the pain of the initial run, and your legs just beg you to continue forward. You’ve hit your stride and it feels amazing.

My grandfather went through many trials to become an engineer, but at some point during his career at Boeing, he hit his stride. So much so, that after retiring, he continued his passion by working on church building projects. The priest from his church came by the hospital during his final days to give the sacrament of “last rights”. Instead of immediately accepting the prayers, Grandpa first made sure he had a conversation with the priest about the upcoming construction projects, so they were in order before his death.

This is what people do when they hit their stride – they never quit! But we all hit stretches where work or life is simply tough. Sometimes even painful. We will have personal conflicts with friends or loved ones, experience grief, or have challenges with our workload. As Champions, we push through the pain because we know how amazing it will feel when we hit our stride and emerge on the other side winning at a level we didn’t even imagine possible.

Play Like a Champion Today.
Now you understand the inspiration behind the “Play Like a Champion Today” sign hung in my office. It’s the same sign that is placed in the tunnel to the football field at Notre Dame, a tradition started by famous coach Lou Holtz. Before every game, the football players hit this sign as they run through the tunnel onto the field, as a symbol of their commitment to a championship mentality.

Regardless of the win-loss record, regardless of the problems you have, when you walk out on that field you have an obligation to your teammates and the fans to play to the best of your ability – to play like a champion and to think like a champion.”  Holtz says.

Greatness exists within all of you. Don’t be intimidated by it. Embrace the habits and disciplines of winners. Play Like a Champion Today.


    • Champions aren’t afraid to leave their comfort zone.
    • Champions see the good in their teammates.
    • Champions Make Goals and Have a Plan.
    • Champions Make Choices.
    • Champions Work Through the Pain Until They Hit Their Stride.
    • Play Like a Champion Today.

    Ausland Group | May 19, 2017

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