My eyes lift from the computer screen to see Jean walking to the counter to order a coffee. As he sees me, he motions that he’ll be right over.

He noticed me, insecure-me whispers.
Of course he noticed you, confident-me screams.

Jean is an NHL referee.
He moved away 20 years ago to pursue a new dream when his hockey dreams faded.

As he comes over to say hi, I don’t know what to say.
He is on the ice at the same time as all the great hockey players in the world.

“I have to tell you that I brag to my son that I know you.”

“Haha, I’m still the same guy.”

“Tell me something, what’s the secret to your success?”

“Oh, I had a lot of people helping me, coaching me, and pushing me to be better.”

“That’s the bullshit answer you give the media. Tell me the real reason.”

“Opportunity presented itself, and I went after it.”

“You’re working with the greatest household names in hockey. Do you ever pinch yourself that you’re in a dream?”

“At first, maybe. But I’m not in awe of anyone out there, not even the superstars.”

“How do you do it?”

“It’s all mental. We have psychologists we work with to keep our minds sharp. I go out every day to be the best I can be. I can’t worry about anyone else. There’s one guy who makes $8 million dollars a year. He’s the biggest jerk in the league. He likes to mouth off, looking for a reaction from me.”

“So what do you do?”

“I smile and tell him that a guy making that much money should be happier and quieter.”

“Haha. Do you love what you’re doing?”

“I do. But it’s a job. In the beginning, I had to pinch myself to realize that I had made it. Now, it’s routine, flying and working. Last year, I flew 160 times all over North America. I live in airports and hotels. It’s not ideal, but I know I’m really lucky to be where I am.”

“Any regrets?”

“I wish I could live here and still do my job. But opportunity is elsewhere, and I have to go where it is.”

“That’s great advice. Go where the opportunity is. My son wants to play professional baseball. I’ve told him that nothing is free. He has to work hard. If he was your son, what would you say to him?”

“Never give up. Work hard, but always understand there are 1500 people who compete daily for the same job that he wants. 10% are superstars with above-average skills. The other 90% have the same skill. The difference between those who make it and those who don’t is what’s between their ears.”


“More than attitude. Respect.”


“Respect for self, for the team, for the coach, for the league, and ultimately for the game. The person who respects the five levels and has comparable skills is the guy who becomes a professional athlete.”

“That’s great advice. Thanks for stopping to say hi.”

“No problem. I’ve got a tee time in 15 minutes. I gotta go.”

“See you on tv on Saturday nights.”

As I saw him jump in his car, I believe the lessons Jean shared are the same for any business owner.

Be true to yourself.
Get help from others.
Go to where the opportunity is.
Don’t be in awe of your competitors.
Count your blessings.
Never give up.
Work hard.
Respect yourself, your team, your customers, your community, and your competition.

Most owners aren’t “superstars.” But they have a hidden superpower.
Discover your superpower and share it with the world while remembering the lessons from my friend Jean Hebert, a pro athlete and NHL referee.

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