Jim Craig is the kind of guy that you instantly like. He’s gregarious, affable, and his smile makes you feel at-ease. When you find out he’s a motivational speaker, you’re not surprised. In fact, you’ll want to spend hours listening to his inspiring stories about sports, business, and life.
In addition to motivating people with his words, Craig has motivated a generation of Olympic fans with his hockey skills. The former goaltender helped the U.S. Olympic hockey team win the Olympic gold medal at the 1980 Winter Games.
In the semifinals against the heavily favored Soviet Union, Craig stopped 36 of 39 shots on goal as the U.S. team beat their rivals, 4-3, in what is widely considered one of the greatest upsets in sports history. The U.S. Hockey team went on to defeat Finland, 4-2, in the gold medal game.
After the Olympics, Craig played professionally for the Atlanta Flames, Boston Bruins, and Minnesota North Stars before retiring in 1984. Now Craig mentors a new generation of Olympic hopefuls as part of Team Kellogg’s.
Although Craig is proud of his accomplishments on ice, he is most proud of being a husband and a father. I spent some time with the Olympic gold-medalist and we talked about hockey, fatherhood, and the power of dreams.
Mocha Dad: People say that what you did at Lake Placid was a miracle. Do you believe that?
Jim Craig: What we did was not a miracle. It was a combination of a lot of hard work and determination. People always overlook that part of it.
MD: No one gave the U.S, team a chance against the Russians. How did being an underdog motivate your team?
Craig: The odds were stacked against us and we could have been victims or victors. We chose to be victors. Our passion drove us to excel. We knew we could win if we worked as a team. Our victory was sweet because we did it collectively.
MD: You now have a career as a motivational speaker. How do you motivate your audiences to be successful?
Craig: I tell them that dreaming is a big part of success. Dreams give you hope, but you have to put in the work. Keep pressing until you make those dreams come true. Don’t ever let your memories be bigger than your dreams.
MD: What did you dream about?
Craig: I dreamt about going to college, playing hockey, being drafted into the NHL, and winning a gold medal. These dreams kept me focused on achieving my goals.
Craig: As a mentor, you have the opportunity to share your experiences and help others to succeed. These young athletes are energetic, motivated, and quite talented. Being around them keeps me young. I encourage them to work hard, prepare, and win with integrity. I also tell them to slow down and enjoy life.
MD: Did you have mentors?
Craig: I had mentors at every stage of my life. They were always there at the right time to help me when I needed it the most.
MD: Let’s switch the conversation to fatherhood. How did you prepare to be a dad?
Craig: You can’t really prepare to be a dad, but I came from a big family and I think that helped. My father was also a huge influence. I learned a lot by observing him. I still live by one piece of advice he gave me – “If you make a commitment, always live up to it.” This advice has helped me to be successful in parenting, business, and sports. I’ve passed that message down to my own kids.
MD: What lessons have you learned about fatherhood over the years?
Craig: You can’t have a business plan for your kids. Things don’t always work out as planned. You have to make adjustments and make the right choices at the right times. You also have to be a life-long learner. Fatherhood takes effort. It’s easy to be your child’s best friend. It’s much hard to be their father.
MD: How did you balance your family life with your playing career?
Craig: I learned that you can’t be great at everything. You have to be average at many things in order to keep your life in balance. I always tried to put my family first. As much as I loved hockey, I loved being a father even more. I was there for them because I didn’t want someone else raising my kids.
MD: Did you encourage your kids to play hockey?
Craig: I didn’t force my kids to play hockey. Instead, I let them to try many things to see what they liked. They had to find their own passion. I never tried to create it for them. Most of all, I gave my children permission to fail and I was always there to support and encourage them.
MD: What advice do you have for new dads or men who are considering being dads?
Craig: Fatherhood is a miracle. It’s the continuation of a legacy and the most important job of a lifetime. Take it seriously.
You can help Jim Craig to feed a child by sending this tweet: I helped U.S. Olympian Jim Craig share breakfast with kids in need #GreatStartsJim http://www.kelloggs.com/en_US/teamusa.html#craig
Disclosure: I’m a paid member of the #KChamps team