Tastes Like Chicken


“Armadillo: Tastes Like Chicken” read my t-shirt. That T-shirt that along with a terribly wrinkled skirt was what I was wearing to give a speech at the USA Gymnastics Business Conference.

No, ordinarily I neither wear t-shirts to give presentations nor the clothing in which I travelled. But a series of travel delays, including spending the night in another city because of missed connection and arriving just a few hours prior to speaking, resulted in my unorthodox outfit choice. Because, of course, no travel hassle would be complete without this detail: my luggage did not make it with me.

So there I stood in front of 750 of my gymnastics colleagues gathered across the country in a t-shirt with a armadillo that I had hastily grabbed at the Dallas hotel airport at which I slept the evening before. At least, I consoled myself, it would make a good story.

As I stood off to the side of the stage getting ready to begin my presentation, I was able to see into the audience.   And there in the front row sat one of my greatest mentors, a woman with over three decades of experience in the industry of teaching gymnastics.

Now you need to understand, Patti Komara is a rock star in the gymnastics industry, both for her teaching skills and her business acumen.   Patti is also a dear friend who had already heard the whole travel debacle and seen the Armadillo shirt, so going out to give a presentation in front of her, while still intimidating, wasn’t going to be embarrassing with respect to my attire.

One bullet dodged.

Being able to teach Patti something? Sharing information that would be of use to someone who is so successful in her field? Now that would be a bigger challenge.

I felt like a junior stock analyst getting up to give Warren Buffett investing advice.

As I mulled over my situation, quickly rehearsing the major ideas of my presentation, hoping that there was value in what I had to say and wishing I wasn’t wearing this ridiculous outfit, I noticed that Patti was furiously scribbling notes onto a legal pad trying to capture every new idea that each of the speakers was discussing.

I watched in both awe and amusement at this feisty lady whose experience totals almost as many years as does my life just absorb everything anyone had to teach her.   Notes, I am pleased, if not smug, to admit that continued through my remarks as well.

Maybe she was just making her to do list? Capturing her ideas for her next great product idea? But, no.

You see, this zeal continued throughout the rest of the weekend. Patti asking questions on how to improve her programs, offer more to her employees, grow herself as a business person, balance her work and her family life, adapt cutting edge technology and embracing new ideas.

Here she is, a veritable idol of the industry, and Patti approached the conference like a brand new club owner: eager to learn every last thing she could possibly learn from everyone around her.

Armadillo might taste like chicken, but success tastes like constant learning.

As I observed even more, I noticed that most of the highly successful club owners were not only presenting but also attending and participating as students in a wide variety of seminars and clinics.   Everywhere I looked. The best just kept working to get better.

It is an inspiration and a privilege to work shoulder to shoulder with such an amazing group of caring professionals who take time out of their busy summers to convene to teach, challenge, discuss and engage one another to make our gymnastics clubs the best that they can be for our staffs, parents, athletes and communities.

I love what I do professionally.   And having peers who I admire, adore and inspire me to be better each day tastes like the cherry on top of an already generous sundae.

Plus, I got a pretty cool T-shirt out of the deal.