Eagles and Ducks – A Lesson Learned from Pat Riley

Pat Riley and Me

When I was in elementary school, I was a huge Laker fan…like every other kid from Los Angeles in the 1980s.  Back then, I had a paper route.  Every day I would fold newspapers put them in special bags that fit around the handlebars of my bike, and I would deliver papers.  I aimed to save enough money to attend the Pat Riley Basketball Camp.  I was pleasantly surprised on my birthday when my parents agreed to send me to the camp. 

This camp was special because of Pat Riley.  He made sure that he spent time with every child there.  He stayed at the camp every moment we were there and never seemed even to take a break.  I remember one of the talks that he gave was about Eagles and Ducks.  

He said that to be successful in life and make the world a better place, focus on doing the best you can, always.  Build good habits.  The world is full of people who have gotten used to doing just what is required for their jobs and no more.  He calls these people ducks.  

He gave an example of a supermarket checkout line.  There could be two checkout lines of similar length. Still, one line can move much faster and include a much more pleasant checkout experience because the people working in that line have made the commitment to work hard, work quickly, and have a positive attitude.  He called the people working in this line eagles.  He said he always looks for the checkout line that has eagles.

He encouraged us to always strive to be eagles and to try our best to surround ourselves with eagles.  This is not the path of least resistance, but it is the path that builds success. 

I remember him explaining that we didn’t have to become great basketball stars to be successful.  Sometimes success comes from the satisfaction gained from a job done well. 

Sometimes I think of this speech, examine my life, and ask myself if I am doing all I can to be an eagle.  I encourage my students and my children to strive to reach their potential with a positive attitude.  No eagle can fly all the time; sometimes, they may take time to rest, but when the time comes to get work done, they soar above the rest. 

Today I am renewing my commitment at that camp so many years ago to strive to be an eagle. 


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