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We Rise by Lifting Others with Michael “Pinball” Clemons

Joining us for our first Virtual Speaker Series session of 2021, Canadian Sports Hall-of-Famer and community leader Michael “Pinball” Clemons helped start this year on a positive note with a powerful presentation about finding success and motivation by connecting with others. Sharing personal anecdotes along with illuminating parables, the Toronto Argonauts General Manager provided insight into how he’s managed to be a great leader, team player, and pillar of his community all at once.

Clemons’ refrain throughout his presentation was the phrase “we rise by lifting others.” That simple maxim to the three key areas of life: At the workplace, among family and friends, and our communities. He shared that throughout his stellar career and tireless non-profit work, the most important thing was not a thing at all but the other people that surround us. Clemons was eager to remind us that no matter if we’re self-employed, or if we currently live alone, or feel isolated during the pandemic, the truth is that we need other people to succeed in this world and that we all support one another. He said that this connection with others should be something we fall back on and keep in mind, always. “It’s hard to feel sorry for yourself when you’re helping someone else,” Clemons said.

Build Bridges, Not Fences

Among the first of the ideas that Clemons presented, was the straightforward yet powerful idea of building bridges in life, not fences. He explained how this approach is effective, whether dealing with intense workloads or trying to tackle challenging subjects among our community. We should try to form connections with others, even if they’re unlike us or we disagree in some ways. We should try to work together with our peers, even if think we’re capable of handling everything asked of us. Clemons said it’s important to be wary of thinking “you’re the best at everything” – that’s an easy route to overworking ourselves and becoming isolated among our coworkers. Make room for trust and invite others to give support or offer input. “Good leaders should surround themselves with excellence,” Clemons said, adding to be aware of being the “smartest person in the room.” Isolating ourselves or creating comfortable silos prevent us from achieving our best.

I Play This Game for You

Building on this message of openness and cooperation, Clemons spoke on how we illustrate our beliefs and support for others through our actions. Coming from his sports background, he offered several clear examples of how to work effectively as a team and also to build morale.

“If a team is one, the you are me and I am you. Anything I say about you, I’m saying about me. Anything I do to you, I do to myself,” Clemons said.

He went on to emphasize that now is a time when we should be even less concerned about “overcommunication” with our friends, family, and peers. Check in with folks that are important to you and reach out to friends who you haven’t spoken to in awhile. No one in our lives should have any doubt that we care about them, support them, and are there for them if need be.

“Neutral is negative. Neutral is apathy. It can even be worse than a negative position sometimes,” Clemons said, applying it to this point about engaging with people positively but also about how that positivity is important in all aspects of life.

Give People the Space to Get Things Wrong

The third major idea Clemons touched on is one of the most complex: forgiveness. He said it’s so important to remember that all people make mistakes, including ourselves, so being willing to forgive ties back into treating others how we should treat ourselves. “We are not what happens to us, but how we respond to these things,” Clemons said, further explaining how accidents or mistakes can happen, difficulties arise in life, and yet these things are all outside of our control. We can only control our own behaviour. This applies to our personal and professional lives alike, and especially at the community level as we try to support one another during challenging times.

During the Q&A portion near the end of the presentation, one of the audience members asked if Clemons could explain why forgiveness matters so much to him. He responded:

“I do it because I need it myself. I’m not perfect. I forgive because I need forgiveness. That doesn’t mean we have to rush the process, it can take time. But forgiveness is a tremendous opportunity.”

Finally, as the presentation drew to a close Clemons offered a “personal challenge” to the audience that anyone can take on:

“If the whole world were about to watch a movie of your life tonight, would you be proud of what the world was about to see? No edits allowed. That would be pretty hard, wouldn’t it?

How about just for today? We should try to live our lives from day to day so that the world would be proud of what’ve done. Think about that, starting now.”

Few people exemplify the qualities of personal excellence, teamwork, community leadership, and overcoming the odds better than CFL legend Michael “Pinball” Clemons. With boundless energy, Clemon’s talks centre on the potential for each of us to achieve anything we set our minds to. Unabashedly emotional and impactful, he shows audiences how to put heart into everything they do.

Speakers’ Spotlight has been offering virtual presentations since 2009. We work with a range of speakers who are comfortable with presenting virtually on a variety of topics. If interested, contact us for more information.