Just came back from the Vision 2007 marketing conference at the Hyatt, and finished seeing a great keynote speaker, Kevin Carroll of Katalyst Consultancy. The youngest looking 48 year old I’ve ever seen, Kevin shared his story about how a little red ball in the middle of an empty Philadelphia playground changed his life forever. He was abandoned by his mother at six, hadn’t seen his father since he was three, and was raised along with his two brothers by his grandparents. He was doomed for a life of little hope and despair, until he found that little red ball. He took his pain out on that little red ball in the wee hours of the morning after being picked up by his grandparents from the bus station shortly after his mother left him. He kicked that ball hard in the air, and chased it. It felt good. He kicked it again, and chased it faster. Then again. Soon, for a moment he forgot his troubles. As the hours passed, the other children began to show up to the playground. They saw what he was doing, and asked him to play with them. They affectionately called him, “The little fast kid” and he would soon after find a sense of belonging and community for the first time in his young life. He made a decision that day that somehow, some way, he would devote his life to sports and play. And so he did. His achievements are notable – chief athletic director for the Philadelphia 76ers NBA team, Catalyst (he was asked to define his own role and title) for Nike, creator of the D.R.E.A.M. clear, little plastic wristband, that evolved in to the LiveStrong™ yellow and breast-cancer-awareness pink versions, and now highly regarded author of “ Rules of the Red Rubber Ball”. He had some funny stories, one where he was asked by the 76ers coach to talk trash in Serbian to all-star Vlade Divac during a game where their team was getting blitzed by him (Kevin speaks many languages). It worked… it threw Vlade off his game and he went seeking the guy who was cursing him in his language. After meeting up with Kevin, and being impressed with his language skills, he asked him to join the Yugoslavian team to help translate.
Kevin’s story is one of inspiration and boundless pursuit of excellence and tapping in to the genius within. I’m looking forward to reading his book.