Two Writing Lessons from the Time Stan Mikita Acknowledged Me in a Crowd

Two writing lessons I learned the time Stan Mikita pointed to me in a crowd of one million people at the 2010 Stanley Cup parade

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Stan Mikita acknowledged me in a crowd once. I was standing in the middle of a million people at the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup parade in 2010 (and writing lessons were the last thing on my mind). I remember the NHL hall of famer and native of Slovakia was on a double-decker bus with other players, waving to the crowd. To get his attention, I held up my team Slovakia hockey sweater. He saw it and gave me a nod and a point.

Photo of Martin Ceisel holding up his Slovak hockey sweater ad the 2010 Stanley Cup parade in Chicago.
That’s me on the right.

It was a moment I’ll never forget, one that taught me a couple of important writing lessons:

A single moment of recognition can be so uplifting

It only took Mikita a second to point to me; but he created a lasting memory. This was a hockey legend from my mother’s birthplace. The Slovak hero my grandma would tell stories about. A man who, after years playing and living in the U.S., spoke a slightly broken form of the Slovak language, just like me.

It was an honor!

And it’s a reminder that in life and business, one will never quite know the importance that their words or actions might have on someone. Sometimes, a simple word of encouragement can go a long way.

To stand out in a crowd, find common ground

Obviously, I’d never met Mikita. No history there. But we shared an invisible connection. For one thing, any Slovak would instantly recognize the symbol on that hockey sweater that I held up for him to see. And few, if any, people at the parade were wearing that sweater (none that I saw). So when I saw Mikita coming down the line, I instantly recognized the chance I had to salute one of my heroes.

I think finding common ground stands out to some people because finding common ground is so … uncommon. Everyone is so busy telling their own stories, or striving to carve out their own identities, as a means of differentiation. But it’s often common ground that sparks that first connection.

From there, who knows?

In all, this was a special day for me that taught me some valuable writing lessons—hell, valuable life lessons. Rest in peace to a true legend and a personal hero.

You’ll find a photo of me from that day attached to this post. Just a kid! Check it out, and if you ever had an impromptu chance to meet a personal hero, or to stand out in a crowd, please share.

It’s the kind of story that never gets old.

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