Very few people leave a legacy that has both depth and width…
There are some who reach a lot of people, and then there are some who have deep impact in the lives of those close to them.
Dr. Ken Ravizza did both.
I’ve previously thought of impact like a home plate…
Throughout your life, you’re going to have the opportunity to impact people you come in contact with (your reach, or width). Naturally, you’ll have the ability to go deeper with those who are closest to you and that you invest the most time with.
Because of who Ken was as a person and the power of what he taught, I think his impact looks more like this:
Every one who met or learned from Ken was better because of it. This was very evident to me when the outpouring of support came in from people in all walks of life… (and national media outlets from coast to coast published articles on Ken!) Their comments were nothing like the usual ‘Sorry for your loss. He was a good man.’ People who never met Ken have said that he changed their life.
(For those of you who don’t know Ken, he’s the ‘Godfather of the Mental Game’. Ken was a long-time professor of sport psych at Cal State Fullerton, while also working with collegiate, professional, and Olympic athletes around the world to help them improve their performance through the development of mental skills. He also co-authored Heads-Up Baseball and Heads-Up Baseball 2.0.)
One of the countless lessons I learned from working with Ken over the past few years is the value of processing and debriefing performances… both on and off the field.
So when Ken passed away on July 8th, that’s exactly what I started to do… process and debrief not only the tragic loss of his life, but the incredible impact he made on so many of us.
The questions Ken liked to ask when reflecting on performance were:
- What went well?
- What did we learn?
- What can we do better?
Beautifully simple, while providing powerful insights (much like the life Ken lived).
I first read Ken’s book, Heads-Up Baseball, in 2008 when I was a sophomore in high school. I hated reading but this was it… a baseball book packed full of step-by-step processes to gain control of the roller coaster of emotions that a player experiences throughout an inning, a game, season, and career.
Not only did Heads-Up Baseball make me a better player by shifting the way I viewed the game, it opened my eyes to a new perspective on life.
Who knew our paths would cross just a few years later and I would have the opportunity to meet Ken?
After meeting and getting to know him, I then had the incredible opportunity to work with Ken over the past few years as we helped him launch Heads-Up Baseball 2.0 and a new monthly coaching program, as well as starting to build his personal brand and utilize technology to maximize the reach of his teachings.
He may have thought that I helped him, but in reality, he was helping me. 🙏
I learned so much about life, sport, business, mindset, and perspective from Ken. His mentorship and friendship meant the world to me… We deeply miss his daily text/audio messages and phone calls!
At Ken’s celebration of life last weekend, several close friends of Ken spoke on the incredible impact he made in so many lives…
There was one line that hit the nail on the head:
“You couldn’t not think differently after listening to Ken.”
So, how did Ken’s impact manage to have such incredible depth and width?
Here are a few of my thoughts:
I believe a large amount of Ken’s impact was due to how powerfully he changed the way that people viewed life and sport.
He may have used sports to teach the importance of controlling the controllables and focusing on the process over the outcome, but those are life skills. Through his work in sport psych, Ken was connected to athletes and coaches worldwide and his teachings went much deeper than improving their on field performance… They permeated through to every area of their lives, their relationships, and their work.
It seemed as though Ken made a positive impact in each and every interaction.
Just as Ken taught baseball and softball players to compete one pitch at a time, he focused on one interaction at a time… Each individual interaction is an opportunity… an opportunity to learn, to teach, to listen, to share, to inspire, to enjoy, or to help. With that approach and Ken’s unmatched ability to understand human behavior, he always made you feel like the most important person in the room.
Ken listened to listen, not to try and figure out what he was going to say next.
He would much rather learn about you than talk about himself. When having a conversation with Ken, he would intently listen to every word… I’m not sure he ever interrupted or started answering a question until you were finished talking.
One of my favorite Ravizza-isms is: “Be where you need to be when you need to be there.” When you couple that level of presence and intent, it seems as if every conversation is meaningful.
Ken referred to himself as being ‘analog in a digital world’…
(although he was really warming up to some of the benefits of utilizing technology! 😎)
While we are attached to our cell phones and computers, Ken only knew how to do what he needed to… make or answer a phone call and send a short text message. This was a tremendous advantage for Ken and resulted in deep, authentic face-to-face conversations without any of the distractions.
Not only did Ken ask great questions, he knew when and how to ask them.
If you want better answers, ask better questions. Ken was a master of this. He had a knack for knowing exactly what, when, and how to ask specific questions that would reveal insights and information that would lead to increased performance.
Ken was incredibly respectful of others’ time.
If Ken needed something, he was very specific in his requests:
“Can we talk for 5 minutes at some point in the next 2 hours?”
He would answer the phone call with, “Matt, I want to make sure I keep your trust so I’m going to be sure we keep this to no longer than 5 minutes. I’m calling to talk about ___________.”
If it was a scheduled meeting, he would begin with, “My agenda for this call is ____, _____, and _____. Does anyone have anything else they would like to cover on this call? What time do you all have until?”
It was Picasso-esque communication.
Champions live in the land of specificity and Ken Ravizza was a champion.
Perhaps the most powerful of all…
Ken genuinely cared about others.
Many of us are so consumed with our own lives and responsibilities that our priorities get mixed up…
If you look at any of the world’s greatest influencers or creators, they all possess a deep level of caring. They care about the quality of their work. They care about the people they work with. They care about the results and benefits their products or services provide.
If it was important to you, it was important to Ken.
This was evident to me when I hosted a small reception at the 2018 ABCA Conference in Indianapolis earlier this year… Ken was speaking on the main stage in front of 7,000+ coaches the next morning so I was hesitant to even let him know about my event as I didn’t want him to feel obligated to come.
Sure enough, Ken was there the whole time. Not only did he go out of his way (and walk 2 miles in the freezing cold) to attend, but he made time to interact with everyone in attendance.
Ken knew it was important to me, so it became important to him.
We could go on for a while on the qualities Ken possessed that made him such a magnetic personality to be around but I hope this gives you more perspective on why Ken meant so much to so many…
In October of 2017, I had the opportunity to stay at Ken’s house in Southern California for a few days…
There are 3 things that really stand out to me from that time with Ken:
#1) “There’s a lot of gray area.”
I was riding with Ken back to his house after recording an interview with Ken’s good friend, legendary Texas baseball coach Augie Garrido.
Realizing the opportunity to learn from the tremendous wealth of knowledge that Ken had, we started talking about the prominent lessons that stood out to him while reflecting on his 40+ years of working with elite performers around the world…
Although I’m still not exactly sure of what he meant, I’ll never forget this one:
“Matt, over all these years I’ve realized, and continue to realize, how much of life is not necessarily black and white… but there’s really a lot of gray area.”
This has come back to me many times since…
IMO, this is an important lesson for all of us, specifically coaches, leaders, business owners, etc… Many times we can get caught up feeling as if we need to prove ourselves for whatever reason, or that it’s ‘my way or the highway’. Going back to Ken’s comment, the more life we live, the more we see how many different paths there are.
#2) “Let’s Keep Going!”
The next day, we were downstairs in Ken’s office, or what is famously known as ‘The Bunker’.
We had planned to record a few more short videos after just completing a video shoot with some of Ken’s closest friends and coaches talking about the mental game.
After finishing up what we had planned, Ken wanted to keep going…
“While I’ve got you here, let’s keep going so we have everything recorded in case we ever need it. You just never know…”
Wow! I am thankful for his persistence and desire to keep teaching. We captured many Ravizza-isms, as well as a few teaching points that he felt were important to have recorded.
Here’s one of Ken’s favorites:
Are you that bad of an athlete that you have to feel great to perform well?— Ken Ravizza (@KenRavizza1) March 18, 2018
Competitors fight, claw, battle and get it done.
That's what it's about. pic.twitter.com/N1A2JMWFhV
#3) “It doesn’t get much better than this, Matty!”
Before heading back to the airport, Ken wanted to show me the local beach he often visited.
We threw on our suits, grabbed a couple towels, and off we went to Redondo Beach.
After finding our spot on the beach, I dozed off for a few minutes…
When I woke up, I looked over to where Ken had been sitting… He was nowhere to be found.
I looked into the ocean ahead of me and there was Ken crashing into the waves with the biggest smile on his face!
There I was, a 26-year old sitting on the sidelines, while 69-year-old Ken was getting after it, enjoying the moment.
Without hesitation, I popped up and went in to join him… “It doesn’t get much better than this, Matty!”
Ken’s spirit and teachings will live on through each person he came in contact with…
We love you, miss you, and are forever grateful for you being you!
Rest In Peace, Ken!
P.S. You probably never saw Ken wear these or heard him talk about them, but this is a pretty cool collection of championship rings from teams he worked with: