Just Get Yourself to the Starting Line

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Just Get Yourself to the Starting Line

I recently kicked off a couple of workshops, each with a lesson I learned about Gratitude from one of my father’s mentors.

The late Nat Schmukler (Don’t you love that name?) was Stanley’s accounting professor more than six decades ago. And ironically, it wasn’t his accounting or teaching skills that placed Nat in such high esteem to this day; Rather, it was his philosophies on life. The one that changed my life was, “You’re a winner just for getting to the starting line”— something which he told himself before his tennis matches. He shared this wisdom with me forty years ago, and in my estimation, the lesson is even more relevant today.  

Here’s how it all came about: I was confessing my nervousness about a high school track meet. I really wanted to win my upcoming regional competition in racewalking (I can hear you chuckling!) This race was so important to me that when the track coach suggested I increase my LSD (not the hallucinogen, but my Long Slow Distance running), I took the challenge and was waking up before school to run two extra miles each morning.  

Then I tested Nat’s approach before the meet, reflecting on the fact that I’d prepared fully to get myself to that moment. I woke up feeling healthy, I arrived on-time to the meet, I made it to the starting line and was ready to racewalk!  

I still use this lesson today; before every presentation I consider how fortunate I am to have woken up feeling healthy and prepared. In pre-pandemic times, I’d give myself a silent “rock on” when I arrived at the client site. These days, it’s more of an audible “phew” when my Wi-Fi connection is cooperating.  

Not only is this moment of reflection and recognition powerful, but the reward is a hit of oxytocin, which is the prefrontal cortex’s “booster shot”. This allows for greater clarity, engagement, and openness to building trust and connection. And that’s something to be grateful for!  


  • Deborah Goldstein

    Deborah Goldstein, recovering restaurateur, has been working with DRIVEN professionals since 2009 as an executive coach and workshop facilitator. It’s Deborah’s personal mission to support people in realizing their greatest career and personal potential. She works one-on-one with clients and she partners with whole organizations to build cultures of trust, alleviate workplace stress, and empower teams and individuals to optimize their productivity.

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