Wayne Gretzky, as many of you know, is a legendary former Canadian ice-hockey player – some would even say he’s the best player ever. In fact, he is the highest point-scorer and has more assists that any other player in the history of the NHL (North America National Hockey League). And there is a lot we can learn from him, which is relevant to work and life overall.

In one of his many, many interviews, he was asked what made him such a good player, what it was that made him more successful than others.

His response was that so many players go to where the puck is, while he went where the puck was about to go. He had the ability to read the other players’ patterns, to understand what would happen next, where the game was going.

He was good at observing and noticing those patterns and to use that information to direct himself to where the puck was going, and then he would head on over there – before everyone else.

Everything in life is a pattern

Nature has patterns. Weather and seasons have patterns. Human beings have habitual patterns, in their thoughts, their feelings and their actions. We’re constantly surrounded by patterns.

The better we can become at noticing our own patterns (= self awareness) and those of others (= social awareness), the better results we can achieve. We can respond better to all situations, we can communicate better, create better relationships and lead better.


Let’s look at self awareness first. If we can become aware of our own patterns, we can keep or even enhance them, or we can change them. If we are not getting the results we want and need, if our habits aren’t working for us, we can change them, and get better results.

We all get stuck at times, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Of course we need to do things differently to get different results.

Habitual and situational patterns aren’t always easy to break, but if we can just become aware of them, then we are well on they way to change.

And we can start creating new, more effective patterns, one step at a time. With intention.


Let’s look at social awareness next. If we can become aware of other people’s habits and situational patterns, we can start to predict some of what’s coming up, so we can approach situations in the best possible way.

An increasingly important EQ skill for leaders is to be able to observe and listen, to be curious enough about others and the world around us to understand them better. We can all become great observers.

Let’s take inspiration from the legendary Gretzky and become masters of patterns, not just seeing what’s happening right now but also what might happen next.

Let’s become good at seeing the bigger picture, how one thing leads to the next.

Want another Gretzky nugget of wisdom? Check out the quote below. It speaks for itself, but it’s likely a reminder that we can all benefit from at times.

What ‘shots’ have you avoided? What ‘shots’ will you take next? And what difference will that make?