The Top 7 Plays to Develop a Winning Growth Mindset

For Pine-Richland FBLA’s last regular monthly meeting, the club was pleased to welcome Coach Dave Gray of CDG Sports as a first-time speaker.

Coach Dave Gray is the Owner, Director, and Coach for CDG Sports Events, LLC. A graduate of North Allegheny High School, Coach Dave has spent decades in community service and outreach, reaching the lives of youth on a local, regional and national level. Coach Dave is a job-creator for local teenagers and young adults, focusing on the lessons of commitment, hard work and professionalism to his programs and employees. He believes thoroughly in the importance of instilling confidence and building self-esteem in others to help make a positive impact in the world. Coach Dave is proud to have received KDKA Radio’s “Larry Richert Hometown Hero Award” in 2016. Currently, Coach Dave serves as a local consultant for Dick’s Sporting Goods. He is also a community partner with Allegheny Health Network, raising awareness of the health and wellness needs of the Pittsburgh community.

Coach Dave began his presentation with some background before launching his career to provide clarity in his message. He explained that in 1996, Coach Dave was 26 years old with no clear direction in life. Coach Dave knew that he excelled at a few things in life, including working with children at YMCA as a volunteer where he taught young kids how to throw and sports basics. He also loved sports, running for North Allegheny's track team and playing football. He explained that later, many of his friends from high school began graduating from college and were finding high-paying careers. Our speaker explained how he needed to figure out how he could take two hobbies, start a career and make a living. To start his business, our speaker emptied his bank account, $60, and purchased a newspaper advertisement. Coach Dave explained how, although he spent his entire savings on an ad, no one called. He said that later, a single phone call inquiring about a child needing help with shooting basketball.

Our speaker continued with his idea of success and elaborated upon the subject of his presentation. He explained that he doesn’t measure success by the money he’s made, but rather by the relationships he’s created along the way. He described himself as an influencer in the community who is frequently involved in many events. Coach Dave expanded this idea to our members directly, explaining how those heading into college are building a reputation in the process. He emphasized that everything through college will contribute in some capacity to one’s life in the future. “Doors of Opportunity,” he explained, that connections Coach Dave has made, and people helped have led along the way, and have led to achievements like partnering with Allegheny Health Network and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Our speaker emphasized that at the time he did not understand what he was doing entirely, but knew every part of what he did would contribute to the big picture.

He began his presentation with the seven ideas for a winning growth mindset.

Coach Dave started with enthusiasm, explaining how, regardless of major or career path, make your topic desirable and compelling for others. He explained that people are naturally drawn to those who are enthusiastic. Our speaker quoted Charles Schwab, an American investor and financial executive, saying “I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among my people the greatest asset I possess, and the way to develop the best that is in a man is by appreciation and encouragement…” Coach Dave reemphasized how by being enthusiastic, people will buy what you’re “selling.” He also explained that enthusiasm is the first item in his presentation on purpose, adding that being enthusiastic was a key part of his success.

Our speaker transitioned to his next idea, ask questions. Beginning with his own experience, Coach Dave explained how he wanted to be the “expert” and not let others realize he might have gaps in his knowledge. He made his point clear, adding that mistakes are made when someone pretends to know something. To our members specifically, Coach Dave advised they find an expert in their field or area of interest who can serve as a mentor and answer questions. Our speaker highlighted the necessity of asking questions, recommending that if you don’t know something, don’t feel embarrassed to ask.

For his next point, Coach Dave transitioned to the idea of mistakes; “Don’t let mistakes change your direction,” he said. He continued by explaining how many people use the word “failure,” and added it’s a term he doesn’t particularly care for. Our speaker discussed how there are only two real types of “failure,” either never giving effort or never asking a question. As he explained, many faults in the field of business are simply mistakes, and throughout a career or lifetime, he added, you’ll make many. Coach Dave likened this to a personal example in 2019 when he received a buyout offer from a large corporation. A “huge mistake,” discussing how he’s a small-town community influencer who believes in his mission, and eventually would refuse the offer.

His fourth idea, he discussed, was originally titled “be willing to work hard.” Coach Dave expanded this idea, telling our members you have to work hard, but need to be willing to do more than what is required. He explained that whenever given a task you should always be asking yourself “What more can I do?” Relating this idea to FBLA members directly, he directed them to think in terms of both their career and future education. Potential employers, teachers and professors will notice those who do more and apply themselves.

The most important takeaway from his presentation that Coach Dave explained is the idea of networking. Relating it to his business success and career, he emphasized how he would actively volunteer to help make his name and brand known to the community. He described being in his mid-30s with three jobs, his business and various volunteer projects. “You have to network,” he explained, highlighting the importance of finding like-minded people in your area with similar interests. Additionally, he suggested marketing yourself by visiting hospitals, networking clubs, etc.; anything to take action and become involved in the community. Coach Dave spoke on the importance of charities, saying that they are great for the opportunity for who they serve while also helping volunteers before people will “…get you where you want to be.”

Answering a question from the audience, “You said to find a mentor in your field to ask questions. In your field, was there a mentor for you to pick, did you pick one, and who were they?” Coach Dave discussed a friend from North Allegheny who encouraged him to put his passion to work. He explained how this individual saw his passion and helped invest in starting his business. After a year of studying business at Westminster College, Chris passed away, and at this point in his career, the community "would not allow him to quit his passion." Coach Dave discussed how to this day he asks himself “Would Chris be proud of this?” However, continuing with his message, he explained how it is impossible to know in the short term the wisdom you’ll gain from people that you meet.

“Leaders are readers.” Coach Dave moved to discuss the importance of education in professional success. He explained how to this day, and despite his years of professional experience, he still has a lot to learn about his field. In his experience, he explained how he reads every book related to his industry, attends workshops and conferences, talks with coaches, and takes online courses to learn even more. He commented on his work with Dick’s Sporting Goods, which employs him as a consultant in the industry, despite not knowing everything. Relating to our members directly, he explained, when graduating from college there are also millions of other people trying to climb a similar corporate ladder as you. Not just during college, he explained, but continuously read and increase your knowledge to be more marketable.

As a final point of contention, our speaker gave voice to what he calls the “MVP” role. He explained the role is not necessarily someone who is at the top of the food chain, but rather applies to everyone. He summarized this idea by saying, moving forward, his audience should treat every single person they meet and engage with as the most valuable person they have ever met. From his own experience, as Coach Dave explained, his business success is in part due to the fact that kids return to his programs. He explained that his clients know at his programs they’ll be treated as the most valuable person and eventually return for this reason. Comparing the “MVP” role to athletics, he said that “The person who waxes the basketball court should be treated as important as the head coach.” Similarly to this, our speaker spoke upon general life advice, explaining how often others’ needs will need priority before your own. In a professional setting, Coach Dave explained how the “MVP” role could be as simple as smiling, looking someone in the eye and asking questions. “Doors of Opportunity” from earlier will “open,” he explained, because people are drawn to those who they want in their organization.

Coach Dave concluded his presentation with a final remark separate from his “seven ideas,” explaining how nothing in life is given, adding how it is necessary to take action to achieve anything. He discussed the “18 Inch Rule,” which is approximately the length from the brain to the heart. Our speaker discussed how everything in school and advice from both teachers and parents will not resonate unless it travels the 18 inches from “…your brain to your heart.” Coach Dave explained how the heart is the “gut” where action takes place, and without making use of the 18-inch rule, “Doors of Opportunity” will not open otherwise.

“18 inches away from success,” Coach Dave concluded.

Coach Dave, Pine-Richland FBLA appreciates you taking the time to speak with us and deliver a great end-of-year presentation.