If anyone knows about dealing with adversity, it is Jim Kyte.
The former hockey pro who spent 17 years on the ice, all but three of those in the National Hockey League, then operated a successful restaurant before joining the Algonquin College faculty has much to be proud of, but hasn't heard a word of praise in years.
This is because he is deaf, like his four brothers and his father.
“I don't know why,” he said Thursday during an address to a gathering of business people at the Pembroke campus of Algonquin College. His sister wasn't affected, but all the males were stricken deaf at an early age.
His father developed whooping cough as a child and complications from that may have triggered his hearing loss. His sons all developed a progressive auditory degeneration which left all of them deaf.
Yet it didn't stop any of them from finding success in athletics and later in careers. Kyte said when the local school board insisted they should all be sent to a school for the deaf, his mother fought to have them admitted to the same public school as everyone else went to, and so they learned to cope in a hearing world.
Kyte said they all can read lips and managed to integrate quite well. When the boys played hockey, he said they were easy to spot due to the blood coming out of their ears. The trouble was the hearing aids they had to wear. Every time they got hit on the ice, the hard ear pieces got painfully driven inside the ear canals.
“The coaches didn't want to deal with it,” Kyte said, “but we knew this was the price to pay if we wanted to play hockey.”
His deafness never held him back, as his hockey career attests.
“I had a good kick at the can,” he said about his 17 years on ice. How he did it was by doing things different than others would.
“Look at the glass in the arena,” Kyte said. “It is kept clean so the crowds can watch the game, and be protected from stray pucks and such. When I look at the glass, I see a mirror. I can't hear the players behind me, so I look for their reflections.”
He said he was always counting the sweaters of his opponents. As a defenceman, he knew as long as he can see all the players from the other team, he was doing okay.
Kyte's dream at the time was to play hockey, and he was going to do that, no matter how many told him he couldn't, no matter the obstacles. In time, when he left hockey, he found a new career and transitioned. He loved hockey, but hockey was what he did, it wasn't what he was as a person.
The key is he saw a goal for himself, and focused on achieving it.
“You have to demand excellence from yourself,” he said, “and always believe in yourself, for if you don't, how can you expect others to do so?”
Kyte was the keynote speaker at the third annual Spring Business Leadership Conference, which was hosted at the Pembroke waterfront campus of Algonquin College.
The college, in partnership with the Renfrew County Community Futures Development Corporation, began offering a Spring Business Leadership Conference three years ago to support local businesses. The conferences have proven to be very popular.
Approximately 85 local business people attended Thursday's conference, essentially selling it out as there were only 90 spaces available.
Jamie Bramburger, the Pembroke campus' manager of student and community affairs, said the conference came about because of a need to provide professional development opportunities which were on par with what was being offered in big urban centres.
He said efforts were made to keep costs to reasonable levels so as to be affordable for small and medium businesses, while providing high level workshops which would be useful to conference attendants.
Kyte, the dean of the college's School of Hospitality and Tourism, said there are five Ps for a successful business: perspiration, as there is no substitute for hard work; positive attitude, as 10 per cent of life is what happens to you and 90 per cent is how you react to it; preparation, as one needs to work not just hard but smart, and knowledge is power; perseverance, as perseverance and failure cannot co-exist, as failure only happens when one quits; and passion, as if one has that for what they do, the other four Ps are easy.
He also told those in the room they can't be afraid to dream big and step outside of their comfort zone if they are to achieve anything. He referred to his favorite quote, by Michelangelo, to make this point.
“The greatest danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark,” Kyte said.