Marc Riccio Of USA Lacrosse On How to Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone to Grow Both Personally and Professionally
An Interview With Maria Angelova
Make a list of the things you would like to do if you had a day to do it. There are no rules other than be aspirational and practical. These are things you can actually try. I made that list and would take a day periodically to do it.
It feels most comfortable to stick with what we are familiar with. But anyone who has achieved great success will tell you that true growth comes from pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. What are some ways that influential people have pushed themselves out of their comfort zone to grow both personally and professionally? As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marc Riccio.
Marc Riccio is the CEO of USA Lacrosse, a nearly 400,000-member organization that serves as the governing body of the sport in the United States. A former collegiate lacrosse player at Hofstra, Riccio’s professional experience has led to specialties in media, fan engagement, sport and entertainment business operations, building new companies, revenue generation, executive leadership, and employee development.
Prior to joining USA Lacrosse, Marc was the Chief Commercial Officer for KlarisIP, a boutique intellectual property and media consultancy. He was charged with advising major sport and esports properties on strategy, growth, revenue generation, and organizational transformation.
Marc’s experiences include leading his own consultant business, MR21 Advisory where he advised global esports and gaming companies. Prior, Marc was the EVP of Commercial for Lagardère Sports (now Sportfive), a full-service global sports agency. Marc spent 17 seasons leading business operation and development for the New York Jets (NFL) and he worked for Hofstra University, leading marketing and development for intercollegiate athletics.
Marc has also taught as an Associate Adjunct Professor at Hofstra University and continues to advise and mentor in the technology and esports Venture capital accelerator community.
Marc has a Juris Doctor from St. John’s University School of Law, and an MBA and BA from Hofstra University.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! We would like our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I’m from a small-town called Canandaigua. It’s in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. Great lake living — a special place to grow up. I’m a product of the lacrosse mission. I started playing lacrosse when a neighbor moved in and had an extra stick laying around. I picked up that stick and never looked back. I played in the local recreation league, school lacrosse and summer box and field leagues. I was a lacrosse rat. I had (and have) great friends from Canandaigua, a great family and support system, but home life was a bit chaotic. We seemed to be always scrambling to keep our heads above water. Lacrosse was a way for me to go places, see things and get opportunities I would not have received otherwise. For example, my first plane flight was to go play in the High School North v South all-star lacrosse game in Baltimore, MD. The local booster club paid for my trip. I’m grateful to this day for my coaches, other parents, and local donors who made that a reality. I was fortunate enough to get recruited and receive a scholarship to play lacrosse at Hofstra University on Long Island. That move took a small-town kid to a much bigger city and urban environment and I loved it.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’m a big quote person. I have lots of ‘go-to’ quotes so picking a favorite is tough! With that said, my favorite life lesson quote is: “We are a product of our choices, not our talent.” It’s relevant because we all have choices, everyday all the time. No one should ever say, “I don’t have a choice.” You ALWAYS have a choice; some options are just better than others. I see people with tremendous talent consistently make the poor choices. Likewise, I see people with less talent make good choices, they see more success and I believe their lives a better for it.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
When I was very young, I watched the movie Brian’s Song. It is the true story of Chicago Bears running backs Gayle Sayers and Brian Piccolo in the late 1960’s. The two played the same position and became close friends. As many know, Piccolo died from cancer at a young age early in his career. I was in uncontrollable tears at the end of the movie. To this day, I remember those tears. However, what stuck with me more was how two players — one African-American, one white — become incredible friends. The community I grew up in was not that diverse and I was too young to fully process the racial nuances. That movie was my first lesson in how sport can be a powerful force in bringing people together.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Let’s start with a basic definition so that all of us are on the same page. What does “getting outside of your comfort zone” mean?
I’ll use an example to illustrate. I spent 17 years at the New York Jets. I knew the business of professional sports very well. Working in the NFL, in New York, my level of exposure to the sports and entertainment business was at a high level. After I left the Jets, logic would say I’d go to another professional sports organization — that would be in my comfort zone. Instead, I worked on a sports related start-up and eventually a small experiential agency. I was out of my comfort zone raising capital and building elements of a business I had not done before. This led down a path I didn’t see coming. I learned a lot and had more fun than I ever could have imagined if I’d stayed in my comfort zone. My background and experiences brought a new perspective to my stops along the way. So, when I’m hiring, I look for people who want to get out of their comfort zone to see what new perspective they might bring to the table.
Can you help articulate a few reasons why it is important to get out of your comfort zone?
First, people underestimate how fun it can be. Getting out of your comfort zone can be unsettling and intimidating, so it’s generally not associated with fun. Second, there is no substitute for experience gained. Walking into situations whether business or personal, and having some life lived experiences to ground your knowledge is invaluable. Third, you don’t know what you don’t know. You might find you are good or interested in something you never knew! Lastly, you earn respect. People respect you might have taken a different, harder path.
Is it possible to grow without leaving your comfort zone? Can you explain what you mean?
I think people can incrementally grow. Most people naturally mature and evolve as time passes — even those who remain in their comfort zone. I’m challenged to think of ways someone can materially grow by staying in your comfort zone. So, my answer is probably not — my experience has been you need to push yourself to new places to achieve transformational growth. Trying new things, experimenting, and be comfortable with being uncomfortable is the pathway to accelerating growth and learning. Is someone materially changing over 20 years? Sure, they can — but that’s a long time. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can bring those 20 years down to 2! With that said, there are a lot of people who prefer the steady, predicable path. There is a well-known scene in the 1989 movie Parenthood that I always remember. In the scene the grandma explains to the Steve Martin and Mary Steenburgen characters about how some folks ride the merry go round. It goes in a circle, and you always know what you get. But she (grandma) prefers the rollercoaster because the ride made you frightened, sick, excited, and thrilled all together!
Can you share some anecdotes from your personal experience? Can you share a story about a time when you stepped out of your comfort zone and how it helped you grow? How does it feel to take those first difficult steps?
When I first started consulting, I didn’t know how to price myself, how to balance the time spent working on the business I had with the time needed spent to earn new business. I didn’t know how to say ‘no’, what I’d be good at, and so much more. I quickly learned I was not alone with these questions and challenges as a new consultant. I figured it out and became counsel to other consultants just starting out. Another example is I remember the first time I started working globally. It was exciting, intimidating, scary, and incredibly empowering at the same time. I had no prior global experience, but I did know the US sports and entertainment business and that knowledge brought value to the global team.
Here is the central question of our discussion. What are your “five ways to push past your comfort zone, to grow both personally and professionally”?
- Write yourself a personal mission statement. Don’t just think it through while you are standing in the shower. Instead, go through the act of writing it down. It makes your goals real and provides important guardrails for your choices. A personal mission statement provides focus. You are balancing heart (what you care about), head (what is intellectually interesting to you), and wallet (what are your financial needs). There must be balance between those three (3) for sustainability. I had just left the Jets and a talent / player agent I befriended gave me that advice. He sat me down and helped me write mine. I’m grateful for his counsel and its advice I eagerly share.
- Make a list of the things you would like to do if you had a day to do it. There are no rules other than be aspirational and practical. These are things you can actually try. I made that list and would take a day periodically to do it. For example, I tried rock climbing. I searched for a class, signed up, showed up, and hated it. I did the same with surfing. Found a class, signed up, showed up, and loved it. I continue surfing and passed that passion to my kids who also love it.
- Take a random meeting and/or call. I would do this periodically primarily because after spending so much of my life in sales and business development I respected how hard it was to make connections randomly, so I wanted to pay that forward. I’m not alone with this strategy. A very senior C-level executive at Mars agreed to meet with me — somewhat randomly. When we met, I asked her why she took the meeting and she told she takes one day each month to meet with random people. It’s a way for her to learn and develop relationships outside of her normal personal and business circles. Simple, smart, achievable and it’s a low-cost high reward outcome.
- The three-year itch. I’ve learned most people benefit from a professional ‘reinvention’ every three (3) years. That reinvention can be as subtle as increased responsibilities, a new desk location, or as big as a major career move. If you are doing the exact same tasks in your job, you did three years prior, you might want to assess your situation.
- Go someplace new. Experiencing a new city or restaurant can be invigorating and provide renewed energy. This does not to be an expensive, international jaunt (although those are great too). A road trip or a train ride will do. The change of scenery, finding and eating at a random roadside diner are all part of the effort and the reward. It’s easy to get into routines and habits between work and family. There is comfort in those routines that are indeed wonderful. But change can be good, you feel accomplished when the trip is complete, and you will something to look forward to planning the next.
From your experience or perspective, what are some of the common barriers that keep someone from pushing out of their comfort zone?
Fear. That’s not a genius response but it’s the primary reason people don’t go out of their comfort zone. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of embarrassment, fear of losing, fear of talking to strangers, fear of a lot of things — most of which are very normal and rationale. Fear is a powerful motivator. I always remind myself the fear I’m feeling is the same fear others around me might be feeling. It takes off some of the edge knowing I’m not alone.
There is a well-known quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt that says, “Do something that scares you every day”. What exactly does this mean to you? Is there inherent value in doing something that pushes you out of your comfort zone, even if it does not relate to personal or professional growth? For example, if one is uncomfortable about walking alone at night should they purposely push themselves to do it often for the sake of going beyond their comfort zone? Can you please explain what you mean?
As mentioned before, fear is a powerful motivator. It’s powerful because it can save your life. It’s our evolutionary defense mechanism. My theory on change is you should do it to go toward a better state, not just leave a current state. Getting out of your comfort zone — making change — should have purpose to get you to a better state and that better state is an individual experience. For example, public speaking doesn’t ‘scare’ me. Public speaking terrifies others. Same act, very different levels of scariness. Someone might push themselves to try public speaking to move toward a better state of self-confidence and conquering their anxiety. I don’t believe doing something scary without purpose is an everyday mandate. This is where the personal mission statement or writing out different things you would like to do come into play. Go to your list to give your scary acts purpose.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Easy — Youth Sports. That seems predictable, but I’m not talking about lacrosse. I’m talking about the impact youth sports can have globally is profound. Kids playing sports changes lives, it transforms communities, and makes the world better. The benefits of kids playing sports and having fun are scientifically known — the impacts are profound. Those benefits include but are not limited to mental and physical health, lifelong friendships, leadership development, self-confidence, teamwork, prioritization, decision making, grit, joy, fun, and much more. Kids playing sports bring communities together. Youth sports provide a pathway for family units to spend time together, talk, laugh, share, and bond — regardless of their traditional or untraditional structure. Kids who play youth sports generally do better in school, they are more prone to make better choices and stay out of trouble. Through sport, differences in race and ethnicity are often bridged. There is access to a social infrastructure, networking, jobs, and even higher education. These are the foundations of a functioning society.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
I’d like to have lunch with Bob Iger, the current Disney CEO. I marvel at transformational change, how powerful it can be, and how hard it is to achieve. Shortly after I got this job at USA Lacrosse, I was chatting with USA Lacrosse Foundation board member Chris Baldwin. Chris is a managing partner at CVC Capital Partners, the former CEO of two companies: BJ’s Wholesale and Hess Retail Corporation. His words to me were direct and memorable, “I like what you’re doing, keep going. Think in years, not in months; think in years, not in months” — so important he said it twice. It was simple and incredibly impactful from someone who’s been there. It was an important reminder to be strategic and smart about the long-term view. With that said, Iger is leading a battleship and his mandate is both short and long term, so I’d love to ask him a lot of questions. Who knows, ESPN (owned by Disney) seems to be bullish in lacrosse so maybe he’d agree!
How can our readers follow you online?
Best place to follow is on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/marcriccio21/
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
About The Interviewer: Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl. As a disruptor, Maria is on a mission to change the face of the wellness industry by shifting the self-care mindset for consumers and providers alike. As a mind-body coach, Maria’s superpower is alignment which helps clients create a strong body and a calm mind so they can live a life of freedom, happiness and fulfillment. Prior to founding Rebellious Intl, Maria was a Finance Director and a professional with 17+ years of progressive corporate experience in the Telecommunications, Finance, and Insurance industries. Born in Bulgaria, Maria moved to the United States in 1992. She graduated summa cum laude from both Georgia State University (MBA, Finance) and the University of Georgia (BBA, Finance). Maria’s favorite job is being a mom. Maria enjoys learning, coaching, creating authentic connections, working out, Latin dancing, traveling, and spending time with her tribe. To contact Maria, email her at [email protected]. To schedule a free consultation, click here.
Marc Riccio Of USA Lacrosse On How to Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone to Grow Both Personally and… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.