From Biosis 18, September 2007

JoAnne’s Motivational Minute:
Envisioning Greatness

by JoAnne Boettcher-Verigin

It is no secret that the Verigin family loves sports! This is apparent as soon as you come into our office and see things like our display of baseball memorabilia in the front workspace and the football, basketball and track and field posters decorating the ceilings of our exam rooms! Track and field, of course, is our favorite.

Like all athletes, track and field athletes are goal-setters, always envisioning and striving for the next feats they wish to accomplish – feats measured in fractions of seconds and fractions of inches. But as Olympic champion sprinter Charlie Paddock used to say when giving motivational talks to young people, “If you think you can, you can. If you believe a thing strongly enough, it can come to pass in your life.”

Once, when he gave his talk to the students of East Tech High School in Cleveland, Ohio, he added, “Who knows but that there’s an Olympic champion here in the auditorium this day?”

Afterward, a spindly-legged boy came up to him and said, “Gee, Mr. Paddock, I’d give anything if I could be an Olympic champion just like you!”

In 1936, that spindly-legged boy went to Berlin and won four gold medals. His name was Jesse Owens.

Back home after the Games, Owens was driven through Cleveland’s streets to the cheers of the crowd. When the car stopped, he got out and signed some autographs. A short, skinny boy nicknamed “Bones” pressed against the car and said, “Gee, Mr. Owens, I’d give anything to be an Olympic champion just like you!”

Jesse reached out to the boy. He said, “You know, young fellow, that’s what I wanted to be when I was just a little bit older than you are. If you will work and train and most of all believe, you CAN become an Olympic champion.” The boy ran all the way home to his grandmother and declared that he would accomplish that dream.

At London’s Wembly Stadium in 1948, Harrison “Bones” Dillard burst in the outside lane, drove down to the tape and won the gold in the 100 meter dash. By the end of the London Games, he had tied his role model’s Olympic record and went on to break many more world records.

A fantastic story? You bet! And yet this sort of thing happens again and again in boys and girls, men and women, who are inspired, work, train and believe.

But always, there is the goal – the vision of greatness to which they each aspire.

One of my favorite books is Richard Bach’s classic Jonathan Livingston Seagull, about the bird who dared to be different, wanting to fly higher and faster than the other gulls. Eventually, he asked the Great Gull Chiang, “Can you teach me to fly like that.”

“Of course, if you wish to learn.”

“I want to learn to fly like that,” Jonathan said, and a strange light glowed in his eyes. “Tell me what to do.”

Chiang spoke slowly and watched the younger gull ever so carefully. “To fly as fast as though, to anywhere that is, you must begin by knowing that you have already arrived.”

Surely there is a Jonathan Livingston Seagull living in each of us, waiting and ready to soar to unbelievable heights if we but set him free to pursue his dream, whatever that dream might be.

May you know the joy of turning today’s most beautiful imaginings into tomorrow’s undeniable facts. – Anonymous


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