When I was a college basketball coach at Wentworth Military Academy, a young man named Hugh “Boo” Ray played for me. “Boo” was an outstanding high school student in Memphis, Tennessee. He had a tremendous hit and played the game with fire and passion. His dream was to play at Mississippi State. During his senior year, “Boo” completely blew out his knee. The teams that had been calling stopped. The coaches who had been watching “Boo’s” team play stopped coming to the games. He went from being one of the most promising players in the City of Memphis to trying to recover from his knee injury.
I was lucky to have made a recruiting connection in Memphis. When I heard that “Boo” was still looking for a school to play ball, I couldn’t believe it. We immediately contacted him. We were very interested in “Boo”, and playing in a university would give him the opportunity to fulfill his dream.
In our locker room we had motivational signs for the players to read. One caught “Boo’s” attention. He said:
Excellence can be achieved if
Caring more than others think is wise
Risking more than others think is safe
Dream more than others think is practical, and
Expect more than others think is possible.
He slowly recovered from his injury keeping his dream in the back of his mind. He had missed a step, but he was still a deadly sharpshooter. “Boo” was our leader, both on the court and within the Corps of Cadets. But he wasn’t getting the D-1 look he was hoping for. He made a decision that really didn’t surprise me. We have all heard or seen the story of Rudy. “Boo” was going to do his own “Rudy” story.
He visited Mississippi State and spoke with coach Richard Williams. Coach Williams told “Boo” that he would give him a chance as a practice player. He practiced every day with the determination and desire that he had exhibited at Wentworth. He earned the right to dress for MSU games. Like Rudy, “Boo” didn’t get megaminutes. Playing time was tight and he gave everything he had when the opportunity presented itself.
Coach Williams told me that “if the other players played with the heart and determination that ‘Boo’ played with, the team would do much better.” “Boo” became a fan favorite in his two years at Mississippi State. He lived his dream because he cared more, risked more, dreamed more, and expected more of himself than anyone else.
Unlike Hugh “Boo” Ray, anyone can quit, and many have given up when the going gets tough. Others have not given up entirely; they simply ease off the throttle and settle for being less than they could be. Last week, I asked students at my Alternative School, “Faced with an obstacle that prevents you from achieving your dream, how many of you would give up?” Without hesitation, more than half of the students said they would quit.
Returning to our poem, excellence can be achieved if:
Caring more than others think is wise – It has been said that one of the surest ways to get hurt is to care more than others think you should. On the other hand, if you want to be successful, you have to care more about what others think is wise or prudent. The winners are not happy to finish in second place. A winner will do everything in their power to overcome any obstacles that stand in their way.
Risk more than others think is safe: remember our Legson Kayira story (Motivational Moments #234). He risked everything: his health, his safety, his life, his family, everything to fulfill his dream of coming to America for an education in the land of his heroes. Former heavyweight champion Michael Spinks stated, “If you don’t take risks, you can’t do anything in life.”
Dream more than others think is practical – In 1968 the Olympics were held in Mexico City, Mexico. A very talented American track and field team was about to break Olympic and world records. A competitor on the men’s team was repeatedly told that he would not be successful with his high jump technique. Dick Fosbury had created an unorthodox style of high jump, one that his skeptics believed would fade into obscurity. Fosbury commented, “I was told over and over that I was never going to succeed, that I wasn’t going to be competitive, and that the technique just wasn’t going to work. All I could do was shrug my shoulders and say, ‘I just have to see.’ “. Fosbury won the Olympic gold medal. Today almost all high jumpers use his technique.
Expect more than others think is possible: When I go out to speak with companies or organizations, one of the challenges I face is getting participants to expand their comfort zones. We do this with an interactive demo that involves multiple participants breaking out of their comfort zones and learning how to juggle, in five minutes. His initial reaction is “I can’t do this.” Our nature tells us that it is okay to stay within our comfort zones. We don’t want to feel the pain of failure when we try something new. However, when we replace how we feel about ourselves with images of success, we are willing to do so. We expect more of ourselves. Author Wayne Dyer says, “It’s never crowded along the extra mile.”
Are you willing to care more, risk more, dream more and hope more? If you are, you are in a very small group of people. Most people call them WINNERS.