Several years ago, at the World Track and Field Championships in Stockholm, Sweden, the high hurdles champion was clocked at 12.6 seconds, which is a great achievement, and of such magnitude, it could be compared favorably to the time when the 4-minute mile was broken.
This announcement prompted the author to recall a time when a young man lived in an area called “Hell’s Kitchen” . . . a poor, tough, raucous environment where the sun was obscured by the smoke from nearby factories. This was a skinny kid with low self-esteem, who had to fight many bullies and gang types on a daily basis.
When it was time for high school, he chose a very large, nearby school with an enrollment of 5,000 students. He had always enjoyed running, so he went out for the high hurdles. The track coach was a nationally known coach who had developed many college and Olympic track and field champions. At the end of the year, the boy’s performance was mediocre and the coach said, “Quit – you have no leg strength, no stamina.”
The Boy Was Crushed – But Didn’t Give Up
As soon as the season ended, the boy built 10 wooden high hurdles in a vacant lot next to his home. It was a long narrow lot that was close to the distance of a high hurdle race. After practicing all summer, fall and the winter months, he again went out for the high hurdles. The coach, sensing his desire, gave some advice: “Your problem is that you’re not in the flow of what it takes to win. You need to work with the energy around you (other hurdlers) and build your focus, concentrating on the flow of the race to win.” The boy improved dramatically in his second year.
Now It’s Time For His Junior Year
The coach talked to the boy at the beginning of the season and recognized his efforts to improve and said, “You have tremendous desire, but I want you to concentrate on a clear, mental picture of maximum performance. I want you to visualize past the finish line and not one hurdle at a time.” (Kid wins Sectional, loses Regional.)
Finally His Senior Year
Again, at the outset of the season, the coach talked to him about the winning edge and how great athletes win with a final burst of energy to win a race and sometimes this winning edge can be very slight. The boy now wins the Sectionals and Regionals and is in the State Finals with a best time of 15.0 seconds.
However, in the State Finals is a hurdler from Gary, Indiana who holds the national high hurdle mark of 14.4 seconds. Many members of the press are three because the Gary hurdler had proclaimed that he would run a 14.0 second race and set a new national record.
The High Hurdles Final
As the boy settled back into the starting block, he remembered all the things the coach had told him: be in the flow . . . work with the energy around you . . . to visualize past the finish line . . . keep an intense focus . . . and understand that a winning edge can come from a final burst of energy. The gun sounds and the boy drives over the 10 high hurdles and after clearing the final hurdle, lunges at the tape with every ounce of fiber and strength in his body. He feels the tape hit his chest, but doesn’t realize that the Gary hurdler hit the tape 0.3 of a second ahead of him.
The Lesson Of The Race
The Gary hurdler had won the race in 14.0 seconds, setting a new national high hurdle record and the boy came in second at 14.3 (clocked by his coach), still good enough to break the old record.
Even though he lost the race and came in second, the boy learned many valuable lessons in life: If you’re in the flow, you’re a team player. If you have a clear mental picture of maximum performance, you have great visualization powers. If you understand the winning edge, you can win by giving extra effort when it counts.
Another point is that if you’re standing second in line, in enough lines, and you’re working harder than number one, soon enough you’ll move up to number one.
These points are appropriate for advertising salespeople who strive every day to improve their selling ability and to be a trusted advisor and consultant to their customers.
The questions to be asked are:
- Do you work with the energy around you? Are you in the flow with your team? Are you truly focused every day to be the best you can be?
- Can you visualize yourself having a clear mental picture of maximum performance?
- Do you feel the winning edge every day? Do you have the stamina to do as well at the end of the day, as you did in the beginning of the day?
The story described here is a story about a high hurdler who is a real person, who today, would have a tough time climbing over a high hurdle . . . and also writes stories such as this.