My whole life, I’ve always gravitated toward the underdog. Maybe it comes from my deeply rooted “middle-child” issues, or even just my own limited physical stature. (I’m 5-11; average, I guess, but I spent my whole childhood as one of, if not the, smallest kids on every one of my sports teams.) Whatever the reason, most who know me are aware of the thick chip on my shoulder I tend to carry into most challenges in life.
So, it really shouldn’t be a surprise that two of my all-time favorite sports stories are that of the “Miracle on Ice” and the “Wee Ice Man.” I had a taped recording of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team’s famed “miracle” win over the Soviet Union that I watched so often as a kid that the corners of the VHS were rounded down from wear. I can still name the entire roster and give you their jersey numbers—not to mention a bio on what their post-Olympic career looked like.
The other story I reference is that of golf legend Ben Hogan. I’ve always been fascinated by him and his incredible achievements and perseverance through so many truly awful life events. I can’t fully capture it in the limited space here, so if you want any suggestions on reading material about him, I have somewhat of a library at my house.
Our main feature this month in NOLN is about independent business owners launching their quick lube operations—and succeeding against myriad challenges. The determination, passion and execution from those profiled in this piece makes it an inspiring and fun read. There are a number of tangible strategies and takeaways from this piece, but what jumped out to me most was the correlation between the stories of these operators and those of Hogan and the 1980 Olympic team. In the end, it’s this common thread that made them all successful, and the reason any “underdog” tends to win out when they do.
Because they started at a disadvantage, whether perceived or real, “underdogs” tend to realize that it’s a process to reach what they desire. Most successful “underdogs” are obsessed with the journey to reach their goals, not the results along the way. Because of that, they learn, they adapt, they grow and they truly improve more freely than those who may be burdened by greater expectations. And they do all of that “the right way” by unfailingly believing in not only themselves but also their purpose and how they will go about achieving it.
Don’t get me wrong: Results and achieving goals are very important. But we don’t reach milestones and benchmarks by distracting ourselves with the scoreboard. And the immense satisfaction of success doesn’t come from simply checking an item off a list; it comes from understanding and appreciating the journey to get there.
All these stories share that common thread of “underdogs” who have or had a relentless focus on their journeys. And, for all of us following along, hopefully it makes us ask ourselves about our own journeys, and whether or not our focus is in the right place.