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Gabe Marsh

Contagious Enthusiasm…


The Great ones are positive thinkers, they are enthusiastic, and that enthusiasm rubs off

One of the best parts about sending these newsletters is hearing back from you about examples of Greatness you’ve seen in your own community. Sometimes these stories are run in the city newspaper or broadcast on the local news, but no one outside the area ever gets to learn about some of these GREAT individuals in our midst.

Louise Jones, of the Alabama Pharmacy Association, recently sent me the link to a story about an extraordinary young man named Gabe Marsh, and I am so glad that she did. As I read Gabe’s story, I was struck by what an inspiring example of Greatness this six-year-old sets for us all. Reading his story made me call his parents to learn more!

Gabe is one of twelve children in the Marsh family, ten of whom are adopted. Ann, their mother, has determinedly taught every single child how to swim and encouraged each child to join the competitive swim team in their town of Guntersville, AL. Gabe is unique, however, in that while he enjoys swimming and is every bit as cheerful a teammate as all his brothers and sisters, Gabe was born with only one arm and no legs – yet he swims every meet and spends whatever time he doesn’t have in the pool cheering on his teammates.

Ed and Ann weren’t sure at first if Gabe would ever be able to join their other children in the pool, but the determined little boy was quick to prove their doubts wrong. He made his way through the water to Ann the first time they were at a pool together and from that day on, she concentrated on giving him lessons just as she had the rest of the Marsh children. Before long, Gabe was suited up and on the starting blocks, ready to push himself off into the water with the sound of the starting gun. He loves the competition and he loves the training, working hard at every meet to better his time.

But Gabe’s enthusiasm isn’t confined to the swimming pool; he keeps up with his siblings running around the family house, playing video games and even climbing up into the barn loft by himself. His love for life is apparent to everyone around him as he relishes being every bit as much a part of his family’s activities as any of the other Marshes.

"The only disability in life is a bad attitude." -Scott Hamilton, Olympic gold medalist in skatingGabe is the kind of spirit that makes everyone around him feel a little more encouraged. His determination and positive thinking doesn’t just push himself forward toward Greater goals, but it also lifts up his family, teammates, and friends. And that is exactly what Greatness does.

Tips from the Great Ones

A great one. That’s exactly what Gabe is. He’ll likely never finish first in a race, but because of the way he thinks, he is a winner – a Great winner.

Apply this Characteristic: Commit yourself to showing genuine enthusiasm about one thing today that may be causing stress on your team. Just a spark of positive thinking about making a looming deadline or gaining a seemingly unachievable client can start to turn people's minds around about what you all can achieve together. Are negative thoughts or a pessimistic attitude weighing you down? Instead of focusing on what seems too impossible a goal to reach, channel your energy into figuring out how to reach that goal with the talents and resources that you do have. As Ed Marsh said about his son: “He just doesn’t realize he can’t do like the rest of the kids. He doesn’t realize his handicap.” The great UCLA Coach John Wooden once put it perfectly: “Don’t let what you cannot do prevent you from accomplishing what you can do.”

gabe4Don’t stop yourself before you even start. Get creative and put yourself in a positive and determined mindset – and then share that enthusiasm with those around you the same way that Gabe’s determination to swim inspired his parents to help him improve those skills and even compete with them.

Even when we are out of ideas, out of strength, and out of sorts – especially then – the one thing we can still offer is hope: hope that things can get better, that the odds are not insurmountable, and that the goal can be reached. Positive thinking is the Greatest gift you can give your teammates. Are you the one willing to lift up and encourage your teammates? Are you willing to make Great thinking contagious?

Do you know a story of true Greatness from your community? I’d love to hear it! Please write to to share it.

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About Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, 11-time New York Times best-selling author, leadership expert and executive coach.

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