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What Is Your “Why?”

In the discussion about chasing greatness, there really is a starting point.

Anyone who is in the pursuit of a champion’s life has to know their “Why.” No one has ever sustained Greatness without a strong sense of why they were driven to it.

Week in and week out, I will tell you some great stories from the world of sports. Consider this a second or third generation sports story. I tell these stories from some of the greatest athletes and coaches, not to just talk sports, but to give you insight into their Greatness so that you can apply it to your Chase. The first generation of this story is me sharing stories about Greatness on a radio show. The second generation of this story is Joey Richey taking the initiative, drive, and creativity to make those stories work for his clients. The third generation of this story is the man who found Joey’s teachings in a rather inauspicious place. Last week, Joey sent me an email I asked for permission to share. Here is the e-mail I received that spawned this particular blog:

I spoke to you several years ago after hearing you on the Paul Finebaum radio show. I’m sure you don’t remember, but I am the blind guy who was trying to get you to speak to some of the young people I work with here in Birmingham. I really enjoy your “Moments of Greatness.” I share them with many of my clients and co-workers.

Recently, I borrowed the 16 characteristics of Greatness and tailored them into a workbook, which I use to motivate and inspire my clients. I always give you credit and direct my clients to your website.

As a young man, I always wanted to be a coach. Blindness prevented me from fully achieving this goal, however I had a 25-year career as a Fitness Specialist and Personal Trainer. I was able to help many athletes and just ordinary people achieve their fitness goals. I taught many of your principles to my clients before I ever heard of you. I love your writing, I am a BIG fan.

I now work as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. I help people with vision impairments and those who are blind to get the training and tools they need to lead full and productive lives. The ultimate goal is employment. I tell people all the time, “I am finally a coach.” That’s how I approach things. I am the coach, my clients are the players and life is the game. Blindness is just an obstacle. My job is to motivate, teach, train, prepare and lead my clients to success.

Last year I identified six of my clients who, for lack of a better word, were my “screw-ups.” They were all young men between 18 and 25. They were not participating in their program. They weren’t communicating with me. They were sitting at home with their mothers not doing anything. I called them all into my office for a meeting. This is when I used the workbook, “Playbook to Success.” I spent about four hours with this group of young men going over the “16 Characteristics of Greatness” with my own spin on things as they relate to Blindness. I included a worksheet for them to record their goal, values, action plan, etc. I had some mixed responses to this workshop. There was lots of discussion. I was pleased that the young men were so open to talk. One of the guys was very negative, but he did participate, for him this was good. I think they liked talking to one another.

It has been about a year since that meeting, I’d like to give you an update. Three of the young men are working. One of them has gotten his GED and is looking for work. One is in college and doing great. One is still home with mom, however it’s not the negative one. The negative one is the fellow who got his GED. Five out of six isn’t bad, but this is not the end of the story.

After the meeting was over, one of the young men threw his workbook in the trash on the way home. I had my business card on the workbook. The next thing I know I am receiving calls from a homeless man who found the workbook in the trash. He was inspired by the materials and he was reaching out to me for help. He called me several times over the next few months, he would never give me his name, but he called me almost every week to check-in. When we first started talking, he mentioned suicide several times. I was very concerned, but I had no way to locate him. He continued to call. I always took time to talk to him. He told me about steps he was taking to get help and look for work. The last time I talked to him, he was in an apartment, he had a job and he was registering for college classes. I never knew his name. He never shared his contact information. I guess, I’ll never know the end of the story, but I think our words touched him and maybe saved his life. Like I said, five out of six isn’t bad and we got a bonus. I hope you don’t mind me borrowing your words. I only do so to motivate and inspire other towards success. I hope someday we have the opportunity to meet. If you are ever in Birmingham, please look me up.

Thanks for your words,

Joey Richey

Wow! When I received this e-mail, I was speechless, which doesn’t happen often. But then I was also reminded, as well all need to be on occasion, of what my “Why” is.

It is not often that we get an opportunity to validate all that we each do daily, but when those moments come, it is important to soak them in and to thank others for bringing purpose home.

Joey and I had a great call Monday. The longer we talked, the more I appreciated his “Why.” As he said, when he watched the light bulb click on for each of these men, all his hard work made more sense.

Yes, this is still a blog about sports stories, but I thought you might want to see what happens after the buzzer sounds, the clock strikes zero, and the spotlights are dimmed. The beauty of these sports stories is they can truly be applied to real life. Just ask Joey Richey’s team.

Has there ever been a moment where your “Why” became crystal clear to you?

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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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