Henry Peterson was a talented (American) football player at his Virginia high school in the 1920s. He wanted to keep on playing in college and most wanted to play at Georgetown University for Lou Little, who was the most prestigious coach of the era. Unfortunately, when he got there, he found himself to be a small fish in a big pond surrounded by many even better athletes. As a result, he spent his four years of college sitting on the reserve bench and never getting into games.
He was well-regarded by Coach Little, who often praised him in public as a role model to everyone because he always gave his best. “He’s the glue that holds this team together.” In his final season, Georgetown were having their best year ever, and when it came to the last game of the season, they had a chance to win the division championship against Fordham University.
For Henry Peterson, it turned out to be a very different week because he received news that his father had died. He went to talk to his coach about what he should do because he didn’t want to let his team down. Coach Little told him: “Family is far more important than sports will ever be. Please, you must go home and be there for your family. And here’s what we will do: we will put your father’s initials on the sleeves of our jerseys and say a prayer for him every day after practice.”
Coach Little was true to his word and honored Peterson’s father every day while Henry went home and consoled his younger brothers, sisters, and mother.
On the day of the big game, Little was sitting in his office thinking through the final strategy for the game when, to his amazement, who should walk through the door but Henry Peterson was all kitted up and ready to play. “What are you doing here, Henry? Why aren’t you taking care of your family?”
Peterson replied: “I was there for them all week. I gave them my best, but I had to come here today. Coach, can I ask you a favor?”
“Anything Henry, what?”
“I want to start today’s game,” requested Peterson.
“Well, Henry, when I said anything, I didn’t mean anything. This game’s more important than you and me,” was Coach Little’s reply. “You’ve been sitting on my bench for four years; I just can’t put you in – there’s a lot riding on this game.”
Henry implored: “Coach, put me in there, and if I make one mistake, you can take me out for the rest of the game.”
Coach Little reluctantly agreed. By playing position, Peterson was a running back, which meant it was his job to carry the ball downfield and, usually after many attempts, cross the goal line to score. To run for 100 yards is similar to scoring 100 runs playing cricket; it’s fairly rare and is considered an outstanding performance. That day, Peterson ran for 171 yards and three touchdowns (equivalent to three goals in football or hockey). Georgetown won the game and the championship, and Peterson was mobbed by his teammates.
Half amazed and half upset, Coach Little ran up to him and said, “Henry, I had no idea you were that good! I could have used you these past four years! What happened?”
Peterson said: “Did you ever meet my father?”
Little: “No, I wish I had. I saw you walking with him on campus a couple of times, but regrettably, no, I never did. Why?” asked Coach Little.
“Coach,” said Henry, “my father was blind, and today was the first time he ever got to see me play.”
That week, Henry Peterson didn’t magically get faster and stronger; that day, he played with a totally different sense of purpose. In his mind, it was the first and only chance his father would ever get to watch him play football. It was unacceptable for him not to shine.
Motivational stories like this are often misunderstood. They are not meant to simply make us feel good for a few fleeting moments. They are meant to be examples for you and me to demonstrate that we have no idea what we are capable of and that when we “play full out” with an inspired sense of purpose, with a new meaning or chosen destiny – with inspired reasons – we can move mountains.
Yes, it is a story that brings tears to our eyes, but what we often misunderstand – what really matters here is:
*How inspiring are your reasons to achieve what you want?
*How inspiring can you make your purpose?
*How can you maintain this as best as possible on most days when your motivation often fluctuates for multiple reasons?
ACTION STEP: List Your Reasons and Your Anchor
a) What are Your Reasons Why?
Start to list them out. This isn’t really about the quantity as much as the compelling nature of your reasons to think of when you are not following through. What is most important to you?
*Support your family
*More opportunities for your children
*Fulfil your potential
*Make your parents proud?
*To feel a certain way (joy?)
The more jugular your reasons, the better. This list alone might be enough!
b) Make Your Love Greater Than Your Fear
Whether the love is purely from your heart or from a higher power as The Source of Love, could it lead the charge?
In my 5 Habits to Mine Your Gold book, I wrote that there are only two states of being: love (executive brain) and fear (survival brain). We either act from a place of love, creativity, and inspiration or from a survival fear-based state.
The only fear you have is the fear that you are not loveable.
This is a fear created by your ego, and this fear holds you back.
One of your reasons and one of your beliefs can be: “I am loveable, so I can pursue what I love without fear of what happens.”
c) Find More Purpose
“What is the use of living if it is not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?
– Winston Churchill
“Somewhere, right at the bottom of one’s own being, one generally does know where one should go and what one should do. But there are times when the clown we call ‘I’ behaves in such a distracting fashion that the inner voice cannot make its presence felt.”
– Carl Jung
Identifying your purpose in life can be a long journey requiring much reflection, and it might change for you over the years. I wrote about this at length in my 5 Habits book. Great places to start can include:
*Serving ‘Your’ People
– and you only need one of these!
Make your purpose greater than your fear.
d) Identify Your Anchor Moment and Use It!
Henry Peterson went on to have a great career in sales. He called his experience playing in the championship game his “sweet spot in time,” and he used it again and again to have a successful career. Recently, I wrote about ClassPass founder Payal Kadakia, and she called it her “anchor moment.” She said: “Nothing else in my life could compare to it, and once I uncovered that, I always wanted to feel that in anything I did.” These experiences are the same thing!
You have had anchor experiences as well. What do I mean? It was one of those times when you felt like you were on fire. Your confidence was through the roof. For however long it lasted – even if it was only an hour -that day, nobody could stop you. You were in a total state of flow. Can you remember it?
For me, it was a rugby practice at the Memorial Park when I was 15 and scored three tries – two of which were the best I ever scored in my six years of playing. It was as if another being took over my body, and I was unstoppable that afternoon. I have had a few speaking events like this when I got “on a roll,” which was loose and funny. You have your own version of this.
Unfortunately – all too often – you may have written it off as a fluke – as luck or chance. As something that happened seemingly out of nowhere. It may have never occurred to you that you can use that moment as an anchor like Henry Peterson and Payal Kadakia did to sit in your heart or soul and turn it on for important situations.
Hearing that this is exactly how they used theirs, now you too can take that anchor seriously and ‘cue’ that feeling whenever you want to for a key meeting or event. Use your imagination to get you into that state of mind. Why not? Picture it, relive it, and do it again.
Your reasons why matter a LOT. The more jugular your reasons, the better. When you have compelling reasons why, you will spend as long as it takes to figure out HOW you are going to get where you need to go, they are the final burst of rocket fuel that you need to help you get to the top of your next mountain. They turn your achievement journey into a continuous movement as you scale the summit and start to go down into the next valley for your next big challenge.
To your reasons why!