August 31, 2016

What no one could have realized at the time was how much Jeff and his team’s ignorance of the sport would turn out to be an asset
— But Now I See by Steven Holcomb

This quote is from a book I am listening to and quite interested in.  The book is But Now I See by Steven Holcomb.  Steven is the driver of USA 1 Bobsled and an Olympic Gold Medalist.  He was diagnosed with Keratoconus which degrades vision and became legally blind (while still the driver of a sled going 90 mph).  Not only is this book a great story about overcoming a condition to restore sight, but it also has a parallel story about USA bobsledding that is fascinating to me. 

The USA at one time had to buy their sleds and equipment from the Europeans.  There were no sleds built in the USA.  It was no wonder that we consistently finished poorly, not only off the medal stand, but really never having a chance as we were using outdated equipment and no one was really taking the sport as seriously, in a gear or technical sense, as our competitors.  This all changed when Jeff Bodine of NASCAR was watching the Olympics when Herschel Walker was a pusher and the commentator pointed out this flaw in our team's equipment.  Jeff Bodine decided that he was going to change things.  

He didn't know anything about Bobsledding, but he had tremendous pride in his country and he did know about racing.  He did have a complete garage that could build a NASCAR vehicle overnight.  He committed to a task and got it done...eventually.  

I LOVE this quote above because it embodies my own career and what I have seen from so many others as well.  What may seem like the biggest weakness, challenge, hurdle, or giant mountain in front of you will turn out to be your greatest asset if you stick with it long enough.  In my case, I grew up in Tennessee and had never seen a bonefish, tarpon or permit in my entire life.  I had never been on a guided trip and had never once been to the Florida Keys.  There is no way that you could look at this situation and conclude that I was operating at a distinct advantage over my competition in my quest to become a bonefish, tarpon and permit guide in the Florida Keys.   It certainly wasn't an advantage...for 10 or 12 years. My competition grew up in Key West, they had fathers who were guides, they had been on the water their whole life.  My situation was one of almost complete impossibility, but I did have one crucial ingredient, passion and determination.  I simply wanted to be a fishing guide in the Florida Keys so bad that nothing was going to stop me.  One other asset that I had was a work ethic, an ability to endure pain and a never quit attitude forged by my wrestling background. 

I knew that I had to work harder than everyone else, 10 times as hard, because I had no idea what I was doing.  I had to learn more, faster than everyone else, because I knew nothing. I knew that I had to treat my customers better than they had ever been treated before, because they were the only ones that I had.  This developed a work ethic and passion for learning that became the normal, every day operating procedure.

In Steven Holcomb's book, the fact that Jeff Bodine knew nothing about bobsledding certainly wasn't an advantage at first.  His first sleds were slightly better than our old ones, but still no medals.  However, because he knew nothing of protocol, the way it had always been done or tradition, Jeff did what he knew how to do and used his resources to get a job done.  The result was something that the Bobsled community had never seen before.  Pit crews, engineers, the ability to change things instantly or rebuild the entire sled overnight became their normal operating procedure.

At first, this looked like a circus act and all the competitors watched in amusement, but Bodine and his team stayed with it and did what they knew how to do.  They knew how to make instant corrections toward improvement and they knew how to make things go fast. 

It didn't work right away, but eventually the fact that Jeff Bodine knew nothing about Bobsledding became the Team USA's biggest advantage.  In 2014 at Sochi, the Team USA sled, driven by Steven Holcomb won the Olympic Gold Medal.

Take Home Value:  Do not let ANYTHING intimidate you from doing something that you want to do.  No matter how impossible it seems, if you commit and stick with it, whatever your biggest challenge is today will become your greatest advantage.  This might be your health, your location, your education, your upbringing or your experience level.  It is definitely not going to happen overnight, but any of these things can be corrected and in that process, you may discover your advantage and dominate your competition. 

Do you have a story about how this has been true in your own life or in the life of someone you know?  If so, I'd like to hear it.  Send me an email at


This morning 5:45 am

6 Mile Run as fast as possible

I finished 48:32, slower than I had anticipated.  PSC came in around 42:00, Mike D and Alan L beat me by a minute or two.  Good work!