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Explode to Greatness!

Leo Long was something of a phenomenon. After attaining All American honors on the Track & Field team at Stanford University in the Javelin, he started coaching at Los Altos High School in Northern California, where he built a Track & Field dynasty, winning the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League (SCVAL) championships every single year he coached – over 20 years! Los Altos High, my alma mater, won the California State Championship in Track & Field in 1970. Coach Long had athletes that not only set state records but national records. I was lucky to know him rather well as he lived on my street, and his son, Doug, was my best friend at the time.

Coach Long often gave his athletes this charge: “Explode to greatness!” It was his way of admonishing and encouraging his athletes to rise to the occasion and demonstrate the moral courage necessary to exceed past performance levels.

And if Coach Long were here today (he died a few years ago) he would urge all of us to explode to greatness. Here are a few suggestions on how to do that:

  • Get control of your schedule. Figure out how much sleep you need (8 hours is ideal; less than 7 is not optimal for most people) and, depending on your work schedule, commit to starting your day at an early hour. My approach is to call it a day at 8:00 PM, take a shower, lights out at 8:30 PM, then up at 4:30 AM.
  • Start your work earlier than others do. This will give you momentum. I’ll be at the office a little before 5:30 AM. Even with an hour lunch break (which I will use to read, not eat), I’ll complete an 8-hour day by 2:30 PM.
  • Take care of your health and fitness. Your body is a machine. Maintain it. My workplace has a reasonably good fitness center, and I will be in there every workday at 2:30 PM for about an hour. That will help me to maintain my strength, my cardio, and my flexibility, plus allow me to drill on the martial arts.
  • Have one or two very important goals – accomplishments that would set you apart and give you deep satisfaction. And you must think through the micro-tasks that lead to the accomplishment of such goals. Every week (for me, Sunday evening) you must look at your calendar for the next week and map out what you will commit to accomplish within that 7-day time frame to move you in the direction of your goals.
  • Continually gain new knowledge and new perspectives. I love how Elon Musk answered the question of how he was able to build rockets. He said, “I read books.” What he was really saying is that he gets regular input from outside perspectives. He exposes himself to the thoughts of others. Books are simply one way (one really good way) to do that. But blogs, podcasts, magazines, talk radio, courses, speeches, debates, seminars, conventions, trade journals, and being mentored are all good ways to get input from others. So make sure you are regularly exposing yourself to such input. Doing so feeds your mind and gives you more to draw upon. Failing to read books (or get input from other sources) gives you less to draw upon and thus limits you in profound ways. Always keep placing new intellectual firewood in the fireplace of your mind.

Explode to greatness, not to mediocrity!

That means your goals should be profound. Your accomplishments should be something that amaze you. Your expectations should be high. And your commitment to your purpose must be unyielding.

Trust me: if you do those things, you may well make 2024 your best year ever.

Ara Norwood is a multi-faceted and results-oriented professional. Spanning a multiplicity of disciplines including leadership, management, innovation, strategy, service, sales, business ethics, and entrepreneurship. Ara is also a historian, having special expertise on the era of the founding of our republic.
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