There are many people who could be Olympic champions, Ail- Americans who have never tried. I’d estimate five million people could have beaten me in the pole vault the years I won it, at least five million. Men who were stronger, bigger and faster than I was could have done it, but they never picked up a pole, never made the feeble effort to pick their legs off the ground to try to get over the bar.
Greatness is all around us. It’s easy to be great because great people will help you. What is fantastic about all the conventions I go to is that the greatest in the business will come and share their ideas, their methods and their techniques with everyone else. I have seen the greatest salesmen open up and show young salesmen exactly how they did it. They don’t hold back. I have also found it true in the world of sports. I’ll never forget the time I was trying to break Dutch Warmer Dam’s record. I was about a foot below his record, so I called him on the phone. I said, “Dutch, can you help me? I seem to have leveled off. I can’t get any higher.” He said, “Sure, Bob, come on up to visit me and I’ll give you all I got.” I spent three days with the master, the greatest pole vaulter in the world. For three days, Dutch gave me everything that he’d seen. There were things that I was doing wrong and he corrected them. To make a long story short, I went up eight inches. That great guy gave me the best that he had. I’ve found that sports champions and heroes willingly do this just to help you become great, too.
John Wooden, the great UCLA basketball coach, has a philosophy that every day he is supposed to help someone who can never reciprocate. That’s his obligation. When in college working on his masters thesis on scouting and defensive football, George Allen wrote up a 30-page survey and sent it out to the great coaches in the country. Eighty-five percent answered it completely.
Great people will share, which is what made George Allen one of the greatest football coaches in the world. Great people will tell you their secrets. Look for them, call them on the phone or buy their books. Go where they are, get around them, talk to them. It is easy to be great when you get around great people.