The Greatest Advice He'd Ever Received Was …
“He told me I had broken wings,” recounts Billy Mills about the day his father took him out fishing after his mother passed away.
Mills, only eight when his mother died, was filled with not just grief and self-pity from his tremendous loss, but also hate.
Why? Because at the time, Mills believed he’d lost his mother “because people had expressed hate toward us.”
In addition, Mills’ heart was filled with jealousy due to his family’s lack of material possessions.
You see, Billy Mills grew up in severe poverty on the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Indian Reservation and had faced prejudice and cultural discrimination all of his childhood.
That day fishing, Mills’ father was trying to explain to his young son how his emotions were blinding him and preventing him from seeing the good in other people, other cultures and even his own culture. His father warned him that those emotions could eventually destroy him.
It was then that Mills’ father gave him the greatest advice he’d ever receive in his life …
“He told me that I had to look way down deep to where your dreams lie,” Mills says. “He told me to find my dream and follow it, and that it is the pursuit of the dream that heals you. Follow your dream, son.”
Mills did just that. You see, he loved to run. And he was good at it. So good, in fact, that he eventually found himself pursuing a dream of competing in the Olympics.
And when he’d get down on himself, to keep focused and boost his confidence, he’d remember the inspiring words of his late father (who passed away when Mills was 12) by writing down the following words …
“Gold medal. 10,000-meter run. BELIEVE. BELIEVE. BELIEVE.”
Mills trained and trained and eventually posted times in the 10,000-meter (about six miles) and the marathon that secured him a place on the 1964 Tokyo-bound U.S. Olympic team.
Even so, few gave Mills much of a chance to win.
In the 10,000-meter, he would be competing against the world record holder, Australia’s Ron Clarke. Clarke’s world record time was 28 minutes and 15.6 seconds. Mills had never broken 29 minutes.
But, in what is regarded as one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history, Mills, in a perfectly timed burst of speed, bested both Clarke and the Tunisian runner Mohammed Gammoudi to win the gold medal in 28 minutes 24.4 seconds.
Not bad for a man who never even owned a pair of track shoes until the day before the Olympics.
Of course, it’s not just writing down your goals that’s important. It’s the action you take to achieve them. For two years prior to the Olympics, Mills would run up to 100 miles each week.
Mills’ story demonstrates how crucial it is to believe in yourself and your own abilities.
Mills says, “The ultimate degree of competition is to compete against yourself. Not your fellow man, or your neighbor, but yourself; to become aware of your many, many weaknesses, and your strengths, to get a better perspective of your whereabouts.”
To be successful at almost anything, you can’t take a half-hearted approach to it. You must possess a burning desire to succeed and make it your number one priority.
What specific goal do you want to achieve in your freelance writing career? Try writing it down with the words “BELIEVE. BELIEVE. BELIEVE.” like Billy Mills did. Then post it somewhere you’ll see it and feel inspired by it every single day. Then, take action!
I’d love to hear what inspires you to believe in yourself. Please share your comments here.
Tomorrow, I’ll feature the story of one of the gutsiest performances in Olympic history, and what you can learn from it to help you be a more successful writer.
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