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Outrunning Hitler

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Young Jesse decided that he too wanted to be the fastest human being on earth. The boy went to his track coach and told of his new dream.

His coach told him, “It's great to have a dream, but to attain your dream you must build a ladder to it. Here is the ladder to your dreams:

[Photo of Jesse Owens]“The first rung is determination!

The second rung is dedication!

The third rung is discipline!

And the fourth rung is attitude!”

Jesse began to climb that ladder. He didn't know it at the time, but that ladder would take him to the pinnacle of success against incredible odds.

The Olympic Games of 1936 were held in Berlin. The man in charge of those games was Adolf Hitler. The German entry in the running broad jump was Luz Long, a blond, blue-eyed athlete who had trained all his life for this event. Hitler desperately wanted Long to win to support his propaganda of the Master Race.

Representing the Americans was Jesse. Jesse Owens.

In the trials he did badly. He had to jump a qualifying distance of 24½ feet, but he fouled up his first attempt. Luz Long qualified easily. On his second attempt, Owens was extra cautious, and he fell three inches short of the qualifying distance.

Owens was now extremely nervous. He may not even qualify to compete in the broad jump. Before his third and final try, he rested on one knee in prayer. Then someone called his name and put a calm, reassuring hand on his shoulder. It was Luz Long!

“I think I know what is wrong with you,” said Luz, seconds before Owens was to jump. “You give everything when you jump. I do the same. You cannot do halfway, but you are afraid you will foul again.”

“That's right,” said Jesse.

“I  have answer,” said  Luz. “Same thing happen to me last year in Cologne.” Luz told him to jump half a foot behind the takeoff board—with full power. That way it was possible not to foul and yet not hold back. Luz then put his towel down at the exact spot from which Jesse should jump.
It worked. Jesse not only qualified, he set an unofficial world record. Thanks to Luz, the African-American was still in the running.

The day of the finals, Luz Long jumped first, his first of three tries; Jesse Owens jumped a little farther. Luz's second jump outdid Jesse's first; Jesse then jumped a half-inch farther. On his third and final try Luz Long outdid himself; a fast, high, long leap far in excess of the existing world record.

Now it was Jesse Owen's final turn. Before he took off, he caught Luz Long's eye. Jesse said later he felt that his opponent was “wordlessly urging me to do my best, to do better than I'd ever done.”And Jesse did.

Luz had jumped farther than any man had ever jumped before. But Jesse jumped even farther than Luz.

“You did it!” said Luz. Then he held Jesse's arm up in the air. “Jazze Owenz! Jazze Owenz!” he shouted to the crowd. Soon, more than 100,000 Germans were chanting along with him, “Jazze Owenz! Jazze Owenz!”

Luz Long failed to prove Hitler's theory of the Master Race. Instead, he proved himself one of the finest sportsmen of all time.

This story, taken from the book entitled “Jesse: The Man Who Outran Hitler” teaches us a great lesson. Sure. Jesse Owens is the hero. But the greater hero is Luz Long. He indeed carries the mark of a true champion.

A true champion is secure. What delights him is to help others and what causes him joy is to see someone he helped outperforming him.

Many managers in the workplace are extremely insecure. They do not want to reveal their expertise. They frown on newcomers and they do everything to discredit them. Maybe this is the reason why they will certainly fail. It’s just a matter of time.

But true champions are secure and confident. They share what they know and then they learn more new things in order to keep ahead. What gives them satisfaction is to see the their protégé achieving success.

Now here’s the question: Are you a true champion or not? Are you secure enough to pass on what you know to another? Or are you jealously keeping it all to yourself?

Print ed: 09/09


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