On the week of my first college cross country race, my coach, Al Cantello, got the team together to talk about the season. Once we were all there, Al said, “I’m not gonna apologize for our schedule. We race against the best teams in the country. This isn’t some day camp where everyone gets a prize; and it’s not your birthright to be on this team. You need to be blessed with pure, God-given talent to compete at this level. There’s no substitute for that.”
“But,” he said, “talent isn’t everything.”
He pointed to one of the seniors and said, “Look at John. He has no right to be in our top five. He’s not blessed with exceptional talent and he doesn’t have the pedigree that some of you do. Yet somehow he made himself into a runner. What gave him the ability to do that?”
“I’ll tell you,” Al said. He pointed to the midshipmen dormitory and said, “Look at Bancroft Hall. The whole building is made from solid granite.”
“Now look back at John,” he said, pointing to him.
“If I asked him to hit his head against the side of that building, he’d do it. He’d do it over and over again without me asking; he’d do it without me even being there. I could leave and come back, and he’d still be out there, banging his head against the building…and one day it would collapse, not him. Not him!”
Then Al grabbed John’s shirt, tugged him forward, and said, “He’s too stubborn to collapse! He made himself into a runner by refusing to collapse. That, gentlemen, is how he reinvented himself as a runner – from the ground up, one run at a time.”
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