The year was 1973 and I was enjoying my first year of independent life as a college freshman. On the other hand, our nation was in a full-blown funk, consumed with Watergate and the Vietnam War. We needed a shot in the arm and bad. Who would have known it would come in the form of a horse?
For a quarter of a century, America had been waiting for another Triple Crown winner. Some had come close, but often the Belmont Stakes proved insurmountable. But, this year would be different. It was Secretariat’s year. The chestnut-colored thoroughbred had won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness handily and in record form. But, how would he fare in the stiffest of tests?
In what remains history’s greatest horse race, Secretariat annihilated the field, running with an abandon never seen before or since. Under jockey Ron Turcotte, Secretariat smashed the record by an unthinkable two-plus seconds, winning by an unheard of 31 lengths. To this day, I consider it the greatest feat in sport. Legendary athletes were in tears as they witnessed perfection. [If you haven’t, you must watch this incredible performance (just Google “Secretariat Belmont”) or better yet, the full documentary.]
Did Secretariat have a special secret? He most assuredly was an amazing physical specimen. However, after he was euthanized at 19, the autopsy revealed that Secretariat’s heart was twice as large as normal. No wonder. His engine was like no other.
Secretariat raced with heart and with passion.
I believe passion is the special sauce of life. And, while no one exemplified this better than Secretariat, it’s not a quality only reserved for the supremely gifted. Great leaders live with passion. And, so can you.
Here’s how I describe it to young adults, facing newfound freedom and setting the stage for their lives:
- Giving everything your best
- Committing to continuous improvement and an insatiable appetite for learning
- Viewing each day as an opportunity to make a difference
- Not just attending all classes (and putting academics first), but sitting in the front row
- Stretching yourself in new ways and “going for it!”
- Seeking opportunities to uplift others
- Prioritizing relationships and meeting new people
- Viewing your time as a precious asset to be used wisely
- Being proactive rather than reactive
- Building your competitive edge through learning, experiences, and leadership opportunities
- Ensuring that no other candidate in a job interview is more enthusiastic than you!
- Always demonstrating a positive attitude and a grateful heart
My challenge to you is to unleash your “inner Secretariat” and live with passion. There’s nothing like it!