Saturday night, a horse and a jockey with 80-1 odds stunned the horse racing world by coming from behind to win the prestigious Kentucky Derby. The only other horse to win with longer odds was Donerail in 1913, at 91-1— more than a century earlier. If this isn’t an object lesson in how we never know when our chance will strike, then nothing is.
Two days before, Sonny Leon and Rich Strike, had other weekend plans. Friday morning, however, Ethereal Road scratched out– opening a spot for Rich Strike. They didn’t even get formally entered until 30 seconds before the deadline.
Starting on the far outside, Sonny guided Rich Strike to the inside. but still at the back. At halfway, they were still in the back. With the field running at record paces, the about-to-be champions strategically maneuvered. No one was noticing. Move after move after move… until they “burst” into the lead, leaving everyone stunned.
How did they do it? They were ready (despite no reason to expect to be there), confident and flexible. Even at 80-1 odds, Sonny Leon had confidence in Rich Strike. The jockey told NBC, “I knew I had a horse for this race… When I was in the last 70 yards, I said ‘I think I’ve got this race.'” Trainer Eric Reed concurred, saying “We’re not supposed to be here, but I knew this horse loved the track.”
What’s the message? Know what you want and prepare to get it. Opportunity often strikes at the least likely moment. Bosses leave jobs, someone gets sick and needs a fill-in, and unexpected news hits the market.
Big goals and big dreams often seem impossible. In this case, maybe three or four people, out of the thousands in the horse world, believed Rick Strike and Sonny Leon could win. The thing is, the beliefs of the doers are the only beliefs that count.
In my own life, IBM once told me “We regret we cannot encourage you to pursue a career with IBM.” For a bit, I believed them and planned to go to law school. Then one day I woke up and realized, “Wait, just because they think that doesn’t make it true. Just because they think I won’t do as good of a job as their hiring profile people, doesn’t mean they are right. It took two years but they hired me, awarded me, and promoted me on the day I quit to go skiing — instead of taking a leave of absence to go to biz school.
Just today, a former client told me that after years of trying, he has established a dialogue with the industry titan he wants to work for. Here’s another one. A friend from summer camp skipped college, became a hairdresser, got married at 19, and had a baby with Downs Syndrome. And then she had four more kids before she had to leave her husband. Everyone had liked her but no one thought she was really “going anywhere”. However, in her 40s, she graduated from medical school and opened her own family practice. I haven’t spoken to her in over 20 years but I just googled and she has a 5 out of 5 rating and is associated with the Cleveland Clinic!
There is no substitute for the long game and even more importantly, there is no substitute for doing what it takes to believe in yourself. Know what you want! Don’t sell yourself short. Prepare. Worst case, if you never get it, you won’t regret doing your best.
Yoda was wrong. There is actually the “try.” In fact, it’s the only thing you can do. And when you do try and you do prepare, just like Sonny Leon and Rich Strike, you will know exactly what to do when that call comes.