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Glenn Cunningham: Driven To Do The Impossible

Every morning, 7 year-old Glenn Cunningham and his brother Floyd arrived early to light the pot-bellied coal stove that heated his country schoolhouse. On one of those cold mornings, an accident occurred that changed his life forever.

The class and teacher arrived to find the schoolhouse swallowed in flames. Glenn suffered major burns over the lower half of his body, and from his hospital bed he faintly heard the doctor talking to his mother. The doctor told his mother that her son wouldn’t make it – which was for the best – for the fire had caused irreversible damage to his body.

It was determined that Glenn would never walk again. But he endured the incredible pain and horrible scars, and month after month he exercised until he could stand on his own. After nearly a year of exercise, he learned to walk again, and in his words, “by the grace of God, I learned to run again.” Glenn Cunningham went on to become one of the greatest track stars of all time.

This young man who was not expected to survive, who would surely never walk, who could never hope to run, Glenn Cunningham, won the Big Six indoor titles and was again at the Olympics in 1936. He was known as the “Kansas Ironman.” Then on March 3, 1938, Cunningham became the world’s fastest miler as he set a new record at Dartmouth College.

This amazing story of a boy who was supposed to die, beautifully illustrates the incredible power of drive.

I believe that every single person is much more powerful than they imagine, and perseverance will always pay off. The way we define drive is the unyielding determination to achieve your goals. The key word here is “unyielding”. When you experience unyielding drive, nothing can hold you back. You are being intrinsically pulled to achieve your goals, rather than externally pushed.

There’s actually a trigger that goes off in our brains when we have a goal. When we seek out new and exciting challenges, our brain releases a chemical called dopamine. Think of this like the fuel and motivation chemical. It gives us a pleasurable sensation and encourages us to keep reaching as we drive towards our goal. The reason why the top 1% are so successful is because they feel intrinsically drawn toward achievement. Their brains are literally rewarding them with positive chemicals that make them want to achieve even more. Creating an addiction to goal achieving, is how you create passion.

Here’s how you can start achieving your goals with unyielding determination.

  1. Embrace hard work.

Nothing worth having has ever come easily. Glenn’s path to recovery was a painful one, and required physical and mental toughness combined with working hard every single day. Neighbors and family members said he walked lopsided. But soon, he proceeded to run, grabbing a milk cow or mule’s tail, taking as much weight off his legs and running behind as the animals headed to water. He still couldn’t straighten out his right leg. Every step was “like daggers,” but he never quit trying. He embraced the pain and the hard work that was required to reach his goal, but he knew it would be worth it in the end. Learn to love the hard work and become addicted to improvement. When you allow your passion to drive you, you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.

  1. Stop fearing failure.

If your goals don’t scare you, you’re not thinking big enough. Don’t be afraid to fail multiple times before you succeed. I guarantee every single one of the most successful people in history faced failure on their path towards their goals. If Glenn Cunningham feared failure, and gave up when everyone else told him to, he never would have made it into the hall of fame. No matter what goal you’re chasing, never fear failure. That’s what having drive is all about, recovering from setbacks with renewed energy.

  1. Bring positive energy to every situation.

Every day brings a different story. But if you can remain positive no matter what curveballs fly your way, you’re already one step closer to achieving your goal. When you commit to achieving a goal, you never know what the path will hold. Having a positive mindset is a powerful tool that will change your life. Glenn Cunningham never would have been able to achieve the things he did if he didn’t have a positive mindset. When you bring positive energy to every situation, only good things will follow.

I want you to think about where you are right now, and where you wish you were. What are you doing? Who do you need to help you get there? What needs to change in your life?

Drive is having the unyielding determination to achieve your goals, no matter how tough the path may be. You will have setbacks. You will get fatigued. You will question the goal you’re chasing. But you are capable of anything when you have unwavering determination. You can be anyone you want to be when you have drive.

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