Jordan Spieth won the Masters golf tournament on Sunday. It was an unlikely feat. Unlikely in that he tied the record for the best winning score—18 under par, matched only by Tiger Woods in 1997. Unlikely in that he became the second youngest winner—at 21, beat only by Tiger again, who won his first Masters also at 21 but just a younger 21. Unlikely in that he was only the fifth golfer in its more than 80-year history to lead all four days of the tournament. It was awesome.
Even if you proclaim to hate golf, if you happened to stumble upon it on Sunday afternoon it wouldn’t have taken long for you to get hooked.
And, if rumor is true, Spieth was named after Michael Jordan, another unlikely sports hero. Unlikely because legend has it that he was met by many failures leading up to college, with more than one coach doubting his staying ability-- even being cut from his high school team as a sophomore.
So many of our heroes are “unlikely”—both our fictional ones, like one of my favorites, Rocky Balboa—and our real life ones, like Gandhi, who is attributed to saying one of my favorite things ever:
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Then you win.
So, what makes these heroes unlikely? Odds said they shouldn’t. People said they couldn’t. Circumstances said they probably wouldn’t. But then they went ahead and did it anyway.
Like another one of my favorite quotes, “According to the laws of aerodynamics, the bumblebee can’t fly… but the bumblebee doesn’t know anything about the laws of aerodynamics, so it goes ahead and flies anyway.”
So many of the people we are drawn to have unlikely stories… why shouldn’t we? What separates us from those heroes of ours? I think so often we just assume we can’t. Oh I could never… we tell ourselves. Yes, but she’s so much more… we convince ourselves. I'm just not that lucky ... we mutter.
Says who? I say.
Because the thing is—how will we ever know if we could become an “unlikely hero” if we don’t even try? If I want to play in a band, but I assume I can’t so I don’t even bother… well then my chances are zero percent. But if I try, maybe my chances are only one percent. And maybe it won’t work. In fact, in probably won’t. But if instead I say “What the hell?”; if I say “What will it really hurt if I try and fail?”, if I say “I don’t want to wonder what if”… then maybe, just maybe, the unlikely will occur after all.
What unlikely thing can you accomplish today?