Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Lessons from Jim Thorpe

By Gino Blefari:

This week my travels find me kicking off the new year by participating in my regular Berkshire Hathaway Energy call and speaking at Intero’s Academy. I spoke about finding opportunity in chaos, four reasons we aren’t in a housing bubble, 16 ways to thrive in a shifting market, seven types of agents who will get crushed in 2023 (and how to thrive instead), seven daily REALTOR® activities to utilize to have your best year ever, five predictions for 2023 (and how to take advantage of them), seven things top-producing REALTORS® do that you probably don’t do, and more! I also spent the week preparing and organizing for a busy January ahead.

From time to time, people will send me articles they think might be of interest, and this week, I received a text from one of the top agents in the country and a dear friend, Andy Tse of Intero Real Estate Services. He wrote: Have you ever studied Jim Thorpe? This blew me away.

And then sent me Thorpe’s story.

I’ve actually been intrigued with Jim Thorpe since I was a kid. In the early 80s, I read Bob Wheeler’s iconic book, “Jim Thorpe: The World’s Greatest Athlete.”. For those unfamiliar with Thorpe and his incredible win during the 1912 Olympics, I want to share his story with you now.

Thorpe was a track and field star widely considered one of the greatest American athletes of the twentieth century. Hailing from Oklahoma, he descended from Sac, Fox and Potawatomi Indian bloodlines in addition to his French and Irish ancestry. At birth, he was given the name Wa-Tho-Huk (“Bright Path”) and christened as Jacobus Franciscus Thorpe.

There’s a famous photo of Thorpe standing on the track field during the 1912 Olympics. If you look closely, you’ll notice he’s wearing two different sneakers. The image intrigued Wheeler, who then conducted more than 200 interviews with teammates, family, and friends of Thorpe to discover the truth behind this image.

Here’s what he uncovered:

When the 1912 Olympics began in Stockholm, Sweden, Thorpe dominated in the pentathlon, leading his competitors in the 1,500-meter run by almost five seconds. The following week, the three-day decathlon kicked off. It was raining buckets. Despite the weather, on opening day of the event, Thorpe raced down the track and completed the 100-meter dash in 11.2 seconds, a record that wouldn’t be broken until 1948.

The following day, Thorpe was set to participate in the second day of the decathlon except there was a major problem – Thorpe’s sneakers were nowhere to be found. (Rumor has it they were stolen.) Mere minutes before the 1,500-meter race was set to start, and Thorpe was shoeless. Several versions of this story circulate in track and field lore but the story Wheeler tells is that a frantic Thorpe asked his teammates if anyone had shoes to spare. One teammate had just one extra shoe. It was too small, but Thorpe somehow got his foot inside it anyway. OK, one down one to go …

In desperation, Thorpe searched the garbage bin and lo and behold found another sneaker. This time, the sneaker was too big, so Thorpe put on several extra pairs of socks just to fit into it. With one sneaker too small and one too large, the odds seemed heavily stacked against Thorpe in this race.

With the race moments from beginning, Thorpe stood on the Olympic starting line, facing the world’s best decathletes, with two mismatched shoes, and do you know what he did? He won –  running the 1,500-meter run in 4 minutes, 40.1 seconds.

So, what’s the message? Never give up. Despite the odds, despite the challenges, never give up. Like Thorpe at the Olympics, take the shoes you’re given and run as fast as you can.

Respond to Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Lessons from Jim Thorpe

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s