In February of 1996, things were looking up.
We had moved to Scottsdale, Arizona to be near my nonpareil mother-in-law.
I had taken a two year leave of absence (from my senses from what I have been told) to study the power of visualization.
It was time to apply my findings.
The high school basketball season was ending its run and I called the local Sabercat coach.
Scott had graduated from the Sabercats and he was 100% behind my intent to teach the power of visualization to their squad.
Coach Mike met me inside the school gym and introduced me to their players.
Now, I had been a motivational speaker from practically the day I was born.
In fact, there had been rumors that I came out of the wound holding a microphone.
However, this was a different audience.
The starters appeared very undersized for a basketball team.
I shared with the young men that the season came down to the next six games.
Two wins to secure home court advantage and four wins to win the Arizona High School State Basketball Championships.
For some reason, my eyes that day locked with the eyes of a skinny, six foot three inch senior.
What is your name I asked him.
Austin, he responded.
Austin? Like Steve Austin, the six million dollar man?
The boys laughed, but I didn't like the tone of their laughter.
It was mocking in nature and it seemed to me that they had been tipped by someone that whatever I was going to be selling this afternoon, they would be best to not by.
I noticed that Bob, the team's assistant coach had a disinterested expression. Was he the saboteur?
No matter, I thought.
This young man of 18 years old, this Austin Super Hero kid, would satisfy.
For the next 15-20 minutes, I shared with the boys the power of visualization and why mastering its very simple steps would assure them to be in position for a championship.
I looked over at Mike and he was beaming.
The veteran coach was nearing retirement.
A recent heart attack had convinced the school board that his time was nearing an end.
Bob was sitting in the wing, waiting to be the next head coach.
No wonder why Bob was not going to support me.
It was Mike's choice to bring me in.
Let Mike walk the plank if he was wrong bringing in a man who believed in the power of the human mind.
In his long career, Mike had been a winner of the big prize only once.
The pressure was on me, but I always thrived under pressure.
Gentlemen, I spoke loudly and crisply.
Know this very well.
To visualize is to create a picture in your mind. If you picture it boldly, confidently and persistently enough, it will eventually become the magnificent reality in your life.
At first, nothing.
Then, I began to hear the sound of clapping being made by only one set of hands.
It would be Austin coming to my support.
Inspired by Austin, their team leader, the boys formed a circle around me and cheered loudly.
Austin had saved the day.
I never forgo that.
But it was only the beginning of the story.
It had come to the point in the season when a single loss would bring it all to am unfulfilled conclusion.
For seniors like Austin, Chris and Artin, this was their final chance to win a championship.
It became apparent over the course of the next few games, that while talented, there were a couple of glaring holes in the team's character.
Backcourt mates Chris and Artin both didn't want the ball in their hands during the final two minutes.
On a basketball team, you must want the ball in your hands at all times, especially the final two minutes.
I made a mental note to schedule three bullet conferences.
One with Chris, the shooting guard.
One with the point guard, Artin.
And maybe the most important of all.
A consult with Austin.
I watched this confident young man, a leader at the ripe old age of 18, take charge on the court.
As he went to the line in one of those crucial building block wins, he looked up to the cheering crowd and waved at them.
This only made the rabid crows scream even louder.
He has them in the palm of his hand I thought to myself.
And what's more, he knows it.
There was no doubt that Austin was the key to the Sabercats championship hopes.
But as a forward, he didn't have the ball as often as Artin and Chris.
When I net with him, I reminded him that he had to show his leadership by making Chris and Artin believe that they were meant to be a team of destiny.
Austin looked at me as if all I asked was to tuck his shirt into his basketball shorts.
No problem. coach, he smiled.
I got it covered.
Did he call me coach?
Artin hit a game winning shot and the Cats were one game closer to being State champions.
I asked Chris if Artin's heroics motivated him to want the ball in the closing seconds.
At least he was honest.
I asked him why.
I guess I am afraid of failure.
I put one hand on his shoulder.
Chris, if you play scared down the stretch, your team is going to know it.
You have to want the ball.
You have to find a way to embrace the spotlight, savor the hot lights.
Chris looked scared simply speaking with me.
How can I do that.
I could see that he sincerely wanted to know.
I am going to teach you how to visualize.
Chris nodded with approval.
I will do whatever you want me ti do,
That's fine, Chris.
I will teach you the extraordinary liberating power of visualization, nut it's not about what I want.
It's about what you want.
the very next game, it was Chris who hit the buzzer beating shot that would take the Sabercats to the State championship game.
One win away from a championship that would stay with them for the rest of their lives.
In my career, I would go on to teach many teams in multiple sports to embrace the power of mental imagery to win championships.
There is something special about your very first.
One game away.
Mike stopped me in the hall of the arena as his team boarded the bus back to school.
You are going to speak to the team before the Championship game?
I assured him that I would.
Now what in the world would I tell them?
I told them to find a window.
You need to win this game tonight.
If you can't find the door, you have to late a window,
I walked to my seat at court side inside the cavernous arena which was home to the NBA Phoenix Suns.
This little team from Scottsdale Arizona would be playing Prescott Arizona, a small town far north of Phoenix.
As soon as I saw the size of the Prescott ball club, I knew this would be a challenge.
Prescott was a big team.
Their front line had two players over six foot eight,
Our tallest player was three inches shorter.
Their game had a familiar ring to its start.
Prescott raced to an early lead, punctuated by a couple of resounding dunks.
The Sabercats called time out and the ensuing scene was out of the movie Hoosiers, a film I use often to teach the principles of visualization.
It's crazy out there.
They are killing us on the boards.
I can't stop them.
Do you recall what the coach of the undersized Hickory team said to his team:
Well, maybe we should just go back in the buses and go home.
Give them the championship.
Is that what you want?
Take all of your hard work and throw it away because you are in awe if their talent.
Something like that.
The result was that little Hickory team, based on the true life story of Milan, went on to the greatest upset in the history of the Indiana Boys Basketball Championships.
And in Phoenix, Arizona that night in February, 1996, matched the herculean efforts of that Milan squad forty seasons earlier.
At night's end, the boys had their Arizona championship.
Returning to the high school, the entire community hailed the return of their heroes with horns toasting the champions.
Many times, I have been paid handsomely for teaching the power of visualization to audiences of all types.
My hand tonight would not clutch the satisfying compensation of gold.
All I had was the thrill of being in the company of champions.
And I wouldn't train the feeling for anything in my professional life before or since.
Still, this was not the end of the story.
Fourteen years passed.
It is now 2010,
Facebook leads me to Austin who has moved to Chicago to help his dad run a software company
Something is wrong.
Austin's son Dax, is dying.
He has leukemia.
A few months later, Dax dies.
He was Austun and Julie's only child.
Dax was two years old
From the highs of a state championship to the depths of losing a child.
Austin had experienced it all at such a very young age.
He promised to folow ny work of visualization, which you coukd tell he was extremely
I promised to support his efforts to rause money for St. Jude's Chudren's Hospital which picked up all the expoenses of Dax's care.
Austin was no longer leading on the basketball court, but he was leading in life.
And Julie is expecting a baby in November.
Here is to you Austin and Julie. May the rest of your lives bring only the best.
Student of Visualization.