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Beating the Odds

How Competition Put a Man on the Moon

Fifty years ago today, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to orbit the earth.

Back then, a Cold War raged and a great propaganda coup awaited the first nation to land safely on the moon. The United States won that race, motivated in part by Gagarin’s journey.

“I would say here today that without Yuri Gagarin flying, I would probably have not flown to the moon,” said former U.S. astronaut Thomas Stafford.

Competition. We see it everywhere: Coke vs. Pepsi, Yankees vs. Red Sox, and on “Dancing With the Stars.”

Great opponents can make you great. They can bring out strength, courage and resourcefulness you never knew you had. Great opponents force you to be more skilled, more efficient, better prepared.

When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first craft to orbit the earth; and then sent Gagarin into space, it energized engineers, designers, and inventors in the United States. It also got the attention of president Kennedy, who gave his famous moon speech on Sept. 12, 1962, and Rice Stadium in Texas.

“We choose to go to the moon,” Kennedy said. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

Neil Armstrong was the first man to step foot on the moon. The frantic race to send him there created innovations we use every day, including long-distance communications, cordless tools and water filters.

So if you want to achieve great things, seek great competition.

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Mike Tully speaks to sports, business and educational groups. He also works with coaches, athletes and teams to make their practice time more productive and efficient. He and Gary Pritchard are co-authors of “Ten Things Great Coaches Know.” To see Coach Tully and Coach Pritchard discuss “Seven Ways to Prepare for Adversity,” click here.


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