It's an amazing story that perhaps you have heard. I read it again recently in a story by Rick Reilly for Sports Illustrated. The Father-son duo of Rick and Dick Hoyt are an amazing team. Together they have competed in marathons and triathlons. They have competed together and finished hundreds of races together. Each time they cross the finish line they do so at the same time- every time.


Dick Hoyt pushing his son, Rick, in their first Boston Marathon (1981). Courtesy: Team Hoyt

What you may not be aware of is that Rick is disabled. In each marathon they compete in, Dick is pushing his son in a wheelchair the entire 26.2 miles. Not only has he pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair, but has towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming, and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars- all in the same day.

Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs. The doctors told them that he would be a vegetable the rest of his life, but he Hoyt's weren't buying it. Now together, they have competed in more than two hundred triathlons, and four 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii.

The incredible story of Rick and Dick Hoyt is truly an inspiration and one with obvious leadership ramifications. What the Hoyt family has endured and overcome tends to put a new twist on the perceived problems we think we have. By looking at the Hoyt's as an example of a team that never quits, I believe these simple truths can help us.

The simple truth- experts can be wrong. Peter Ustinov once said, If the world should blow itself up, the last audible voice would be that of an expert saying it can't be done. When they Hoyt's were given the grim news that their son would be a vegetable the rest of his life, they challenged that assumption. Despite being told that there was nothing going on in Rick's brain, the reality was quite different.

The Hoyt's are but one example of what you are being told everyday by experts on the economy and business. Everyday someone is giving a forecast that, if not challenged, will stifle your adventurous spirit to grow your business, hire that new employee, and buck the trends. The Hoyt's didn't buy the negative report, and neither should you. I am not suggesting you throw caution to the wind and not exercise due diligence, but sometimes when your head says no, you have to listen to your heart.

The simple truth- what appears to be a disability to one is a marathon to another. Rigged with a computer that allowed him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? Go Bruins! And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the school organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, Dad, I want to do that. Although the initial training was difficult, Dick got in shape and the marathons began.

Opportunity is missed by most people, Thomas Edison said, because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.  Dick Hoyt had to train like never before to get ready for the marathons. Dick's devotion to his son was worth the sacrifice in order for Rick's dream to become a reality. When you embrace your challenges as opportunities it's then you discover the power of possibilities you never knew existed. Don't miss the opportunities before you because you missed this simple truth; your marathon awaits you.

The simple truth is - you can go farther than you ever imagined when someone has your back. During a race a few years back, Dick had a mild heart attack. If you had not been in such great shape, a doctor told him,you probably would have died 15 years ago. As it turns out, Dick and Rick saved each other's life.

Babe Ruth said, The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime. When you commit to your team, share common values and goals, and have each other's backs, you can go the distance. Despite obstacles along the way, each challenge is overcome when each member gives their all.

Whose back do you have?

© 2009 Doug Dickerson

Doug Dickerson is an award winning writer and the director of Management Moment Leadership Services. You can read more of Doug's columns on the web at