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The leadership inspiration that I want to share with you today is almost 20 years old, and comes from the world of sports. Yet it’s as relevant today as it was back then, and it’s as relevant in the boardroom as it is on the courts.

In 1983, North Carolina State University pulled off one of the great upsets in college basketball by beating the basketball “goliath” of the day to win the national championship. Who led the team to take that win? Coach Jim Valvano.

Jimmy V (as he’s commonly known) was beloved during his coaching and subsequent broadcasting days for his effusive enthusiasm, quick wit and basketball IQ. In 1992, Jimmy V was diagnosed with cancer and by the spring of 1993 was failing quickly.

On March 3rd Jimmy V gave an inspirational speech that has become famous. By then Jimmy was so sick, it took a miracle for him to even make it to the ESPY awards show, but he was determined to stand before his peers, as this might be the last opportunity to do so. Indeed, it was his last appearance. Jimmy V died 6 weeks later in April 1993.

Jimmy V left this world in 1993, but his speech at the ESPY awards show has lived on for the last 20 years. I’m moved to tears at the courage he showed and the inspiration he shared. During the speech, he announced the formation of The V Foundation for cancer research. Since then, the foundation has raised over $90 million.

The parts of his speech that I love to hear over and over again are these:

  • There are three things you should do every day of your life. Think, laugh and be moved to tears. If you can do this every day, that’s a full and special day.
  • Approach life with three things: enthusiasm, a dream or goal, and hard work.

I’ve posted the entire speech on my blog and encourage you to watch it yourself.

I would love to hear how the speech inspires you.

Thanks Jimmy V for your many years of inspiration and for your influence on cancer research!

Jeff Harmon

Jeff Harmon is the president of Brilliance Within Coaching & Consulting which specializes in developing servant leaders while helping them translate their strategies into actionable plans that drive business results. Jeff is the author of “The Anatomy of a Principled Leader.” Jeff has been developing leaders for nearly 20 years and has led the execution of over 100,000 hours of business strategy for information technology, financial services and non-profit organizations.

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