You Just Never Know



“You just never know” is the expression that jumped into my mind three times this past week in response to media reports. First of all, accounts of a heroic rescue brought to mind a story of the only survivor of a shipwreck who was washed upon a small, uninhabited island. He prayed fervently for God to rescue him, but everyday as he scanned the horizon for help none seemed forthcoming. Meanwhile, he scrounged around the island for driftwood and other remnants with which to build a small hut for shelter and to store the few belongings he had managed to hold onto.
And then one day, after searching on the far side of the island for scarce edibles, he arrived back to find his little hut in flames. Overcome with grief and anger, he cried, “God, how could you do this to me?” Early the next morning, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship approaching the island. It had come to rescue him. The weary but now delighted man asked his rescuers, “How did you know I was here?” They replied, “We saw your smoke signal.” It is usually difficult to find anything good in the midst of tragedy. But you just never know what positive thing the negative might bring.
The second media account that triggered my memory bank was that of the successful launch of the Discovery shuttle on July 4. It brought to mind a couple of stories regarding Neil Armstrong, who on July 20, 1969, became the first human being to set foot on the moon and utter the famous lines, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” When Armstrong returned to earth after his triumph, a reporter asked him, “What did it feel like?” The astronaut replied, “It felt like I had been there a thousand times before.” He had simulated it so many times in his mind that when it actually happened it wasn’t new. That’s what visualization or mental engineering is all about. It’s dreaming your dreams and then working to reach them.
Another story regarding Neil Armstrong involved photographer Yousuf Karsh and his wife who were having lunch with the astronaut following a photographic session. Armstrong politely asked the couple about the many different countries they had visited. Mrs. Karsh was flabbergasted that he would inquire about their earth-bound travels. She said, “But Mr. Armstrong, we want to hear about your travels. After all, you have walked on the moon.” Sheepishly and apologetically, Armstrong responded, “But that’s the only place I’ve been.” That’s what humility is all about.
The final media tickler was the numerous reports about the pro basketball drafting, wheeling and dealing, which shows that apparently some sports fans are still interested in the NBA. But the accounts brought to my mind how much the game has changed. And thinking of the changes reminded me of a story I read about Bob Kurland, a leader on the United States Olympic gold medal teams of 1948 and 1952.
Kurland was the fist seven-footer to star in American basketball. Playing his collegiate career at Oklahoma A&M, he blocked so many shots that the NCAA introduced a rule declaring a shot could not be legally blocked on its downward path toward the basket. To enforce it, the NCAA built a courtside platform and stationed an official on it to watch Kurland. Kurland later commented, “The rule was designed to stop me, but it really started the trend toward recruiting big men in basketball. It encouraged bringing in taller players who could shoot down at the basket instead of shorter men who shot up at the basket.”

You just never know.
Carl Mays, author of over a dozen books and speaker at over 3,000 events, may be contacted at His books (including A Strategy For Winning, Winning Thoughts, Anatomy Of A Leader, People of Passion and Are We Communicating Yet?) are available in stores, on,, and other Internet locations. You are invited to contact Carl about speaking at your next meeting.
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