It was one of the greatest honors of my life, to interview Jessie Owens . The funny part was we didn’t even talk about sports! It was November 1975 in Scottsdale, Arizona . I was just starting a monthly tabloid newspaper . It was called “The P.M.A. Journal” ( Positive Mental Attitude ). My goal was to interview the world-famous Jessie Owens who also lived in Scottsdale.
His life was not all filled with success and was not open to the many who always wanted to interview him. However after many calls to his secretory and pleading with her that I was a young 30-year-old man trying to start a newspaper and a story about him could put my new venture on the map she said she would talk to him. She reported back to me and said since I was a small publication trying to get my feet on the ground he would do this unusual interview.
I had a list of 20 questions, however never got past the second one. He was a kind and gentle person not the aggressive one I expected. After the first few questions the interview switched to him interviewing me! Then we just talked. He told me “You only learn from failure!” He added if your successful at anything in life, you most likely got their by making mistakes. The difference between success and failure is you learn from the things you do wrong and don’t quite.
He related back to his childhood coming from a family of 10 children. He said” I had to compete with my brothers and sisters just to get attention. That’s when I realized it is up to me, to be whom I want to be! Yes, I got love from my parents and my siblings but I still felt alone. So that’s when I made up my mind to be different and create a lifetime goal of stepping away from the crowd and become my own person. He was 7 years old. Always being the best…at any job he could find!
Being the youngest of the 10 children he was also required to pitch in to help support the family. He remembered doing odd jobs during his young childhood. He worked in a grocery store and repaired shoes, whatever he could to make a dollar. He said whatever I did I tried to do it better than anyone else could. He said, Even when I delivered grocery’s, I made sure the order was correct and on time and always had a smile. I almost always got a tip which ended up being more than what he was being paid.
These childhood lessons only set the pace for what was about to become. He then realized his future was in his hands! We had such little money, a sport was my choice to have fun and go the extra mile (so to speak) to compete with the “white boys.” School was OK but I was just an average student, that didn’t satisfy me! I still wanted to prove to the world “I was different.”
At this point he started to question me again! About my successes and failures and always going back to how he handled not succeeding at something and added what was your lesson? He told me every morning I look at myself in the mirror and review what my plans for the day would be and the visualized me accomplishing them.
Then I would try to live the day as if my vision came true! Most of the time it worked; however, there were those times when everything went wrong and that’s where the lessons of life come. This is when my childhood experiences kicked in. He said, “just dust yourself off and look for other options, this always reminded me of when I was young that was my only choice.”
The gold medals were great for the ego but didn’t put any food on the table. Later in life he was forced to file for bankruptcy due to his over spending. However, he used his same lessons he learned as a child and Olympic star to bring him back to the point of “What is the lesson here” and what kind of options do I have? I had to get back on track and never giving up was the answer!
One challenge he could never succeed at was his one pack a day smoking habit. He died of Lung Cancer at age 67 in 1980. Click VIDEO from bio.true story to see more
This experience was one of the greatest of my life. Although my newspaper never did succeed, the life lessons, he taught me did! I still use the mirror technique he taught me, every day. Read how the lessons Jesse taught me will be used in my next adventure. At 68, I will be doing the historic walk “The Camino de Santiago .” It’s only 484-miles from France to Spain . Check it out at “Jim’s Camino de Santiago.”