The Allison Story By Brian Biro


Whether you call it Social Retail, Network Marketing, MLM, Relationship Marketing, or just Direct Sales, your business is the PEOPLE BUSINESS!  It’s the relationships you build, the way you grow, and how you help others grow that will determine how far you GO.  It’s all about you as a BREAKTHROUGH LEADER!  And there is more in you than you EVER dreamed of, just waiting to shine and elevate your business, your team, and your life! 

Though this is a story about a special person I coached long ago, it is YOUR story! 

You are NOT an overachiever.  There is greatness in you.  It is your time to breakthrough from fear to freedom and from failure to faith.  It’s time to awaken YOUR Allison Factor! Allison is sitting in your chair!

I attended Stanford University long ago (we won’t mention any years!) and like most young people going to college I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with this thing called my life.  And though I loved Stanford and the challenge of such an extraordinary environment, I quickly discovered that what I loved most was not at college.  What I loved most was what I did in the summers to help put myself through Stanford (that and mega-loans, which I didn’t love!). The pursuit that consumed me so fully each summer was teaching and coaching swimming.  I absolutely loved it!  I’d start the summer with a group of little kids who had no idea what they were doing.  They had learned very little stroke-technique, they’d never been a part of real team, and never set goals to pursue.  I was eighteen, nineteen, years-old and so full of enthusiasm you’d accurately describe me as an “Ooh, ooh, ooh guy!”—you know, that fellow you grew up with who, when asked a question simply couldn’t control his enthusiasm and would bubble out, “Ooh, ooh, ooh, call on ME!”   I poured my full heart and soul into coaching these kids and by the end of each summer they would improve so much, both individually and collectively, that I couldn’t put them out of my mind when I headed back to school. 

So, when the time came to graduate, my buddies thought I was crazy because they were going to medical school, law school, or business school, and though I had been fortunate enough to do well at Stanford, I made up my mind that I was going to live my life doing that which I loved.  And it was clear that what I loved was coaching.  So that’s exactly what I did. 

I started my own swimming team in Southern California. 

It was a U.S. swim team which meant unlike at a school where I’d work with the kids for a season or semester, I was a part of these young peoples’ lives year-round.  When I started, we had about fifteen little kids, almost all between the ages of seven and nine years old.  But for the next eight years, that team was my life.  And let me make a promise to you about the power of your focus. 

If you put your full heart and soul into ANYTHING with what’s really inside of you for eight years, incredible things can happen. 

Over the course of those eight years, we grew from a tiny novice team to one of the largest privately-owned swimming teams in the country, numbering nearly 275 swimmers.  We earned national recognition by placing in the top ten at the Senior Nationals, and the top three twice in a row at the Junior National Championships.  I received the US Swimming Coaching Excellence Award, and more than forty of our athletes earned college scholarships to schools across the country from the University of Hawaii to the University of Miami.  Some of our top performers participated in the Olympic Trials and international competitions.

            This experience taught me much, and one of my most unforgettable lessons came from a swimmer named Allison.  When swim coaches are looking to recruit athletes for their teams, they know exactly what they’re looking for.  Picture someone about six-foot-eleven and weighing about seven pounds!  This is a swimmer!  Allison was precisely the opposite.  She was short and very petite with shining green eyes.  But the most striking thing about Allison physically was her hair.  Allison had the most bowl-you-over, shocking red hair you’ve ever seen!  And she wore it like Little Orphan Annie, all poofed-up in a trillion curls.  I used to tease her that her personal weight training program was simply trying to stuff that wild mass of hair into her cap! 

Allison was the kind of person you’d LOVE to have on your team.  Why?  Though she was a little bit shy, she was the first person to go to a teammate who was down to try to lift them up. She was incredibly dedicated.  She rarely ever missed practice and she worked hard. 

But she was never a ‘star’. In fact, she was what we call in the sport of swimming a “drop dead sprinter.”  You see, she started out like a house on fire, but then something would happen.  We all know someone with that tendency, like the people who show up at the office at 7:45 raring to go, but by 8:15 they’re crying out desperately, “Where’s my coffee?  I need my coffee!”

            Well, that’s the way Allison swam.  Her best stroke was the butterfly.  It’s a beautiful stroke when done well.  Butterfly is the dolphin stroke, undulating and powerful.  Allison had good natural speed and started her races like a rocket ship. She’d be out in front, looking strong, her arms and legs driving with terrific timing. But for eight straight years, the same thing would happen.  With a half-lap to go, all of a sudden, the skies would open up, and a baby grand piano would fall from the heavens.  It would land right on Allison.  It was painful to watch.  When the piano fell her body position would begin to sink deeper into the water.  She’d start forcing instead of flying.  Her arms would turn to jelly and her face would begin to contort in pain as the lactic acid built up in every muscle.  The other swimmers would catch her, catch her, and then pass her until her last seven or eight strokes were utter agony.  She’d struggle to the wall, dead last, defeated mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  She was so exhausted her timers would have to pull her out of the pool. 

For eight straight years at this point she had the same instruction from me, her coach, who, keep in mind loved her and wanted the best for her.  She was to come immediately over to me so we could talk about her race and I could inspire her and lift her up.  And for eight straight years, I did the same “brilliant” coaching job. 

It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. 

If you looked up insanity in the dictionary, you probably would have seen my picture during those years because every time Allison came to me for support and encouragement after those painful races, I said the same ridiculous thing.  “Allison,” I’d say in my most inspirational coaching voice, “one of these days you’re NOT going to die!”  Great coaching huh?  Then I’d give her a big hug just to lock in those feelings and send her off to loosen up.  Off she’d stumble, her body in knots and her mind filled with thoughts of “not dying.”  If I give you the instruction, “Don’t think of the number three,” what happens?  Automatically, three pops into your mind.  The more you try to push it away, the more you see it.  What you focus on is what you create!  Unwittingly, I was consistently directing both Allison and myself toward the potent belief and crystal-clear vision she would die at the end of her races.

            In local age-group swimming, the major goal for the kids was to qualify for the Junior Olympics.  The way you qualified was just like the way you often must in life – by meeting or exceeding certain standards.  Age-group swimming was like a roller coaster: just as the kids reached the top of their age group, their birthdays would come, they’d move to an older age group, and they’d find themselves at the bottom of the heap all over again with much tougher standards to achieve.  Allison had come close to qualifying for the Junior Olympics a couple of times, but had always just missed before she “aged up.” 

She never gave up trying, though!

The last summer that I coached was a very emotional time because I told my swimmers that I was leaving coaching.  To this day more than thirty years later it still remains the most difficult decision I’ve ever made because deep in my heart I AM a coach! Nothing brings me more juice and joy than bringing out the best in others, both individually and collectively.  But I was leaving coaching for one reason…I had no life!  All I had was my work.  And though this story is definitely about bringing out one’s best, it’s also about one key ingredient without which I truly believe outstanding results will never last. 

That key ingredient is life balance. 

Do you know that the average American father today spends less than eight minutes a day in actual interaction with his children? I didn’t even have those eight minutes.  I had no family of my own and no real possibility of finding one.  So, I told my kids I was leaving coaching. They were emotional and I was emotional.

            The last meet I would ever coach would be the older Junior Olympics at the end of the summer.  We had finished second in this meet for three years in a row.  We were always second.  But that summer when I told the kids I would be leaving coaching, two really important things happened.  First, without me knowing it, all my senior kids got together and made a pledge that they were going to win the Junior Olympics this time, send me off as the champion coach, and throw me in the pool with my clothes on (it’s a strange tradition but one the kids love!).  Now, the important thing wasn’t that they made the pledge…it was that I didn’t know they made the pledge.  If I had known that they had set that goal and made that pledge do you know what I would have done in a heartbeat?  I would have used every ounce of my coaching influence to try to talk them out of it!  Why…because on paper we were going to be second again, several hundred points behind the favorite.  If I had known that my kids had set such a ridiculous, pie-in-the-sky, unreachable goal, I would have tried to talk them out of it so they wouldn’t feel crushed when they came nowhere near achieving the goal.  But the first important thing that happened that summer was that I didn’t know they had made that pledge.

What was the second great thing that happened that summer?  Allison finally made it! If you were fast enough you could qualify and swim in seven events.  She made it in ONE…the hundred-meter butterfly.  The qualifying time that summer in her age group in the 100-meter butterfly was 1:17:99. Guess Allison’s time.  You got it!  She hit the time standard on the nose—one one-hundredth of a second slower – that’s the length of your fingernail — and she would not have qualified.  I was sure this was the pinnacle of her swimming career.  All of us were thrilled that she had made it and would finally have a chance to have her dream come true and participate in this prestigious competition. 

And how fantastic for me that in my last meet as a coach Allison would finally get to be a part of our Junior Olympic team!

So, the big weekend finally came.  I’m an extremely early person and showed up that morning for the start of the three-day Older Junior Olympics as one of the very first to arrive.  The first person on my team to turn up on the pool deck was Allison.  And her hair was more poofed-out than usual! She was SO excited!  She had so much nervous energy that she zipped around like a pinball.  I think she could hardly believe she was actually there at the Junior Olympics.  When I saw her I smiled and thought to myself how cool it was that she had made it and would finally get to compete at this level.

But then without any more thought, I went about my normal routine at these big meets.  The first thing I did was to go over and check the seeding sheets. These showed me the order of events and where our kids were seeded in those events.  As I studied them, I saw that the very first event of the day was Allison’s one event and there were sixty-four girls who had qualified for the 100-meter butterfly in her age group.  She was on the very top line of the seeding sheet which meant she was the slowest of the sixty-four girls.  In my analytical coaching mind, I thought that that was okay…in fact, that was darn lucky!  Why…because there were sixty-four girls.  There are eight lanes in a championship pool.  Eight goes into sixty-four evenly which meant Allison would be in the first heat because she was the slowest possible qualifier.  But since there were sixty-four girls, she would be in heat 1, in a full heat out in lane eight, right next to the edge of the pool.  I chuckled to myself that maybe this time we could yell really loud and scare her into a decent finish for once in her life!

We always warmed up the same way at competitions.  First, I sent the kids off on a long, easy loosen-up swim to stretch their muscles and get the feel of the pool.  Every pool looks different and feels different.  After they had sufficiently warmed up, it was time to get them pumped.  I would stand halfway down the pool at the twenty-five-meter mark, and one by one I’d have each of the kids do all-out 25-meter sprints.  This was the perfect chance to get them revved, pumped, and psyched!  They were fresh and filled with energy, so they usually turned in some excellent times.

As Allison jumped up on the starting block for her sprint, she shined like a beam of light.  She was so excited about finally being at Junior Olympics that she was super-charged.  As the slowest qualifier in her race, she felt no real pressure—just pure, unabashed joy at being there.  I gave her a smile and called out, “Ready…HO!”  She exploded toward me with more speed and power than I had ever seen from her before.  I clicked my stopwatch as she plowed by me at the 25-meter mark, and watched her face light up with a huge grin when I read her time to her.  It was by far the best she had ever done, and she absolutely bubbled with enthusiasm.

            I don’t know if it was the shock of her terrific sprint time or the look of excitement in her eyes, but something broke through my thick skull and I got an idea.  Remember, for eight years I had said the same exact thing to Allison over and over: “One of these days you’re not going to die.”  But this time after she looked so phenomenal in that sprint that I bent down close to her and put my hands on her shoulders.  “Allison, that was fantastic and I have an idea!”

She replied, “What is it, Coach?”

I asked her “How did you feel just now?”

“I felt GREAT!”

“You looked AWESOME!”  (When I said that I think her hair got even redder!)

I said, “Allison when you swim the 100-meter butterfly you’re going to be in the very first heat of the whole Junior Olympics right here in this same lane eight where you just did that awesome sprint!”

“It’s my lucky lane coach…it’s my lucky lane!!”

“Great Allison, would you just listen?   When you swim the 100-meter fly I’ll be standing right where we are right now…at the 75-meter mark.”   


“When you get to the 75-meter mark and take a breath I’m going to yell one word to you.”  (In butterfly you breathe with your chin forward and both ears out of the water so you can hear really well, especially in the outside lane.)

Now she was really getting into it!  “What’s the word coach?”

The word is the word…. NOW!!!

Full of excitement she immediately replied “Great!”  But then she thought about it for a second and asked “What exactly does that mean?”

I said, “Allison when I yell the word NOW, I want you to envision and pretend that you just dove in the pool and did that same exact 25-meter sprint all over again! Remember how high you were on the water and how light and powerful you were…how you were flying?”

            She bobbed up and down bouncing off the bottom of the pool as she looked up at me and nodded excitedly.  “Yeah, Coach.  I got it!”

            I asked her once more, “What’s the word”

            She said, “Now!”

            I said, “That’s right…now go and check-in.”  Off she went skipping and saying now, now, now, now to herself, lighter than air!

            Sometimes the difference between mediocrity and unleashing the greatness inside you is very slight. 

As a leader, you may be right on the edge of becoming the catalyst to bring out the very best in others and yourself.  The possibility is there in every moment.  Often the single most important action you can take is to help people focus on what they want—not what they don’t want.  When they become crystal clear and extremely specific about what they are shooting for, look out!

            Many people have the mistaken impression that swimming is an individual sport.  After all, once you dive into that water you’re seemingly alone.  Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.  My many years as a coach taught me that swimming is an extraordinary team sport, just like life.  We have no idea how much we mean to one another!  Every day, these kids trained together, pouring their hearts out, challenging, encouraging, and supporting one another.  The sense of unity this created connected them in spirit and energy level.  At some workouts and competitions, it was as if a powerful current pushed them faster.  The energy vibration was powerful and positive. Each athlete gathered strength from the others and everyone flew!  On other days, however, when the kids were separated or cliqued into silos it was as if everyone seemed to catch an identical case of “slow-motion sickness.”  In those days it looked like they were swimming against that current.  Whether positive or negative, the energy was highly contagious.

            After I sent Allison off to check-in for her event, I gathered the rest of the team together. Typically, we’d send all our kids to the end of the pool to cheer for their teammates as they approached the turn. The sight of these crazy kids, yelling and screaming their lungs out, was often enough to ignite an extra burst of adrenaline.  This time though, I had a breakthrough idea.  Instead of sending all the kids to the end of the pool as I had always done before, I only sent half of them to the end of the pool to cheer Allison on.  Then I gathered the other half of the kids around me at the 75-meter mark.  I told them that when Allison took a breath at 75-meters I would give them the signal, and their job was for every one of them to let out the loudest NOW in history!  I wanted that place to shake.  We’d be right next to Allison so she would definitely get a jolt.  If nothing else, we would scare her into a better finish.

So here it was…the moment she had been dreaming of for eight years.  Little Allison was finally about to compete in the Junior Olympics. There she stood in lane eight with the other seven swimmers poised in their lanes beside her. In a flash, I realized this would be the start of the last meet I would ever coach. As Allison stepped up onto the blocks, I could sense her repeating the word NOW over and over to herself.  The starter got everyone in the swim stadium dead quiet as he raised the starting pistol and said clearly, “Judges and timers ready.   Swimmers …. Take your mark”….BOOM!  The gun exploded and they were off.

            When the gun fired, she took off like a shot.  She looked terrific!  By 25 meters she had opened up almost a full body length’s lead on the rest of the heat.  Everyone on our team was getting really excited…except me!  Remember, she was always ahead after the first twenty-five meters.  It was the last twenty-five that I was worried about!

            But then the first magic happened.  As Allison steamed ahead and looked in front of her, what did she see?  Can you picture it?  That’s right…her teammates.  What were they doing?  Cheering of course…and I don’t mean they were giving her the royal British cheer.  “Oh lovely, clap, clap, clap.”  No, all fifty of her teammates I had sent to the end of the pool were going absolutely bonkers!  Their feet were barely touching the deck!

Their fists were raised to the heavens and they roared at the tops of their lungs “GO ALLISON!”

            What did they see as they looked down the pool at Allison?  Do you know what they saw? They saw the same thing your children see whenever they look at you.  They saw the same thing that anyone you care about having a truly positive impact on in life sees when they look at you.  They saw themselves.  Why?  They’re from the same system, the same training, the same preparation.  If Allison did great, what would it mean to them?  If she did great it would say to them more powerfully than with words “We’re ready!”  And if she didn’t do well a part of each of them would have to be rebuilt.

            You talk about electricity.  They filled up with Allison’s energy and she with theirs.  And, incidentally, who were those kids at the end of the pool in Allison’s mind besides her teammates and friends?  Do you know who they were? They were her heroes.  They were the Junior Olympians…the kids she had dreamed of just being on their team for eight years!  And they were cheering for her!

            Never again ever underestimate the impact of your recognition, acknowledgment, and support for the people who look to you the way Allison looked to them. 

You talk about somebody finding something extraordinary inside herself she had never dreamed existed!  Allison flew into the 50-meter turn like a rocket ship!

As she closed in on the turn, every stroke seemed to pump up her teammates more.  They went crazy, waving her on and cheering their lungs out.  She exploded out of the turn and headed home with 50 meters to go.  I checked my watch for her 50-meter time and thought, “This is great!  She can still die and still do a great time!”

            Then as she pushed off the wall underwater and began her last 50 meters something magical happened.  Spontaneously, without any coaching from me, all fifty kids who had been cheering for her at the turn were so with her, so connected and inspired by Allison that, as one, they sprinted around the edge of the pool and began running to join the other 50 crazy kids gathered around me at 75 meters.  We had almost one hundred wildly excited kids squeezed together waiting for my signal: 80 meters…77…

            As she moved her chin forward to breathe at 75 meters, I whipped my arm down.  Together, one hundred voices joined in a window-rattling


Then something happened that changed the way I see.  Until that breakthrough moment, all I had really ever wanted was to be a good coach.  But I see clearly now that I had truly never seen through the eyes of a coach.  Why?  Because 75 meters is the same line that every one of our children is going to face in their lives…maybe today.  It’s the same line you will face in your career, your health, your family, your life…maybe today.  75 meters for Allison was the line between fear…and freedom; between failure…and faith…between victim… and victory.  And as I looked back at that astonishing moment for the first time, I realized that I, more than anyone else, had taught her to fear and to fail– because of the way I saw her at that 75-meter mark.  You see, I was just waiting for her to fall apart like usual and hoping it wouldn’t be as bad as usual.  But when she heard that, “NOW,” from those crazy kids at the tops of their lungs, something shook free inside of her.  This little girl, who had completely broken down in race after race at that 75-meter mark suddenly climbed up on top of the water.  She looked like Miss Budweiser the hydroplane whipping down some lake!  She exploded toward the finish with more speed and strength than I thought possible.  With eight strokes to go, she filled her lungs with every ounce of oxygen she could hold.  Head down, lungs bursting, and every muscle driving, she blasted to the finish.  As she touched the wall, she looked over to her left but didn’t see any other swimmers. She told me later that she thought they had already finished and climbed out!

            I looked at my watch and froze. I had hoped and prayed that maybe Allison could improve a half a second.  And believe me, I knew my kids. They were my life.  At least I thought I knew them.

 Allison had dropped her time by over 12 seconds in a 100-meter race!  I stood there stunned and shaking like a leaf.  Over my years as a coach, many of my swimmers had blown away their personal bests.  But none so far beyond what I thought possible for them.  I couldn’t move. 

How do you think Allison felt having gone twelve seconds faster than ever before?  She did not climb out of the pool.  She did not even jump out of the pool. She simply levitated out of the pool.  With her eyes ablaze in utter amazement she raced over to me spinning in circles and crying out “1:05.9! 1:05.9!”  When she reached me thank goodness I didn’t say “Well at least you didn’t die this time Allison.”  I couldn’t think of what to say.  Finally, I bumbled out “That was UNBELIEVABLE Allison! Go loosen up!”

As if she really had to loosen up!  She bounded over to the warm-down pool with more energy than when she started the race!

            It is the most electrifying and empowering of all transformations.

The impact on their teammates is no less dramatic.  The experience of seeing one of their own achieve what they are truly capable of awakens a heightened belief in their own potential. 

Now keep in mind, that Allison’s remarkable swim had taken place in the first of eight qualifying heats.  Only the top eight of the 64 girls entered would return that night for the finals.  When the last of the eight heats finished, Allison had moved from sixty-fourth to first which meant she would be in the first final of the older Junior Olympics in lane four.             

Something almost magical happens when people break through the obstacles that hold them back and discover what is truly inside them. 

At this moment, they move from hoping to knowing

That’s exactly what happened to Allison.  And when she came back that night for her final, she was different.  For the first time in her life, this precious young woman actually knew, instead of hoped, that she was somebody…that she was important and significant. 

She still maintained her other wonderful qualities, one of which was humility.  Allison was certainly one of the humblest young women I had ever had the privilege to coach.  In fact, the girl who had qualified second to Allison and would be swimming right beside her in the final in lane five was Allison’s all-time swimming hero.  She was so accomplished at a young age that Swimming World Magazine had done a four-page picture story about her that Allison had actually cut out and pinned above her bed.  It’s probably the only time that the fastest Junior Olympic qualifier hoped to get an autograph from the second-fastest qualifier!  But Allison was different and she came back that night and went even faster!

In fact, by that same 75-meter mark, she and her hero in lane five had completely pulled away from the other swimmers.  It was a two-girl race…each bringing the absolute best out of the other.  With less than ten meters to go, it was dead even.  Their kids were cheering and our kids were thundering right with them.  Heads down driving with everything they had they drove to the wall.  The finish was so close that looking from above water you couldn’t call it.  So everyone in the swim stadium did the same thing. They all whipped their heads around to look at a big electronic scoreboard because the swimmers had hit a touchpad in the water and their times and places were flashed up immediately.  Allison had finished second by two one-hundredths of a second.

Something magnificent happened then.  Do you know what it was?  When Allison finished second, she still felt like a champion.  How many times have you seen someone you care about go out and do the best job of their life, perform better than ever before, but they finished second, or fourteenth, or received a B+ and they had never tried so hard to earn that A.  Most of us have been raised with a definition of success that I believe leads directly to fear of failure rather than improvement and success.  Most of us have been taught that there is ONE winner.  Therefore, everyone else (not someone else) is a loser.  We didn’t teach that. 

In fact, the definition of success we emphasized daily was the same one that the great coach John Wooden used with his players. We are taught that success is peace of mind.  It comes only from knowing you’ve given the best of which you’re capable. 

In other words, if you have to wait for the scoreboard to tell you if you are successful it is too late.  You must know on the inside first.

We taught this every single day.  And at what I am convinced was the turning point in Allison’s life, she actually got it!  In fact, when she and her competitor had finished the race, looked up at the scoreboard, and finally realized what had happened, her hero in lane five reached across the lane line and gave Allison a huge hug as she burst out “Allison that was a fantastic race!”

Allison leaped out of the pool beaming and skipped right by me.  As she passed, she said, “Coach I don’t think I really need to talk to you this time…she said I did a great race!”   That was one of the best moments of my coaching career because how easily if she looked at success differently, she could have felt down.  But because she knew she had given her all she was on top of the world!

After Allison turned in her remarkable morning swim where she qualified first for the final, our kids seemed to be ignited by what I have since come to call the “Allison factor.”  Race after race, Allison’s teammates sped to tremendous improvements over their personal bests.  If I thought a swimmer could improve one second, she’d improve three.  This was the best coaching job of my career.  For three days I stood on the side of that pool deck saying things like “WOW and HOLY COW!”  Every now and then I’d throw in a “Go and loosen up” so at least I’d sound like a coach.  But truthfully, I was just trying to not mess it up!

            The Allison factor didn’t stop there. 

It never does.  There was another teammate deeply impacted by Allison that day.  It was a teammate who did not swim.  It was Allison’s father.  As Allison bounced over to the warm-down pool after her qualifying swim that morning, her father walked shakily toward me with a stunned look on his face.  I had known him for years.  He was a very calm, soft-spoken man.  I knew how much he loved Allison because he attended every event, quietly supporting her.  But I had never seen him express any real emotion, either verbally or physically.

            When he reached me, this man who had never shown the slightest emotion threw his arms around me and hugged me tightly.  Tears streamed down his cheeks.  That was deep trouble for me because I cry at openings of supermarkets!   There we stood crying together as he held me pressed against his chest.  Finally, after what seemed an eternity, he released me and grabbed hold of my shoulders quivering and shaking like a leaf. As he looked at me with astonishment and confusion through his tears he asked “What did you do to her?”

            I responded with something brilliant like, “I have no idea.” Then I said something that did make sense.  “She did it. It was in her all along.  I just didn’t see it.  She’s incredible!” He squeezed me again and wobbled off.

                        That evening, something happened that was even better than Allison going faster.  It was even better than her knowing she was a champion even though she touched the wall second.  You see, that night when Allison swam her final, standing right behind her timers in lane four was her daddy.  And he cheered his lungs out for his little girl.  In fact, probably the only person in that swim stadium who did not bother to look up at the scoreboard was her father.  He was too busy.  For as soon as Allison hit the wall, he rushed around the timers to the edge of the pool and reached down to pull his daughter up out of the water. 

As he hugged her tightly, laughing and crying all at the same time and getting soaking wet in the process he told her how beautiful she was…how proud he was to be her daddy…how much he loved her. 

            When I saw Allison in her father’s embrace, I finally realized the greatest truth about breaking through.  I finally understood that we never, ever, ever…breakthrough alone! When we breakthrough in any way…we move from fear to freedom, and we become a little kinder, forgiving, or generous…it doesn’t stop with us.  It starts with us.  I finally saw this beautiful truth clearly as Allison stood in the glow of her father’s love.

            The Allison factor proved so strong over the course of those three days that our team overcame enormous odds to win the older Junior Olympics.  The kids threw me in the pool with my clothes on…which is terrifying because I can’t swim! Just kidding! They did throw me in the pool and the water never felt so good.

            Later, when I had a chance to sort out this remarkable event, I realized that some amazing truths had been revealed. Until then, I had prided myself on knowing exactly what my swimmers were capable of.  If I had been asked to pick the one swimmer on my team least likely to be our leader at the Junior Olympics, it would have been Allison.  After all, she had only one event and was seeded dead last.  I had been sure that just qualifying for the meet would be the pinnacle of her swimming career and with luck, she might be able to improve her time a few tenths of a second.  But there was no way on earth I would have believed she could drop twelve seconds in a 100-meter race.

            Allison taught me to never underestimate what we have inside. 

Through her incredible performance, I began to wonder how many other Allisons I may have missed because of my limited expectations.  There is an Allison Factor in every one of us.  The people we think we know the best are the ones who can most surprise us when they surpass the limitations, they—and we—have set for them.  There are no overachievers; we all have an almost infinite supply of potential.  Believing this creates great openness, flexibility, and sensitivity in the way you look at the people you work with and serve. What you look for in others and yourself, you will find.  And what you find, you will unleash.  When you change the way you look at people, the people you look at change.  Changing the way you look at yourself and the self you see will change.

Remember, the Allison Factor is alive in you.  Let it shine!

Brian Biro
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