Take Heart – You Don’t Need to Wrestle With Success

Coach Dan Gable

Dan Gable

Danny was born on October 25, 1948 in Waterloo, Iowa. His father, Mack, was a real estate salesman – his mother, Katie, was a homemaker. The family lived a modest, yet very satisfying lifestyle. For his part, Danny put a great deal of effort into sports beginning in grade school. He was very athletic and participated in virtually every sport – football, swimming, baseball and track. Eventually, his interest turned to just one sport – wrestling. Danny enjoyed everything about wrestling – from the hard work of practice to the spirit of competition. The sport had become central to Danny’s life – soon it would become an obsession.

Danny was sixteen years old when he and his parents went fishing one day. Danny’s older sister stayed home, where the unimaginable happened. She was molested and murdered in the family’s home. The loss was devastating – especially to Danny’s parents, Mack and Katie. While there was nothing that Danny could do to change their loss, he became determined to bring them some happiness by excelling in wrestling. It was a decision which would carve the path for the rest of his life.

Danny became intensely dedicated to the sport. He trained harder to hone his physical skills. Likewise, he worked on the mental aspect of competition, developing a mental toughness and commitment to winning. Not only did Danny want to make his parents proud, he knew in his heart that his sister was watching over him from above. Combining his passion for wrestling with an unmatched work ethic he achieved results that perhaps not even Danny would have expected.

During high school, Danny competed in 64 matches – he won every one of them. Not surprisingly, he was a three time Iowa state champion. He enrolled at Iowa State University where he was determined to continue his wrestling. He also maintained his dominance. Danny would go on to win three Big 8 conference championships and earned All-America honors in each of those years. Unlike high school, he did not go undefeated in college – he lost the final match of his collegiate career, ending with a record of 117 match victories with just that one loss. 

After college, he won the 1971 Pan American championship and the World Championship. He also won the Soviet Union’s famed Tbilisi Tournament. His next competition would come at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich, Germany. Once again the combination of his passion, physical talent and single minded ferocity served him well. Not only did he win the Gold Medal, he did so without losing a single point. 

Having dominated amateur wrestling at every level, he turned his efforts to coaching, joining the University of Iowa staff in 1972, as an assistant. Some might have wondered if his success as a competitor would translate to coaching. The simple answer turned out to be yes. His teams won 15 NCAA National Wrestling Team titles while compiling a career record of 355-21-5, He coached 152 All-Americans, 45 National Champions, 106 Big Ten Champions and 12 Olympians, including four gold, one silver and three bronze medalists. Iowa won 25 consecutive Big Ten championships, 21 with Danny as head coach and four while he was an assistant coach and administrator. He had a winning percentage of .932 and captured nine consecutive (1978-86) NCAA Championships.  

Results like these don’t just happen. Combining unwavering passion with superb talent to fulfill a clear purpose are what make Dan Gable a fearless brand. Gable being a fearless brand led to these results.

Fearless Brands combine passion and talent to fulfill their purpose

Dan Gable discovered a passion early in his life – his love of wrestling. That passion was fueled by the fact that Gable had the basic physical skills to perform at an above average level. What fueled his incomparable success was finding his purpose. His commitment to make his parents proud and add some happiness into his parents lives added relevance to his effort. To reach his goal, he developed a mental toughness and determination which is unsurpassed. 

Gable achieved success as an individual which will likely never be rivaled, much less equaled. Coach Gable – ‘Gabes’ as he’s known – instilled his passion, talent and importantly, his sense of dedication into the lives and hearts of thousands. Today, Dan Gable continues to inspire, challenge and teach as a motivational speaker. 

There’s so very much to learn from Coach Dan Gable – about building your fearless brand – about how to live life.

Passion and purpose are your drivers – Passion and purpose are words which are both overused and misused. They are words used so often that it is easy to discount the importance that they play in personal branding – and in life. Passion by itself is not enough. In the words of Coach Gable “There’s always ways of motivating yourself to higher levels. Write about it, dream about it. But after that, turn it into action. Don’t just dream.” Passion will spark your dreams. Purpose will bring them to life. Passion and purpose together are at the root of success.

Manage your mental attitude – Gable is known for his singleness of purpose, his dedication and his never quit attitude. As he puts it “Talent is everywhere, winning attitude is not.” That winning attitude is learned. Similar to the physical training and practice which honed his physical skills, Gable was relentless in managing his attitude. “My mind’s never gone very far away from what I wanted to accomplish.” Train your mind. Learn to win. More from Gable – “My valleys are higher than most people’s peaks.” That’s an attitude we can all strive to achieve.

Don’t quit before the miracle happens – Determination is the strength needed to succeed.” Dan Gable doesn’t just talk about determination; he practices it – he lives it. One example is the story about Coach Gable was part of a group sitting in a sauna. One by one everyone left – except Coach Gable. He continued to sit silently with his hands folded in front of him and his pinky fingers extended. When Gable finally left, he was asked what he was doing. He responded that he had committed to himself to stay in the sauna until 500 beads of sweat had dripped off his pinkies. Why? Determination is learned and requires practice. Not giving up was key to many of Gable’s wins. He knew he would outlast his opponent and any difficulty. Don’t quit.

Coach Dan Gable is the epitome of a fearless brand – passion, talent, purpose, relevance and determination. Very few of us will realize athletic success which matches Gable, however, all of us can achieve the qualities of a fearless brand. 


Friday's Fearless Brand Personal Branding
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Coach, International Speaker and Thought Partner – Bill’s mission is to add value to the world – one brand at a time. Bill guides individuals and companies alike in building what he refers to as a ‘fearless brand’. This is the process of discovering, embracing and delivering their greatest value – which allows them to realize greater profit. Read More

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