Yesterday Robert and I had the opportunity to hear a gentleman share his story.  He began by speaking of his experiences playing football with his brothers, and showed us footage from a 1971 high school football game.

In the footage all three brothers were on the field.

He used his cursor to point out their positions.  (As I’m not familiar with how football is played, the words just went in one ear and out the other.)  What I saw on the screen was a group of players running and tackling each other.

One of the three brothers, 16 year old Phil Hughston, was injured in this game.  Dave said Phil’s spinal chord was severed.  After a brave fight over a number of weeks, Phil died.

Dave Hughston went on to describe how his brother – a young leader in sport and in academics –  has had a great impact on people till today, regardless of his death at 16.  The local bank created the “Phil Hughston Memorial Award” and it has enabled many young people in the Charlotte/Mecklenberg counties of North Carolina to attend college.  But more than that – each student awarded has needed to excel in all areas of their life before they qualified to win.

The award is for students who Excel.  (Dave says he’s read some of the backgrounds of those who applied, and he would never have been able to qualify.)

To commemorate this award, a sculpture was commissioned from Frederick C. Hasenzahl called “The Urge to Excel”.  The *sculpture (which Dave borrowed from his mother’s china cabinet under ‘pain of death’) details a young man emerging with great energy from a rock. His face is pointed away from the rock, with one arm outstretched.

Dave Hughston, the presenter, then went on to speak on how leadership comes from the Urge to Excel.  He listed six points to remember:

  1. We are all leaders.
  2. Excellence comes before Leadership
  3. You have to pull yourself out of the rock (of mediocrity) by doing what you love.
  4. Remember “Love is a Decision” – you make the choice of what you love.
  5. Develop a goal.  Create a vision.  Write it down.
  6. Do it – practice leadership/your goal – every day.

Listening to Dave Hughston speak gave me a sense of his urge to excel – to compete and win.  From his introduction I know he is a leader in his company.  His wife was in the group listening to Dave speak, and he referred to her a number of times.  One story stood out.  It was a story of how they grew to know each other.

One Chair at a Time

Imagine a 15 year old boy attending high school – homeroom.  Where do you think 15 year old boys sit?  At the back, right?  Dave said he started at the back of the room… until he noticed a pretty girl sitting at the front.

He didn’t know her name.  And he’d wanted to meet her.

So every day he arrived earlier and earlier to take a different seat.  From the back of the room he moved up one row – one chair at a time.  His goal?  To meet the pretty girl.

Days passed and he continued to excel in his goal – despite the hardship.  Apparently he wasn’t the only guy who wanted to sit with a pretty girl  The difficulty?  All the pretty girls sat at the front and he had competition for the chairs.  According to Dave’s story, there were a few tussles with the other guys, but he excelled.

Eventually he won a seat at the front, after days of moving up one chair at a time.  The pretty girl’s name?  Marilyn.

He went on to win more than a chair at the front – he won her heart.  They married and have been together for more than 30 years.

Why is this story important?

I imagine all couples have a story from their time of courtship.  At some point there was a sense of urgency, a feeling of competition and a need to excel.  The wedding day was a celebration of both husband and wife winning a friend for life.

Do you still feel the urgency to ‘win’ your spouse?

Dave Hughston’s 6 points (scroll up if you’ve forgotten) can be applied to marriage also.  We, as husbands and wives, are leaders in our families and communities.  To be excellent leaders we need to pull ourselves out of mediocrity.  We need to continue to make the choice to love each other.  We need to share goals, to have a vision for our marriage, and to practice, practice, practice.  We need to excel.

Marriages can move forward ‘one chair’ at a time.

If you’re feeling far away from your spouse – maybe you even need to be re-introduced – then focus on moving forward ‘one chair’ at a time.

Start with a smile.  A kind word.  Make a friend.  Acknowledge that you want to “win” your spouse… again.


Even the best marriages can reach for more!

*Here’s a video about the awards – in the first 1:40 seconds you’ll see the statue and photos of Phil Hughston.