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Ruben Gonzalez

the Luge Man

Three Time Olympian        Peak-Performance Expert         Motivational  Speaker


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The Courage to Succeed

Excerpts from Chapters One, Four, and Five...


The Miracle in Lake Placid

    They call it “The Miracle in Lake Placid.” The date was February 22, 1980 – George Washington’s Birthday. The story of David and Goliath was about to repeat itself.

    The young, scrawny, inexperienced United States Hockey team was about to face the mighty Soviet Team at the Lake Placid Olympic Games. No one thought the Americans had a chance to win. They were just a hodgepodge squad made up of the top U.S. college players. The Americans had been playing together for only six months, so they had not even had a chance to ‘gel;’ to get to know each other and become a real team.

    The Soviet team was the best in the world. They were like a fine tuned machine. Some of the Soviet players had been playing together for 15 years! On any given play, they could confidently pass the puck to the open space, knowing that their teammate would be there to receive it. Six months earlier the Soviets had beaten the National Hockey League all star team; arguably the strongest pro team in the U.S.! Therefore, everyone expected the Soviets to steamroll the young American team.

    Everyone, that is, except Herb Brooks, the U.S. Coach. Brooks believed in Team U.S.A. when no one else did. He told his players, “Realistically, we can beat the Russians about one out of ten times. We just have to make sure that this is the time. Our only chance is to attack the Russians, and play to win. Everyone else plays, not to lose. Our only chance is to attack, attack, attack!”

    Brooks instilled his belief into his players. The young Americans attacked like they had never attacked before. They played with confidence and boldness; they played to win. The players trusted Brooks and just kept shooting the puck; shot after shot after shot. The Soviets, not used to being attacked, were caught off guard. Somehow, the Americans pulled out one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history.

    They beat the Russians 4-3. It really was a “Miracle in Lake Placid.”

    The crowd knew they had just experienced a once in a lifetime event, and they didn’t want to leave the arena.  After the game, the U.S. fans walked up and down Main Street Lake Placid. Almost on cue, snowflakes began to fall and for hours everyone walked and sang “The Star Spangled Banner,” “America the Beautiful’” and “God Bless America.”       

    I was seventeen years old when I witnessed the Miracle in Lake Placid. The hockey game reminded me of a dream I’d had ever since the third grade; a dream I’d buried because I didn’t believe in myself; an improbable dream; an impossible dream; the dream of becoming an Olympian. At the end of the famous hockey game, when sports announcer Al Michaels exclaimed, “Do you believe in miracles?” I silently nodded my head and with fire in my eyes, said “Yes, I believe!”

    Flash forward four years: it’s 1984. Now I was walking down Main Street Lake Placid looking for the U.S. Olympic Training Center, where I was about to change my life forever by taking up the sport of luge with hopes of competing in the Calgary Winter Olympics four years later.

    In 1984, I was a twenty-one year old soccer player; a bench warmer in my college team. Common logic would have dictated that I was much too old to start a new sport, but I was filled with a fire rekindled by witnessing The Miracle four years earlier in Lake Placid.

   This is the true story about how an ordinary person accomplished extraordinary things by simply believing; a story that takes the excuses away; a story that will inspire you to start believing in the possibility that you can make your dreams a reality too. Because, four years and a few  broken bones later, against all odds, I was marching in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics where I would be competing against the best in the world in the men’s singles luge.


Coach and I in Konigsee, Germany


Never Ever Quit!

    In the last twenty years I’ve taken thousands of luge runs. I’ve wanted to quit after every single one! Why? Because for me it is so, so… intense. So… extreme. So… terrifying at times. Having gotten started so late in the sport, the luge has never felt natural to me. I’ve never developed a ‘feel’ for it. It has never felt like a recreational sport to me; I’m too much on the edge to enjoy it. I’d much rather be playing soccer, basketball, or squash.

    But after talking to Coach, I’m thinking, “I know exactly what I’m going to do next run. I’m pointing my toes, my head’s going back, I’m steering hahda, hahda, hahda on curve 6, I’m going to relax, and lookout, I’ll be faster than ever before!”

    It only takes talking to Coach for 30 seconds to get me back on the sled. In those thirty seconds, Coach would get my focus off of my obstacles and on to my objective – the Olympics. Luge was just the vehicle: the Olympics was the destination. Many times the road to your dreams is a rough one. When it is, you need all the help and encouragement you can get. If it had not been for the walkie-talkie – which allowed me to connect with Coach, I never would have made it to the Olympics. Taking advantage of the walkie-talkie kept me from quitting. It’s a good thing it always had a fresh set of batteries!

    I’ve got news for you. You will have bad days. You will have bad weeks. You will have bad months. Once in a while you’ll even have a bad year. I have. And there will be

times when nothing you do seems to work out; times when you will be so discouraged you will want to quit.

    How about you? What do you do when the going gets tough? When life hits you with storms? Do you try to figure it out for yourself? Do you start feeling sorry for yourself and go out and have a pity party? Do you start blaming circumstances instead of taking responsibility? Do you get frustrated, then discouraged to the point where you quit?   


Winners focus on the goal, not on the obstacles.


    The next time you’re in the middle of one of life’s storms, you’re discouraged, and you’re starting to doubt yourself, don’t go out and try to figure it out for yourself. The worst time to make a decision is when things are not going your way.

    If you do that, you’ll be basing your decision entirely on emotion - not on intellect. If you make a decision when you’re down, you’re bound to make a bad decision. That’s when you’re the closest to quitting.

    When things are not going your way, pick up the walkie-talkie. Talk to your husband, your wife, your best friend, your coach, your mentor or your boss. Talk to someone who cares for you; someone who will get you back on the sled; someone who will get you back on track; someone who won’t let you quit, because if you quit, you’ll regret it all your life. I promise you.


Hope Accomplishes the Impossible

    I share my story to give you hope; to help you see that you were designed for greatness; to make you understand that you must believe in yourself.

    You see, if you believe something is possible, and have hope, then you will not quit. Hope sees the invisible. Hope accomplishes the impossible. Napoleon said that a leader’s most important job is to give hope to his troops – to show them that success is possible; Coach constantly reminds me that there is hope. If you have hope you will take action. And once you take action you’re on the path to success. As soon as you lose hope you quit.


When there’s hope in the future, there’s power in the present.


    People ask me how I keep my hope up. They ask me why I’m willing to train so hard for so long for the Olympics – especially knowing that the probability of medaling is so, so slim. When asked that, I feel just like mountain climbers must feel when they are asked, “Why do you climb mountains?” When someone asks you that, you don’t even want to bother answering, because they just don’t understand. They don’t get it. And so you end up saying something profound like, “Because it’s there.”

    Why do it? To fulfill an urge, a powerful inner calling to take a journey that will show us what we are made of. Climbing the mountain or making the attempt for the Olympics is a challenge that allows us test ourselves so we can know ourselves better.

    Why work so hard? Because doing the work buys us an opportunity, a chance, however small, to medal. Doing the roadwork, the pushups, the sit-ups and the insanely boring weightlifting, makes us stronger both physically and mentally. The hours and hours of sled work before every race (we spend hours polishing our steel runners before every race to remove even microscopic nicks that could slow us down the mountain), make us stronger mentally as well. With every stroke of fine sandpaper on the steels, we are making the sled faster. With every stroke we know our chances to medal are better. Why work so hard? Because there is a possibility that I will medal. It’s not probable, but it’s possible. Because in life, as long as you don’t quit you still have a chance, you still have hope.

    Stop making excuses and start believing in yourself, because you are bigger than your circumstances and because you were created to accomplish great things. You were. When you read my story, you will see that if you want something bad enough and you’re willing to go for it, dreams do come true.

    Whether you want to be a better mom or dad, a better wife or husband, a better employee, a better boss, a better salesperson… whether your dream is to travel the world, or move to a beautiful home in the mountains or by the beach, no matter what your dream is, all it takes to succeed is guts and vision; the vision to know what you want, and the guts to go for it and to never quit.

  My story takes the excuses away because although I was not a great athlete, my Olympic dream still became a reality three times! The only reason my dream was realized is because I consistently and persistently followed some universal success principles. Principles I learned while growing up; while training for the Olympics; and from the Olympic Games themselves. Principles you can follow to win too.

    Now, through my story, I’ll share these principles with you.



(to learn the rest of the story, and the timeless principles of success, you'll have to order the book!)


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