By MG John Gronski (USA, Ret.)
Jim Sursely was a remarkable man. He passed away on May 30, 2021, after living an inspiring life. He motivated many people but the lesson he told that resonated most with me was that you had to be all in, 100%, if you were going to overcome adversity and achieve success. I have noticed this same theme surface when listening to other successful people tell their stories. You must be “all in or go home”.
Here is a cliff notes version of the Jim Sursely story. He was a multi-sport athlete in high school, growing up in Rochester, Minnesota. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Army in 1966 as the Vietnam War was heating up. He was trained as a wheeled vehicle and tracked vehicle mechanic.
He was sent to Germany, and he could have remained there serving out his enlistment. But he did not feel right about serving in Germany when others were fighting in Vietnam, so he requested a transfer to a unit in Vietnam and that request was granted.
He arrived in Vietnam in March 1968 and due to his leadership ability, he soon rose through the enlisted ranks and became a Non-Commissioned Officer. In January 1969, during a combat patrol, he was trooping the line to make sure the defensive perimeter was set when he stepped on a booby trap. His life was forever changed when the explosion claimed both his legs above the knee and his left arm above his elbow.
He rose above this challenge like not many other people could. He moved to Florida, became a successful real estate agent, owned a successful roofing company, and raised a family. He became the national president of DAV – Disable American Veterans.
He took it upon himself to work with many other wounded Warriors who were struggling. One of these wounded Warriors was Lewis Puller, son of the most decorated Marine in history, Chesty Puller.
On October 11, 1968, Puller was wounded when he tripped a booby-trapped howitzer round, losing his right leg at the hip, his left leg above the knee, his left hand, and most of his fingers on his right hand in the explosion. Lewis struggled mightily but he also achieved success. He wrote the book “Fortunate Son” which earned a Pulitzer Prize in 1992. Two years after that Lewis died by suicide at the age of 48.
When Sursely compared his battle to overcome his visible and invisible wounds with Lewis Puller’s battle, Sursely explained the difference this way. Sursely said he accepted what happened to himself 100%. He was all in for the wounds he received and then he went forward with life. He went on to say that Lewis Pullet accepted what happened to him 98%. Sursely said it was that 2% that made all the difference. I thought this was incredible insight.
Just recently I was listening to a Brandon Turner Podcast. He was interviewing successful real estate investors Rich and Kathy Fettke. Rich told a story about his battle to defeat cancer. During his battle, a doctor told him his cancer had spread to his liver and he had only six months to live. Although this was a false diagnosis Rich went on for three months with the pronouncement hanging over his head that he had only six months to live.
As he was dealing with this diagnosis, he sought help from a person who was a “healer”. The healer asked Rich, “How much of you believe you are going to live?” Rich’s response was “70% of the time I think I am going to make this and get through it but 30% of the time I think I am going to die.” The healer’s response was, “That 30% is killing you.” Rich went on to say during the podcast, “You have got to be 100% sure. That 30% thinking I was going to die was destroying me and it was pulling me down”.
Approximately fifty years ago, Norman Vincent Peale, a protestant minister and author of the book, “The Power of Positive Thinking”, published a short pamphlet titled “Expect a Miracle – Make Miracles Happen”. The theme of that pamphlet embodied the same lesson I learned from Jim Sursely and Rich Fettke, which is, you can achieve anything you set your mind to, but you must be all in. You must believe with 100% certainty in your heart, soul, and mind.
There are steps you can take along the way.
1 – When doubt creeps into your mind you must dispel that doubt immediately and overwhelm the doubt with positive thoughts.
2 – Use the power of prayer. Have a conversation with God about what you want to achieve. What you are asking for must not only benefit you, but it must also benefit others and it must be a force for good.
3 – Set a goal, write it down, visualize yourself achieving the goal, and develop a believable and realistic plan of action. Set intermediate goals along the way and take small steps to reach the end goal.
All our dreams are attainable, but it all starts with your belief system. 70% is not good enough. 98% is not good enough. You must be all in. 100% is necessary to attain what you are looking for. Be all in or go home!
About John Gronski
Major General John L. Gronski (U.S. Army Retired) is the founder and CEO of Leader Grove LLC, a leadership consulting firm. John is the author of two books, “Iron-Sharpened Leadership” and “The Ride of Our Lives” and he is an international and Fortune 500 speaker.
A decorated combat Veteran, infantryman, and Ranger School graduate, John is a transformational leader and has significant experience in business as a management consultant, where he led teams implementing large, complex projects. He now serves as an executive coach, leadership consultant, and trainer.
Learn more about John Gronski at https://johngronski.com/