In the summer of 2008, my wife, Jill and I visited my father’s hometown of Saratoga Springs, New York, home of America’s first “flat track”. I love horse racing and watching the thoroughbreds, but I’m not a risky gambler. At the end of that summer day, it dawned on me that all my wagers had gone to horses with 2-to-1 favorite odds. I learned I’m more comfortable betting on a sure thing …or close to it. As we watched a 20-to-1 long-shot cross the finish line as the winner in the last race, I had to ask myself why I hadn’t been bolder – why I hadn’t put some faith in a long-shot.

A few months later, I was walking through the offices of Random House headquarters in New York City, working on getting my first book published. All the 2-to-1 famous author’s, like John Grisham and Suzi Orman, pictures were hung on the walls. Very intimidating. That day I felt like a 20-to-1 long-shot at Saratoga.

Thankfully, Michael Palgon, who was the Executive Vice President and Deputy Publisher of Crown Publishing (a division of Random House), was willing to take a chance on me as a first-time author. Michael’s confidence in me and my message inspired and motivated me throughout the writing process, and I wanted nothing less than to give him a winner – in terms of book sales, yes, but more importantly, in terms of impact.

It’s Not Just Who You Know went on to be a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and #1 USA Today national bestseller.

I love when long shots beat the odds.

We are halfway through March Madness. I love this time of the year because we get to see 20-to-1 long-shot college basketball teams match up against 2-to-1 proven champions. On March 16th, last Friday night, something happened in college basketball that hadn’t happened before. Before Friday night, No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament were 135-0 against No. 16 seeds. Make that 135-1 now, after UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) upset #1 seed Virginia.

Have you ever even heard of University of Maryland, Baltimore County? I didn’t even know they had a college, let alone a basketball team. And the UMBC Retrievers weren’t even supposed to be in the NCAA Tournament. They lost to Albany earlier in the season 83-39. Albany!!!

I love when long-shots beat the odds.

On September 1, 2007 the Appalachian State Mountaineers played the University of Michigan Wolverines. It was both teams first regular season college football game. The game was held at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines entered the game ranked No. 5 in both major Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) polls, and media outlets considered them to be pre-season favorites to win the Big Ten conference championship as well as possible contenders for the national championship.

Games between FBS and no name teams typically result in lopsided victories for the FBS team, and this game was expected to be the same. The predicted outcome was a lopsided victory for Michigan. Las Vegas sportsbooks didn’t even give a betting line. The game began with a strong first half for Appalachian State, who held a 28-17 lead at the end of the half. Michigan regained the lead at 32-31 in the fourth quarter, but Appalachian State took the lead for a second time on a short field goal with 26 seconds left. The Mountaineers blocked a game-winning field goal attempt from Michigan at the end of regulation to secure a 34-32 win.

Immediately hailed as one of the greatest upsets in college football history, the game served as the lead story for SportsCenter and was the cover story for the following week’s edition of Sports Illustrated. Appalachian State became the second FCS team to defeat a ranked FBS team, and as a result, Michigan dropped out of the top 25 on the AP Poll entirely, marking the first time a team had fallen from the top five – out of the poll entirely – as the result of a single game (source: Wikipedia).

I love when long shots beat the odds.

What long-shots in your life, or at your place of work, do you need to bet on?

Equally important question – what is the 20-to-1 dream in your life (and career) that you ALWAYS wanted to accomplish, but concede to possible failure, rejection, or defeat?

It’s easy to bet on someone else’s long shot. But what would your life (and career) look like if you bet on yourself. I know for me, I would not be writing this BLOG (and other books) if I hadn’t bet on myself back in 2008.

If I can do it. If University of Maryland, Baltimore County can do it. If Appalachian State can do it.

You can do it!