“Set goals, keep score, break records. Anything else is just exercise.”
Fifteen years ago, I met a man named George E. Hood who not only introduced me to those words but embodied them from head to toe.
We met shortly after Five Seasons Family Sports Club retained Inside Edge PR + Media to provide public relations and media relations support for their clubs in a pair of Chicago suburbs, Burr Ridge and Northbrook.
The immediate PR/media push was to tout significant upgrades that both facilities had just wrapped up. But the Burr Ridge location had the additional mojo of an upcoming Guinness World Record attempt in spin cycling that they were hosting.
Making that attempt was Hood, then a 49-year-old Five Seasons member. Together, George and I went to work: he pumped the pedals for nearly four days on a stationary cycle as I waged persistent media outreach, near and far, on his efforts.
Success & Setbacks
We both achieved significant success. The Associated Press, Sports Illustrated, Chicago television stations, as well as other regional and national media devoted coverage to the remarkable ultra-endurance effort.
And we both had setbacks: I had my share of media rejection–particularly a terse all-caps demand from renowned sportswriter Rick Reilly that I stop updating him on George’s progress. And though George shattered the 82 hours that had been the world record, his performance was not validated by Guinness World Records because of technical, book-keeping issues.
The experience galvanized George to become a record-breaking machine not only in spin cycling, but the abdominal plank. And it reinforced the truth that success and failure are interwoven–you can’t get to success without daring to fail. On a personal level, my interactions with George inspired me to apply his goalsetting, scorekeeping, record-breaking principles to at least one area of my life: basketball. More specifically: ambidextrous free-throw shooting.
Since March 5, 2007, I have tracked over 120,000 free throw attempts (60,000-plus shots with each hand). Along the way, my efforts have attracted media coverage and some chuckles from Sports Jeopardy! game show host Dan Patrick, who in 2015 teasingly poked at my free-throw pursuit. Along the way, I have made 82.9% of my tries–failing about one-sixth of the time before making my 100,000th on Christmas morning last week (see below).
With other athletic options limited during the COVID-19 pandemic, over the past 18 months I have attempted 40,000-plus shots, more than triple my prior rate of activity. Though my percentage of makes has been up only slightly (a tad over 83%), there has been a surge in the therapeutic benefits of having such a physical and mental outlet during these trying times.
A closing word of thanks to George E. Hood, whom I have nicknamed “G Force,” for inspiring me to “Set goals, keep score, break records.” True to form, George continues to astonish with his Guinness World Record-breaking ways. Check out this Q & A he did in February 2020 with The New York Times’ Christine Hauser after he set the abdominal plank record for the seventh time (that’s not a typo—he’s done it seven times!).