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I watched Tiger Woods play golf this summer at the PGA Championship in Minneapolis. Okay, "watch" might be a stretch. I caught glimpses of him while standing on my tiptoes peeking through throngs of people who follow him everywhere he goes.

To really appreciate his golf game, I'd rather watch him on TV. But it took seeing him in person to comprehend the influence he has had on his sport and its fans. Thousands of people streamed around the course, flowing like a river led by him walking alone on a fairway.

Imagine having people follow you at work every day, cheering wildly when you sent a great e-mail, giving you a fist pump when you closed a sale or moaning when you misspelled a word.

Sports stars, celebrities and political leaders good and bad have always drawn huge crowds of crazy fans. But with Tiger Woods the story is different.

Tiger's appeal isn't just good looks, clever packaging or inspiring words. He draws people like a magnet because of performance. He found his passion as a child and committed himself entirely to reaching his full potential.

He has entertained and inspired millions, earned hundreds of millions and used his sport to give millions to charities.

I met another man recently with a similarly inspiring story. Dr. Eric Nussbaum is a neurovascular surgeon who performs more than 350 brain aneurysm surgeries a year. He graduated from medical school younger than most and today at age 41 is one of the top-rated surgeons in the country.

This immensely talented man and his brain surgeon wife have dedicated their lives to repairing human brains - perfecting new techniques, writing books and papers for patients and their profession, and taking on difficult cases that other surgeons reject.

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Over the course of his career, this one man will personally save thousands of lives and immeasurably affect the family and friends of each one of his patients.

Tiger Woods and Dr. Nussbaum are just two examples of gifted people with have worked to realize their greatest personal potential. We might not have such obvious talent, but everyone is stamped with excellence of some kind.

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Imagine if we fully pursued it. If we found a way to move beyond the small things that hinder us - the pettiness, gossip, power struggles, jealousy, insecurities or limits of our own making - and focused on unleashing our full potential to comfort, provide, teach, build, love, nurture or inspire in our own way.

I recently received a gift from a friend, a coffee cup that reads, "One's influence today can change another's tomorrow."

We might not earn piles of money or attract millions of adoring fans. We probably won't have rivers of people cheering us on, ogling our eagle putts or groaning about bogies, but our work today can certainly change another person's tomorrow.

Go get 'em, Tiger!

(Julie Fedorchak is a Bismarck writer whose column appears on alternating Wednesdays. Reach her at jfedorchak@;bis.midco.net.)

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