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The Pursuit of Greatness

By Jeremy Likness

On June 3rd, 1948, a blast rocked the Black Hills of South Dakota. Ten tons of stone were dislodged from the mountainside and tumbled to the earth below. Earlier that day, a man named Korczak had ascended the mountain and single-jacked four holes at 6,740 feet above sea level.

Single-jacking is the practice of placing a drill-bit against hard rock, slamming it with a four-pound sledge hammer, then rotating the drill and banging it again until the hole is finished. It is a labor-intensive effort and a single man might only drill six to eight feet over the course of a day.

Over the following years more than eight million tons of rock would be blasted away. What was once a silent silhouette in stone began to take on a new shape. It would not be until over a decade after Korczak's death - a full fifty years after he single-jacked the first holes - that the face of his muse, the proud Lakota warrior named "Crazy Horse, would emerge. What Korczak had begun in obscurity by constructing his own 714-step stairway to the summit (one he ascended and descended multiple times in a single day) is now known throughout the world. Over 10,000 hikers converge for the annual hike to the top of the mountain to view the face that alone is taller than Mount Rushmore.

One billion postage stamps with the likeness of Crazy Horse have been issued over the last few decades. It all started with a single hike up the mountain by man who was humble enough to begin the project by himself but had a vision large enough to believe he could transform a mountain into the noble image of a native war hero declaring the extent of his lands. It was a vision of greatness.

How did something so monumental begin with such humble roots? Perhaps the greatest clue left behind is the quotation found on the various knick-knacks in the gift shop next the mountain. I was moved when I heard the phenomenal story of the Crazy Horse project and bought a souvenir not to remind me of where I had been, but to encourage me to keep forging ahead to where I want to be. The beautiful swirl of agate was not what commanded the most of my attention - it was the words that spoke to my own dreams. It reads:

When the Legends Die

The Dreams End

When the Dreams End

There is No More Greatness

Korczak insisted that it was not important to know when the monument will be finished. What was most important was to continue the dream. And continue the dream he did, through three separate operations to remove six discs. After quadruple bypass surgery, he was back on the mountain supervising his children as they painted the outline of the massive horse's head. Crazy Horse, when completed, will be the world's largest sculpture, taller than the great pyramids and overshadowing the Washington Monument by eight feet.

Seven of Korczak's ten children continue the dream to this day along with his wife. Korczak himself rests peacefully in a mausoleum he built with his children before his death at the base of the mountain.

It is said the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first footstep. Just as the act of carving Crazy Horse's face from living rock took fifty years, the quest to sculpt your own physique will not be fulfilled overnight. Why is so difficult to hold onto the dream of living a healthy, fit life? Have we lost our Legends, and let the Dreams End? You may be amazed to learn that every ordinary person in this world is destined to something extraordinary - if they are willing to stop trying to make it happen and instead able to search deep within to let it happen.

Are you ready to let success happen?

A pound of fat contains approximately 3,500 calories. I must admit, it was daunting to me when I began my journey and realized I had 65 pounds of fat to lose. Sixty-five pounds of fat boasts more than a quarter million calories. In our fast-paced world of instant gratification, I wanted the fat to disappear immediately. I did not want to single-jack those four holes and blast away the first ten tons out of eight million... instead, I wanted the entire sculpture to reveal itself overnight. Where was my magic bullet?

Crazy Horse is in the Dakota Territory, which was first made famous to other Americas through the journals of Lewis and Clark. Many of us today dread stepping onto the treadmill or out into the cold morning air to run a few miles. The Lewis and Clark expedition crossed the entire country from St. Louis to the west coast and back again. The majority of this was on foot, dragging boats laden with supplies upstream against the aggressive current of the Missouri River.

One journal entry shared an extraordinary fact: each man consumed nearly twenty pounds of meat every day in order to supply the calories they needed to survive. In stark contrast, when they were struggling through a hard winter in the Rockies, they managed to drag equipment, supplies, guns, and tools over treacherous mountain passes while subsiding on nothing more than roots. The entire journey traversed over 8,000 miles and lasted several years, but the men and woman set forth knowing only what they wished to accomplish and focused on achieving it one day at a time.

They took their first steps without any knowledge of the land they were about to enter - it was terra incognito. Is a healthy physique "unknown territory to you? It is easier to overcome fear of the unknown when you are in pursuit of greatness.

What does it take to step onto the treadmill to run a few miles? What courage is necessary to enter the weight room and force several pounds of iron to move against the will of gravity? The small excuses that keep you away from your goals are the dangerous ones. They are the little dream-stealers, attacking greatness. Living healthy is about more than simply losing weight or looking great on the beach. It is about excellence.

Wouldn't weight-loss be easy if it were just a "thing? We do "things every day. We brush our teeth, go shopping, and prepare dinner. These "things are part of our daily existence, and are as easy as watching the rain. So why is living healthy such a struggle to many? Perhaps it is because you are chasing something more than a number on the scale. Maybe you feel that if you burn that fat, you will find your true self underneath. During the chase, you are not really losing weight - whether you like it or not, you are pursuing greatness. It is who we are.

According to Jim Rohn, "the ultimate expression of life is not a million dollars or a bank account or a home." It is living a good life. Jim Rohn once lied to a Girl Scout because he did not have a single dollar in his wallet to buy cookies from her. He vowed he would never be in that position again, and is now America's foremost business philosopher - a millionaire who has spoken to hundreds of thousands. Jim shares that a good life includes productivity, good friends, culture, and religion. He tells us not to miss anything - not the game, not the opera, not the movie. What are you missing?

How hard is it to live the good life? We Americans are numb to our present condition. We are programmed to sit in front of the television set to absorb a constant stream of negative news, then punch the clock at a job that is high-stress and low-pay with little time remaining to live the good life. We are exhausted, so we slump in front of the latest sitcom to find pleasure in someone else's life because we don't have the energy to live our own. Dr. Myron Wentz, who was born on a small farm only a few hundred miles north of Crazy Horse in North Dakota and is now pursuing greatness as a leader in the fight against degenerative disease, described the situation eloquently by stating "Most people die too long."

It took me nearly a year to lose sixty-five pounds of fat. I was not an overnight success story - I had to work at it. It was a struggle and sometimes I would backslide. When I'd stand on the scale to see that I had taken two steps in the wrong direction, I'd dust myself off, face the right direction, and keep moving forward. Many people who were attempting to lose fat with me gave up when they did not see their six-pack after a few weeks of sweating hard and eating clean.

Not content with being ordinary, I stubbornly refused to give in. Perhaps I can attribute some of my success to my birth in Sturgis, South Dakota - a small town nestled just inside the border of the Black Hills where many legends have roamed. I do not consider myself a legend, but I could relate to Korczak when I'd rouse myself early in the morning after only a few hours of sleep to step into the cold basement and onto the unrelenting treadmill. I did not want to die too long - I was ready to live.

You see, I did not know how long it would take to reach my goal. I was unhappy and dissatisfied with how I was living my life. For things to change, I had to change. I was not ready for just any change - I wanted to do something great. Korczak had his mountain, I had my treadmill. What we shared was the resolve to look beyond the next day and become part of a greater vision. I might have only burned a few hundred calories per day, but those emptied fat cells would never cause me grief again. It doesn't matter when you reach that magic weight or fit into that special pair of shorts. What matters is keeping the dream alive every day. Live the good life. Strive for excellence. Excellence is not perfection; it is the pursuit of greatness - it is perfecting the process of becoming your best. I remind myself of the dream to be my best each and every day, because I know when the dreams end, there is no more greatness.

Are you merely chasing the scale, or do you choose to pursue greatness? Never forget your dreams.

About The Author
Jeremy Likness is a health coach and author of the internationally-selling e-Book, "Lose Fat, Not Faith." A Certified Fitness Trainer and Specialist in Performance Nutrition through the International Sports Sciences Assocation, Jeremy himself lost over 65 pounds of fat before founding the company, Natural Physiques, to help others overcome obesity. Visit Jeremy online at

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