DH: Hey guys, welcome to Keep On Pushing Radio. I am your host, Devon Harris and you know what we do here. Yeah, man. We share ideas and insights that are going to challenge you and inspire you to live your absolute best life. So, I’m guessing you’re interested in that, are you? Well, if you are, you are in the absolute right place, man. So welcome to keep on pushing radio. have to say I feel a lot of kinship with our guest today. And if you’re familiar with my story, then once you’ve heard his, you’re going to understand what I mean. During his heyday he established himself as one of the top 400 meter runners in the world and if you know anything about track and field, you’ll know that’s not an easy feat. He has represented his native Jamaica at three Olympic Games and during that time he took home three Olympic medals as well. At the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, he was a member of the bronze medal-winning Jamaican 4×400 meter relay.
And in Sydney 2002, he took home a bronze, an individual medal in the 400-meter race and also a silver in those same Olympic Games in the mile relay as a member of the Jamaican team, of course. He was a bronze medal finisher in the World Championships in 1995 and in 2001. He has won gold medals at the Central American and Caribbean Championships, we call it the CAC games, back in 1993. In 1999 he won gold at the Pan American Games and also goal at the Goodwill games in 2001. Here is or was the World Champion, the indoor World Champion in 2004. He has, by the way, added five, yes, five Jamaican national championship titles to his resume. He was also the two-time NJCAA –the national junior college amateur athletic association champion and a three-time NCAA champion as well.
Now, with a resume like that you know he’s a Hall of Famer, right? He was inducted in the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame back in 1997 and the George Mason University Hall of Fame in 2001. There is just so much more to this guy’s resume, but we’d spend half of the program talking about it so I’ll just say today, he is a family man, a businessman, he is a motivational speaker, he is the founder of the Haughton Mentoring Group where their mission is to empower individuals to implement their own unique strategy to achieve their goals, to achieve personal success and transform their minds and he achieved this by creating, by designing some specific mental training techniques. So, it’s such an honor, man. without further ado, I really want to welcome to our program, Dr. Gregory Haughton. Greg, welcome to keep on pushing.
GH: Thank you very much for having me. It is a pleasure. I remember your days too when you inspired me. I was in Central Arizona at the time and the movie came out and I wanted to meet the real guy so bad. So, it is an honor to be here having this discussion with you.
DH: Yeah, man. Thank you for that, Greg and I always enjoy speaking to legends and you are a legend in your own right. A veritable legend, I must say. So Greg, how’s life treating you these days, man? What have you been up to? How have you been spending your time?
GH: Well, life is very good. I give thanks for health. I am here with my family. I am trying to instill the right values, but I’ve been putting in a whole lot of work. We have a whole lot of recordings to come out pretty soon about how we can help individuals reach their highest potential, how you can maximize your goals and dreams by implementing the right systems. So we’re busy working, we are writing, we are recording and we are mentoring others to help them to find their true self.
DH: Awesome. Awesome. So, I know you’re planning a trip to Jamaica pretty soon as well. Tell us about that a little bit.
GH: Well, in October we will be completing the third phase of….we call it “the mind of a champion” and we will be going to 11 different schools within a 10 day period where we will be presenting the message to the young people because we feel like young people in Jamaica especially, need that motivation. They need someone who can understand and connect with what they’re doing in life. Because when you look and see how many of them lose their level of focus and lack the discipline and so on, I feel as if I can do something to make a difference in Jamaica. So, it’s going to be a little bit hectic because I have 11 schools in 10 days but, I am prepared mentally to make the presentations to see if I can make a difference in what is going on in my own country.
DH: Indeed. Yeah, the 11 presentations in 10 days is a hectic schedule, but you have the mind of a champion and you’re trying to instill that in them. So thank you for doing that really important work back home. What age group are you planning to speak to?
GH: Well, it’s high school. So, we want the message to reach the entire athletes and non-athletes. We want the message to reach the leaders, those individuals who are preparing these young minds to take on the world. So, initially I wanted to confine it mainly to athletes but I realized that the message is so impactful that it is best to include the entire school. So, we are working our way from Manchester. We’re going to Vere Technical, we’re going to Tivoli Gardens, we’re going to Hydel, we’re going to Excelsior, we’re going to JC, we’re going to Haile Selassie, we’re going to Bridgeport, we’re going to STATHS, we’re going to Seaview Gardens as well.
DH: All right. So, it Definitely seems like you’re hitting a wide cross-section, which is awesome and it really sounds like it’s part and parcel of the work that you’ve been doing at the Haughton Mentoring Group as well. What inspired you to start this work, Greg?
GH: Well, I can honestly and humbly say that I am who I am because of the people who invested their time and energy in making sure that I had the right philosophy. One of those individuals was the Honorable Herb McKenley because he took me under his wings even though I wasn’t from Calabar. But he saw something in me that made him want to invest his time. And just as how he was able to pass on some of the knowledge, his lived experience with me I too want to continue his legacy by having that impact to be able to influence other young people to find their true selves. So that is just one but two, I grew up in a very tough community, Seaview Gardens, and when I look around I saw that there was more to life than what we were settling for. So because of that I saw a lot of youth with talent that just were not able to fulfill their ultimate purpose. So because I was able to squeeze through the cracks, I feel as if I can go back now and help some of those young individuals who are trying to find themselves squeeze through the cracks.
DH: Yeah. No, that is awesome man. You are really touching a chord with me as well because I do believe one, in paying it forward and pouring yourself into others, which is what Herb McKenley did. Herb is definitely one of our foremost sprinters perhaps the most versatile sprinter, we have ever had in a land of sprinters, but also, you’re absolutely right……there are so many young men and women who are from communities like yours, Seaview Gardens who have tremendous potential and have just, you know…..you look at a guy like you who you say has just kind of seeped through the cracks. It’s perhaps a little bit more than that, but I understand the sentiment. You recognize that there are others just like you who have similar potential and you’re doing what you can to help them.
You speak a lot, Greg, about mental training, the fact that you need to be mentally tough in order to succeed and certainly through the kind of training and mentorship program that you offer for athletes and non-athletes, they’re going to find tremendous benefit to that. But what do you say, Greg to the general audience? People who feel like life has weighed them down. They feel like life has thrown everything at them and the kitchen sink, how do they become mentally tough, Greg?
GH: Well, I oftentimes say this Devon that even if you look back in your own life, you would admit that there are things that if you know now, you wouldn’t have made those errors and what I find with not just young people, but older folks too is that we are making decisions based on the emotional side of us and we are not making the decision with logic. So one of my philosophy is that if you want to be successful then you have to find people who’ve been there and done that so they can lead and guide you along the way with the right knowledge. So most of the time you find that people are not successful because they want to lean on their own understanding when they are not professional in that area. You must make somebody that has the lived experience, meaning that they have been there, they’ve done that, they’ve seen the pitfalls and then you can see if those individuals can lead and guide you with their knowledge and their experience. So for me, if I don’t know something, I always try to go to the best at it so they can help to lead and guide me. Because at the end of the day, the purpose is not to make mistakes because mistakes I find Devon can set you back for your entire life. Some mistakes may follow you for a short period of time, but some mistakes will follow you for the rest of your life.
DH: Yeah, that sounds all well and good Greg and I definitely understand the thinking behind what you’re saying but let’s go back to a young my like yourself in a place like Seaview Gardens, in a place like where I’m from, Olympic Gardens across the road there on Spanish Town where there were not many people who were exemplary figures. Certainly, not the ones that were going to help you to escape the circumstances that you are from. How does someone who find themselves in an environment like that where you don’t necessarily have mentors, positive mentors, how do they find themselves squeezing through the cracks like you?
GH: Well, I can say this, that a lot of the elders in the community, they may not have had the knowledge in the areas that I wanted to go in, but in their own right and way they would inspire me by doing simple things like, I tell you one of the gentlemen that passed on in one of the massacres that was there– he was a woodworker. And what he would do, he would try to get those out of that environment by having us work with him. So he would find odd jobs around his little woodwork shop to help us to stay away from hanging out with the wrong companies and he would try to give you a little nugget here and there to help you to reflect on your true purpose. But the good thing about myself and a few others who managed to escape Seaview Gardens is that we also found mentors outside of the community. At school you had individuals that were always reinforcing the type of behaviors that we’re supposed to have. So, for the most part, we had an idea of what we were supposed to do but sometimes the peer pressure can get so overwhelming that you find yourself hanging out with the wrong group, not because you want to, but because you want to be a part of a system that seems like it’s working, which for the most part, it really never worked long-term.
DH: I’m going to touch on the subject of peer pressure in a minute, but it seems to me that you’re saying that regardless of where you’re from and regardless of the fact that there may not necessarily be an abundance of mentors to kind of guide you, there’s always someone, but more than that, you also know intuitively, the kind of behaviors that you should be practicing and participating in, in order to move forward. Am I right?
GH: Yes and let me give an example of what I’m talking about even in my community. When I started to run, I lived in an area that you had political activists, and you have a group of guys who were hardcore, who, if it’s time to go on a rally, they would want everybody in the era to go but yet still you had other elders who would say, you need to go home. You’re not coming on this bus today and they meant every word of it. So even if we wanted to be a part of what everybody else was doing, they would make sure that you have some talent, you need to go home, this life is not for you. And when I look back now, it means a lot because it shows that people are looking out for you. It may not be what you want, but at the end of the day, when you look back now and see some of the things that they did and said, you realize that they truly had your best interest at heart.
DH: Right. So it does take a village, right, to raise. So Greg, let’s go back a little bit because someone would see you now, Dr. Gregory Haughton, and I don’t think they’ll necessarily understand the process and the journey that it took you to get to where you are now. The fact that the things that you are preaching and teaching you have actually lived, you’ve experienced it. And I know you grew up as, you mentioned in Seaview Gardens and most, certainly members of our American audience won’t recognize what Seaview Gardens is but I know you grew up in an area like that and you had a single mom. So, tell us about those early days, Greg.
GH: Well, they were tough. Again, it comes back down to decisions that were made even before I was born. And my mother had a very tough time because she wasn’t one of those people who went to high school and graduated with honors. So things were tough from the beginning and she lost her job and we needed somewhere to live so we ended up in Seaview Gardens, but one thing I can tell you that I learned from my mother, even though we did not have money, but she was a very hard working person and she wanted to earn an honest bread and she wanted the best for her children it’s just that she didn’t have the lived experience to say, this is how you should do it. So I am sure that along the way she too got frustrated. I got frustrated sometimes because when I look around my surrounding, I really did not want to be in this environment, but that’s all we could afford. So that was one of my methods to motivate me because when I look around and I said, mommy, I can’t live like this. I don’t know how people live like this. I have to do something to get us out of this environment. And this is one of the reasons why my purpose was bigger than just getting a scholarship. My purpose was to advance myself, not just athletically, but academically. So when it was time in terms of moving from track and field, I had a career that I could say, it’s time to help to lift the people, not just my family, but even the people in my community who were looking for a better way out.
DH: So you’re talking about obviously, improving yourself moving forward so that you can help your family and others. I know you spoke about Herb McKenley. Was there something else? What was it like inside of you that goes, you know what? This journey is not just about me, Greg Haughton, it’s about my siblings, my mother and others.
GH: You see, I realized from early that, I’ll give you a story. I really don’t share this story a whole lot, but…
DH: But now the whole world is going to hear it.
GH: Yeah. You know, when I was in Seaview Gardens, we had to borrow light….for those who understand the term “borrow light”. I remember one Sunday morning I was trying to fix the light because it wasn’t working and I wanted to watch the television and I was outside, it rained earlier in the morning and I was outside trying to fix the wire to put it back on the light pole. And I felt something just hold me tight and throw me to the ground and I started screaming out asking for help, help, help. And my sister, she panicked and she ran, she jumped over me and pulled something from the electric, the box, the meter and I was able to breathe again. So I went this close, like seconds away from losing my life. I remember when I got up that day, that morning I was saying to myself, there must be something more to life than this and I got very humble. I wanted to now use myself to help others and this is why I find that it can be a blessing and it can be a curse because sometimes I sacrifice myself to help others because I remember that my sister sacrificed her life to help me and there are many others out there who play their part. It may seem minuscule compared to others, but they helped me to be who I am. And this is why I am passionate about what I do. I am passionate to make a difference in people’s lives, I’m passionate to make a difference in especially those who live in Jamaica and I’m just that type of person. I just want to make a difference in people’s life when I come in contact with them.
DH: Indeed. So, we all have an idea of what Seaview Gardens is and you’ve been speaking about the impoverished nature of it and you touched on the whole business of peer pressure earlier on. So talk to me about that, the peer pressure in Seaview Gardens and how did you get past that? Because oftentimes as a young man, you want to hang out with your friends and then you succumb to the peer pressure but obviously, you got past that.
GH: Well a very tough thing because, in the community, they call it mouthing. You don’t do what somebody says you should do.
DH: You’re getting teased!
GH: Yes, you get teased and sometimes you have to fight your way out of it. So sometimes you go along not because you wanted to but maybe you just didn’t want to fight today or you just didn’t want to be teased today. So, you now start to go along with a pattern of behavior that you know, deep down it’s not your way and this type of behavior is not something that will bring out the best in you. So, even though some of these individuals may be good friends, sometimes you just go along with it. Now, I can say this, that when I used to go home, I didn’t feel good about myself. And I remember I had a discussion with one of the elders and he said, you know what, Greg? To overcome this, you just have to make up your mind to fight your way out every single day. If you have to throw blows just to make people know that you’re not going to be a part of it, that sometimes these guys may just not want to fight today and I took that advice and I’ve been fighting ever since. I’ve been fighting physically, I’ve been fighting, well, physically then and I’ve been fighting in other ways to show that my destiny is mine. It is not your duty to decide for me who I should be. It is my personal duty to decide who I should be and I should do everything in my power to make that a reality.
DH: Yeah. So earlier in my introduction, I spoke about the fact that I feel this kinship with you and what you’re just saying so really epitomizes that. You’re from Seaview Gardens, I’m across the road on Spanish Town Road in Olympic Gardens, very similar neighborhoods, communities and you speak about fighting and fighting your way away from your peers as it were, as I had to do but more importantly, kind of making that decision that your way is not my way. And that’s certainly one of the things that young people today, whether they’re in Seaview Gardens or Olympic Gardens Tivoli or wherever in the world who have ambition, who have higher aspirations but feel compelled to please their peers although their way is not the way of their peers. They have to learn to stand up and certainly a story like yours is proof positive that when you do stand up and go your way then things turn out very differently for you.
DH: So I know that you lost six of your friends in that infamous massacre in Seaview Gardens back in 1987. How old were you then, Greg, and how did that impact you? How did you get past it?
GH: Well, I was around 14 yrs old at the time and it was tough dealing with it because I remember I was at school and I just kept reflecting on the faces and also on the fact that I could have been there. In terms of impact, I found that I started to get cold, I started to get heartless. I wasn’t afraid to engage in fights. I found that I was so frustrated, life didn’t mean a whole lot to me, which means I didn’t care if I got beat or if I was beating someone down. At the time, I really did not know that it was a coping mechanism at the time because nobody tried to counsel us, we just moved on with life as if everything was normal. We did not have many people to share how we were feeling about the entire situation so we held that in. It wasn’t until I got older, I started to realize that this thing really took a lot out of me. And I can just imagine some of the people who…
DH: Post traumatic stress, huh?
GH: Right, right. In fact, one of my friends, he too lost his mind. He’s actually gone crazy because when he witnessed the death, he was just never the same.
DH: Yeah. And here’s another way in which we are tenuously connected because when this happened, the guy who kind of led this and perpetrated this thing was Nathaniel Morgan or Natty Morgan as we know him in Jamaica and at the time I was in the JDF. So here it is that you are intimately impacted by this and part of my duties when I was serving was to go find this Natty Morgan and here we are all these years later having this conversation.
Where did you attend high school?
GH: I went to Excelsior High School. 123 Mountain View Avenue.
DH: Right. And I read that while you were there, you had a particular conversation with a PE teacher and that kind of changed the trajectory of your life.
GH: Yes. Mr. Griffiths, he’s actually living in New York right now, but we were hanging out under the plum tree. It’s a place where we could go and have lunch, but it was commonly known that students who hung out there, did not want to go to class. We would cut class. So we were there and Mr. Griffiths was passing by and he saw the group of guys and he came over. He was one of those teachers who was passionate about trying to help you and we didn’t fully understand that it was because he cared, but he came over and he started to have a dialogue with us and he asked three questions, he said, look, well, he asked first where do you guys live? And some of us said Seaview Gardens, some said Nannyville, some said Mountain View, some said Back Bush.
DH: All impoverished neighborhoods by the way.
GH: Right. So he was trying to make a point when he asked, where are you guys from? Then he said, any of you guys rich? And we thought about it. He asked, are your parents rich? And we thought about it and we said no. He asked, does anyone of you guys have like a rich uncle or an inheritance coming your way soon? And we thought about it and we said no. And he said, look here, why are you guys under this plum tree wasting time? He said, in life there are only three ways you can get rich. Either you have a rich family or you’re born in it, or you inherited from a rich uncle or some rich relative, or you work hard for it. So the last question he asked was, where do you find yourself? And I thought about it. He said if I don’t have a rich family member and I wasn’t born in it then I realized that I was in the third category, which means that I would have to work hard for mine. And that was one of those light bulb moments where I realized that, look, if I am going to advance in life, that I must prepare my mind to do the necessary work, to work hard. And one of the things I see to today Devon is that hard work is frowned upon by many individuals now and it has created a pattern of chronic laziness where the young people today feel that I don’t have to work hard. I can just get by but, there was no such thing.
DH: I agree. You have to put the work in, man, you have to go and as I talk about, keep on pushing, you have to go through the process, right? The thing is that we’re all going through a process. It’s just that some of us are doing the wrong things and it’s leading us down the wrong path and giving us results that we don’t want. And so to get the results that we need, you have to put the work and you have to absolutely go through the process. So, Mr. Christian, his name is?
DH: Griffiths. Mr. Griffiths asked you these poignant questions and that got you thinking, put your life on a different trajectory. Is that kind of when you started to get serious about sports?
GH: That was one of the moments you know, because I can tell you this, even though I had the talent all along, I wasn’t using it wisely, for whatever reason it was. Whether it was because my friends got murdered. I was too lazy to do the necessary work or too stubborn or was affected because of what went down. I knew from an early age that I was talented in terms of running. It’s just that you didn’t see it at the time as something that could bring out the best in you, well, at least for me. So because of that I was really wasting a lot of time. So it took different points of contact and Mr. Griffiths was one of those people who made it clear to me that if you have talent if you have something in life, you need to use it because if you don’t use it then maybe you will lose it. And Mr Griffiths was one of those individuals who wanted to use his lived experience as well to help us avoid the pitfalls of failure but at the time we were just youth trying to be youth like everybody else. So I am grateful for that moment because as I said, that is one of those compelling moments that I can say made a difference in terms of having a discussion with someone who helped me to look deep within myself to see how I could do better and be better.
DH: Right. But the one thing I want to caution, especially our young listeners and some of those kids that you’re going to be speaking to in school is that, although you and I used our athletic talents to help propel us to where we are; athleticism is not the only talent out there and each of them is talented in some way and they need to figure out what that talent is and use it, correct?
GH: Definitely, definitely. And this is one of the reasons I opened it up for everyone to be a part of it, because you may not have the athletic ability, but you can still be innovators in terms of your mind and how you can impact others in terms of your academic achievement. Because again, we need leaders, especially in places like the Caribbean. We need leaders to step up to the plate so they too can have an impact on people’s life.
DH: Ah, awesome. So I know our national boys and girls championships back during your time or my time, our time, it was boys champs and girls champs now, it’s just one event, but it’s really a proving ground, right? For every young athlete who wants to eventually compete at a senior level and perhaps go on to the Olympic Games. What was your boy’s champs experience like and how did that impact you in terms of your thinking and your mental toughness?
GH: Well, that’s a very good question, Devon. You said something earlier, which is one of my philosophy, I wrote it in my book that, don’t focus on the destination, focus on the journey. When you’re in it, you want to focus on the destination because you see what the big picture should be like, the end game but I know based on history that the boy’s championship would be a stepping stone to represent my country and also to receive or earn the type of status that I wanted in terms of the legacy and from day one, I wanted to have a legacy to be one of the greatest 400 meter runner of all time. So I knew that it started at boys champs. I knew that I wanted to achieve my highest potential there because if I was able to win that race other opportunities would open up, which it did because I was able to earn a scholarship based on my performance. And from that I went to represent a couple of colleges and represent my country the next year and things started to go up because I am now a part of the history to see only few Jamaicans who won an event, especially the event that I was in that they moved on to greatness and I am honored for that moment.
DH: Yeah. But even before you made the senior team you were competing at the CARIFTA Games, weren’t you?
DH: Where was CARIFTA held that year you competed?
GH: I believe it was in The Bahamas and that’s it, you know? People want to see consistency. So when I won the boy’s championship then it was to represent my country at the CARIFTA Games and we had to go up against some of the tough guys that we competed against in Jamaica. So they too wanted to reclaim that title from me. One of the persons was Carl McPherson, a good friend of mine at the time, but I had to prove myself and that was my first time actually representing my country at the CARIFTA Games. So again, that too opened up other doors because it right then confirmed what others had in their minds as to whether or not I was able to perform and sustain what I wanted to sustain at the time, which is victories.
DH: But also, having that chance to go to the Bahamas, which I’m guessing was your first time out of Jamaica.
DH: So now, you’re getting a chance to see a world that is far beyond Seaview Gardens, how did that open up your thinking of terms of what the possibilities might be for you?
GH: Well, I’ll tell you this Devon, that success is not something that happens overnight. It’s something that you must conceive in your mind. And one of my philosophy is that you must be before you do and have, and some people believe that they have to have this in order to be a champion but for me, I realized early that if I want to be that type of champion, I had to act like a champion. So if you saw me in that environment, you wouldn’t have any idea that it would be my first time because I was preparing myself for what was to come, even though I did not know what the destination would be, I knew that I have to take advantage of the moment. So it was my first time flying on a plane but you wouldn’t know because I had the composure and it seemed as if I’ve been here all this time.
DH: Well, you have many times, in your mind.
GH: Definitely, and that was what it was. I prepared myself for this. And this is why when the opportunity presented itself to me, it wasn’t new. It may be new at the moment, but my mind had already experienced all the ups and downs and I knew deep down that I wanted the ups rather than the downs.
DH: Yeah, yeah. Thank you so much for that Greg, because, it’s really important and this is the kind of stuff that I want to share with our audience because here it is that you’re living it. You’re not just telling us about something you read in a book. You’re talking about visualization, imagining yourself being successful, imagining yourself having that which you desire and living that experience so many times in your mind that when you’re actually experiencing it at the moment, it doesn’t feel strange. It feels very normal as it were.
DH: Yeah. So, that’s awesome. And so you won at boys champs, you won at CARIFTA, you got a track scholarship, where did you head off to?
GH: Central Arizona College in Coolidge, Arizona. Right in the midst of the desert.
DH: I was about to say a little bit warmer than Jamaica, right?
GH: Very, very hot in the summertime, man. It was a life-changing experience because you think Jamaica was rough living on campus, if I wasn’t prepared, if Seaview didn’t prepare me for this, then nothing would.
DH: I can imagine. But, it seems like things are looking up for you. Here it is that you got an opportunity to do something most people dream of and never experience. It is to go to America and especially as an athlete to have a scholarship. So it seems like the opportunity was awesome and my guess is that it was smooth sailing after that for you.
GH: So, people sometimes think that and I think that as an athlete sometimes we give people impression that this is how it is, but one thing you know in life is that things always get difficult even though it may get easier because the things that you conquered then it’s easier to go back and conquer those things. But if you’re moving up the ladder you’re going to find that even though you’re prepared slowly, gradually, that the new experience too can take the most out of you. So I find Devon, that each scenario, this is why we say it is important to focus on the journey. I had to dig deeper in order to cope with that environment. Because I’ll tell you this, when we were in Jamaica competing, we did not have to work as much but, when I went to Central Arizona, I was told that you have room and board and that too would be covered but we found out that room and board were not covered and in order to make up the difference we had to work.
And one of my day daily jobs was to clean up the residence lines and clean up the toilets and all of that in order to move on to the next semester. So I felt life was unfair because here things were supposed to be better and I’ve found myself in a scenario now, where I’m cleaning toilets and I’m sweeping up this area. I’ll give you a story. Some of my friends that were there, they too had to pick up papers on the outside of the campus and sometimes they were so embarrassed they would throw away the paper bag and throw away the sticks when they saw individuals coming up to them because they didn’t want others to see that this is the type of odd jobs that they were doing. I thought it was fine because deep down, I knew that this would make me better. One of the thing it did for me, Devon was it humbled me because it made me aware that it doesn’t matter how far you go, Greg, there’s always going to be more work and you have to accept this work in order to be better and I’ve been doing that ever since Devon.
DH: Yeah. So when I asked you and I suggested that it was smooth sailing, I was being facetious because people, when they hear the word “opportunity”, Greg, in my head they picture it like this box in nice wrapping paper with a bow and all they have to do is untie the bow, remove the paper and enjoy the contents, but opportunity is really just a chance for you to roll your sleeves up and get to work. As you say, if you’ve conquered something, you go back, it’s easier but, an opportunity is pushing you to the next level and there is always a learning curve. There’s always more work, work that you hadn’t necessarily done prior that you have to do now and sometimes it’s very humbling. It gives you a big slice of humble pie, as you just mentioned.
GH: Well, Devon, for your audience, I can back up that 100% to let them know that a lot of times when I snatched out on opportunity, it is not something that you could see with the naked eye because, in fact, it seemed like it was more of a curse at the moment than an opportunity. So the unknown can be very difficult to overcome and this is why what I do know is to use my lived experience to help people who are not able to see the opportunities to identify them and if you don’t have the ability to see, we can teach you hope to see you. We can show you the strategies to open your minds so you can actually see that if I change my attitude, I can take advantage of this opportunity here even though at the moment, it may not look like an opportune moment.
DH: Absolutely. Yeah, I love that. If you change your attitude what you do is that you put yourself in a position to change the circumstances and have the opportunity come to you or you get to create the opportunity in those circumstances. So that’s exactly what you did and I’m assuming that because you did that…… because that was your philosophy, it opened the doors for you to get to George Mason?
GH: Yes, because I realized early Devon, that change really starts with you and we expect everything else around us to change but, change really starts with you. So again, after dominating the junior college level, it was time to move on to bigger and better things, which was George Mason University. So I had to pack up everything and relocate to Fairfax, Virginia where things got a little bit sticky there. Even though I was physically and mentally prepared when you’re walking in a new environment where you now have to take more advanced college courses and you now have rules and regulations that you must follow in order to stay eligible. So, each phase of the game, even though it gets a little harder, we were prepared in the past based on some of the things that we were doing.
DH: Yeah, and so as I mentioned earlier, you were two times the NJCAA champion and three times NCAA champion, which is a big step up from being a champion at boys champs, wasn’t it?
GH: Definitely. And the thing about it though, Devon, is, and I was talking to my son about this to say that when I went to college, I did not see myself as a collegiate athlete. I was an Olympian, however, it’s just a phase that you have to go through in order to get to where you want to go. You have to go through these phases which I chose to go through but I did not see myself as a regular guy. I saw myself as one who had a bigger purpose and I knew that if I had settled like some of the other guys, that maybe I would not have achieved the things that I achieved while competing for George Mason University.
DH: Yeah. So you kind of stepped up from the college level to winning your first world championship medal in Sweden, right?
DH: And then 1996 you’re on the Olympic team, your first Olympic team. And I speak all the time because I’m from Olympic Gardens, making that journey to the Olympic Games. Well, you’re from across the road so, you have a view of the sea. So what was that journey like Greg, going from Seaview Gardens to the Olympic Games?
GH: The first time, it’s a charm because even though I had some bittersweet moments, which means that I wanted to represent my country in the individual event I was still a part of the mile relay team. So even though I didn’t achieve my personal desire at the time, I was still able to be an Olympian because I finished fourth at the championship. So that too was an eye-opener because even though I was a little frustrated with how my performance was going, I was still grateful that I was able to be on the Olympic team because I could have missed out on it altogether. So, life is a funny thing. You can’t always get what you want, but you most appreciate what you get when you put in the work.
DH: Absolutely, I agree. So, let me backtrack a little bit because, was it the year before or earlier that year before the Jamaican Championship, you had won medals at the World Championship and so you were the favorite to win? So you go from the favorite to be first to end up finishing fourth.
DH: So, in looking back, what do you think accounted for that performance?
GH: I think it was life challenges. I think that at the time I started to get older, I started to take on more responsibility. I started to feel the toll of running for so long, wanting a break. I started to question my ability. Is this something I truly want to do? I find that even though I tried to seek out counsel, they did not understand what I was going through because at the time that is when the contracts started to come in and in those contracts you have stipulations and I felt like the contracts came at a good time but also, a bad time because I wasn’t motivated as I was because my body and my mind were just taking a beating because I had so many personal things to do, helping out the people around me, helping family and friends. It just got overwhelming and I really remember that I did not want to do this anymore. I just didn’t feel the love and the desire so I was just going through the motions at some point. When an athlete or a person goes through this. It’s always good to have someone in your corner that has the lived experience that can actually give you good advice. And I think at the time I was getting okay advice and I wasn’t expressing how I truly felt about the entire thing and then the burden of fulfilling these contractual obligations was so overwhelming that I wasn’t dealing with it properly.
DH: An the expectations as well of winning.
DH: And that’s an important insight for all of us because you’ll see people who from the outside, it looks like they’re on an upward trajectory and sometimes we don’t really understand the emotional turmoil, all the stuff that’s going on inside their heads that eventually shows up in the way they perform. But you said something really important earlier, Greg, which is worthy to be repeated and it’s the fact that sometimes you don’t get what you want, but you still have to be grateful for what you get. So you wanted obviously to win the championships and to compete in an individual race, but you were still grateful that you were able to make the Olympic team, which was a big deal.
DH: So here you are, you’re in Atlanta, you’re running the 4×4, we’re you the third leg?
GH: Yes. I was running the third leg.
DH: Third leg, right. I’m seeing the video in my head right now of you in Jamaica we say, you kin puppalick, you took a tumble. I think you forgot that you’re running 4×4 and thought you were in the gymnasium. Talk us through that, what happened there?
GH: My teammate, Roxbert Martin, he was running the second leg and he was performing better than expected. So, normally a 400-meter runner would slow down as they approach, he was actually getting faster. So when he came up and handed off the baton…
DH: That’s because the man wanted a medal.
GH: He wanted it so bad. So when I took the Baton from him, the momentum was so fast that he came up and accidentally tripped my leg. So that is when I rolled over, got up, I tried to go again, stumbled and still had to shake that off. But the good thing about it Devon is that the team at the time, none of the guys won an individual medal. So all we could count on was the mile relay medal. So I wanted it and I knew that the other three members wanted it because it was also their first Olympic Games as well and I did not want to be the weak link on that team. I didn’t want to be the person who was known to cause my friends not to get a medal and because of that, I felt like anything I could do that was within my power that I should at least give the effort. And I can tell you this Devon, it was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done in my life because when I got up, it was just pure guts and determination that was getting me around the track because I was exhausted, I was tired and I think I accidentally dislocated my shoulder but regardless of the fact, I just wanted to hand over the baton. I wanted to play my part because I knew the team members were depending on me.
DH: Yeah, you’re right though, you know, sometimes you end up in a situation that you least expect that is pretty adverse and the only thing that you can draw on is your mental toughness. There’s nothing that can beat a good dose of willpower and determination. So, kudos on that. All right, so you have overcome some significant obstacles in life, early on in life you have had to deal with some pretty significant challenges as well in sports but at some stage life really…… we spoke about that there are people getting everything and the kitchen sink thrown at them. So you had a similar life experience with, with your wife being diagnosed with cancer and eventually passing away. Talk to us about just the weight of that experience, Greg and how you’re able to move on from there.
GH: Well, your motto says it best you know Devon, keep on pushing, because that’s what life is. Life is not something that you can always predict or it’s not something that will always give you what you desire and in this case, I started a family again and things were going very smooth, we had our second child, two years in it, she was diagnosed with colon cancer. She took treatment for 18 months and she succumbed to cancer in 2011. Very tough thing because I had two young daughters asking me where is mommy? Where is mommy? And I don’t know what to tell them, especially, the youngest one. So it wasn’t easy and making the adjustments were very tough because at nights they would cry on my shoulder and I had to be strong enough to be there for them. And this is one of the reasons as a father as well that I am so committed and I’m so passionate because I get the chance to guide that mind. I get the chance to do my mentoring with them, to let them know that, look, sometimes it’s not your fault but you just have to do the best with what you have, you have to keep on pushing on but along the way, try not to make mistakes that can be avoided. So that is my philosophy and this is why Devon, when it comes to supporting others who lost out on things, whether it’s a career, whether it’s their personal issues, whether it’s on the job, this is why I am passionate to develop groups of individuals to rise above the limitation that happens because of some of the things that we’re talking about.
DH: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that’s a tough test and I’m glad you’re able to pass it, seems with flying colors. Let’s go back to sports a little bit because we spoke about the fact that you’re in three Olympic Games and you won three medals. We spoke about one. So we know in Sydney as well, the mile relay team ended up with a silver, but you did something pretty special, pretty spectacular in the individual race, tell us about that.
GH: Well I noticed that I’m one of those guys who I like to look at history because it is said that if you don’t know what was, you’ll never know what is. So when I look at the 400 meters for Jamaica, I realized that only a few, Arthur Wint and George Rhoden and Herb McKenley won a medal and I remember having a discussion with Bert Cameron, who was one of my earlier mentors as well, and he was telling me that, Greg, I won the world championship, but I never won an individual Olympic medal. So because of that, I wanted to be one of the other persons to be able to win an individual Olympic medal but, this is one of those moments that you couldn’t share some of your dreams with others because, when you tell them that this is what you want and you say it out loud, people start to question your abilities.
So it was something that I kept deep within myself but I knew that I had to prepare myself physically to get it done. And I was training with Michael Johnson at the time and things were looking good for me. So, to be there in the finals, I’m saying to myself, I can’t blow this. This is my opportunity. This is what I’ve been waiting for. So to be able to maintain your composure, especially when you’re getting lane eight, it is not an easy task. But the good thing about Devon, before I went out there to compete a gentleman from Australia came over to me and he said, hey Greg, the turns are much longer than normal, so you better be careful when you make your move. And to be honest with you, it was God sent, because I wasn’t even thinking about it until he said it. So I was able to make some adjustments to my strategy which paid off because if I had made my move 10 meters earlier, maybe I would fall short at the 10 meters sooner. So it was just God gift to me to help me to do my best that day, to be able to bring home the individual medal for myself and also for my country.
DH: Right. And you ended what, a 48-year drought?
GH: Yes. A 48-year drought and it’s ticking now.
DH: That is awesome, man. That is awesome. So, we’ve spoken about the fact that part of your mission today is to really help mentor youngsters, help them to get mentally tough and you have also mentioned the fact that you have benefited. You are where you are today because you have benefited from other people paying it forward, pouring themselves into you, and mentoring you as well. Can you delve into that a little bit? Tell us how the mentorship that you have experienced over the years has impacted you.
GH: You see Devon, in life, I’ve oftentimes said that if you look at how this world was created, nothing can survive on its own. We all depend on things. The trees depend on the sun, they depend on water, we depend on the trees, the trees depend on us. So I realize that in life, no matter how good you think you are, it’s almost impossible for you to do this by yourself. Because as I said before, if others did not reach out to me in different ways I would not be who I am. I’ll give you a story and then I’ll go into your question. I was walking down the street one day and I was at the lowest point, athletically. And a gentleman said to me, he recognized me I was in Jamaica, and he said, hey, you’re Gregory, right? And I said, yes. And he said you know what? I see that you’re going through a challenging time, but I believe in you just believe in yourself. And I remember I was walking home and I’m saying this man doesn’t even know me and this man knew what was going on in my life but what? That was one of those moments too where I started to say, I have to believe in me more. So he made a difference in my life without even realizing the impact he had on me.
GH: And because of that I too want to have that impact in other people’s life because I can show people the pitfalls to avoid, I can show people how to master their emotions, I can teach people how to educate and motivate and to keep searching because once you stop searching, life is always going to be downhill for you. So, mentoring is something where you can use your own lived experience to guide individuals who are out there, who are struggling, who need that sense of purpose, who need the motivation, who need the inspiration to be better. Because sometimes Devon, we settle for less and less is very disappointing because we know that we can do better. And this is where I’m most effective, where I can find those individuals who want more out of life and use my lived experience and stories, attitude, personality to help them to look from within because everything that you want to achieve, it starts first from looking within.
DH: I agree. I agree. Greg, this has been amazing. Awesome. Thank you so much. Where can someone find you if they wanted to be able to tap into your wisdom, the wisdom of your lived experiences, if they wanted you to come to speak or be mentored, how do they find you?
GH: They can find me on Facebook, they can find me on Instagram, they can find me on Twitter. You can find me at HaughtonMentoringGroup.com and you can find me on HMGmentoring.com.
DH: And what are your social media handles?
GH: When you say social media handles I’m still pretty new with social media but once you type in the name you will see Greg Haughton.
(Twitter – @gregoryhaughton, Facebook – Dr. Gregory Haughton, IG – @ghaughton1073)
DH: They’ll find you. All right, awesome. Well listen, man, your life epitomizes this idea of mental toughness, certainly, this idea of keep on pushing. You have been pushing and as you said, you have had to fight physically and you’re fighting mentally, emotionally to raise your game and to help others to do the same and that is why you’re such a fitting, fitting a guest on Keep On Pushing because you epitomize the philosophy really well. And I thank you for taking the time to come share your experiences and your wisdom with us.
GH: Thank you very much for having me. Before I go, Devon, I would say that for me, one of the things that helped me is that I always try to put God first in all that I do. And I know sometimes we go out there and try to build an empire and we think that we can do it by ourselves but you should always put God first, believe in hard work because hard work was the key for me, it’s the key for you and it will be the key for those who want to achieve their full potential and finally, believe in yourself. Even when people don’t believe in you, you have to believe in yourself if you want to keep on pushing,
DH: Hey man, I couldn’t have said it any better. Thank you so much, Greg, again, for coming on.
GH: You’re welcome. Thank you very much for having me.