Achieve Greatness Within and Give Back

On Saturday, at the age of 95, Norman Borlaug passed on. While he wasn't exactly an obscure figure, it is shocking that his name isn't better known. I admit that until he passed, however, neither did I know of him.

A Hall of Fame college wrestler in the US, Norman came from humble beginnings. He grew up on a farm in Iowa, the son of third generation immigrants from Norway. He was recruited to wrestle at the University of Minnesota, but his plans hit a snag after he flunked the entrance exam. He subsequently enrolled in the school's two year program. Borlaug credited wrestling with giving him toughness. "It's an inappropriate crutch perhaps," he said, "but that's the way I'm made."

Through toughness, stubbornness, determination--call it what you will--Borlaug eventually did graduate, moving onto a career in the Forest Service. When his job was eliminated, he went back to school and earned his doctorate--no small feat for an athlete who flunked the college entrance exam. Yet this accomplishment would pale compared to the mission upon which he was about to embark. Few at the time probably would have realized that this man was about to make a difference in hundreds of millions of lives.

Borlaug was best known not for his prowess on the wrestling mat, but in the science lab and wheat fields. While working for a research cooperative, Borlaug and his team developed a more resilient strain of wheat, one that could boost wheat yields around the world. Once this strain was introduced to the Indian subcontinent, so great were its yields that it saved hundreds of millions of lives from the brink of famine and its consequent ravages.

Borlaug won a lot of awards for his research, including the Nobel Peace Prize. Asked to attribute his success, he named many influences. With regard to wrestling, Borlaug said that it made him believe "I could hold my own against the best in the world."

Wrestlers, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu warriors, Muay Thai fighters, and martial artists of all backgrounds should take note. The tremendous personal development that you have achieved through martial arts need not be limited in its expression to the mat, the ring, or the dojo. Indeed the world benefited when Norman Borlaug turned his tough, determined sights against the problem of starvation. Take inspiration from his story. Find a way to give back.

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