Monday, January 26, 2015

THE WISDOM OF: Louis Zamperini (Jan 26, 1917 – Jul 2, 2014)

Photo credit:  Sally Peterson/Wall Street Journal

Louis Zamperini would've been 98 today.

Back on Christmas Day of 2014, the movie, Unbroken, was released. Angelina Jolie directed this movie which was about the life and challenges that Louis Zamperini faced. Too bad "Zamp the Champ" wasn't alive to see it.

I am posting some quotes as well as reposting an excerpt from Runner's World magazine in Louis Zamperini's honor.


“The one who forgives never brings up the past to that person's face. When you forgive, it's like it never happened. True forgiveness is complete and total.”

“I think the hardest thing in life is to forgive. Hate is self destructive. If you hate somebody, you're not hurting the person you hate, you're hurting yourself. It's a healing, actually, it's a real healing...forgiveness.”

“All I knew was that hate was so deadly as any poison and did no one any good. You had to control and eliminate it, if you could.”

“Yet a part of you still believes you can fight and survive no matter what your mind knows. It's not so strange. Where there's still life, there's still hope. What happens is up to God.”

“I was raised to face any challenge.”

“I'd made it this far and refused to give up because all my life I had always finished the race.”

“All I want to tell young people is that you're not going to be anything in life unless you learn to commit to a goal. You have to reach deep within yourself to see if you are willing to make the sacrifices.”

“Someone who doesn't make the (Olympic) team might weep and collapse. In my day no one fell on the track and cried like a baby. We lost gracefully. And when someone won, he didn't act like he'd just become king of the world, either. Athletes in my day were simply humble in our victory."

"I believe we were more mature then...Maybe it's because the media puts so much pressure on athletes; maybe it's also the money. In my day we competed for the love of the sport...In my day we patted the guy who beat us on the back, wished him well, and that was it.”

Excerpted from Runner's World magazine - "Life According to Louie:  Zamperini on running, survival, and his Seabiscuit strategy" by Christine Fennessy; Published December 3, 2010 Media: Life According to Louie

I do a lot of walking. I can run, you know, but what's the use? I'm not going to compete. I met a little girl in the park about a month ago—she was a little thing and she was just running, running, running. I talked to her mother and she said, that's what she does, she runs and runs. My daughter says to the kid, "Do you want to race my dad?" We raced about five yards and she beat me. My daughter said, "Now you can tell everyone you beat an Olympian." 
I can run now fine. Just not far. When I went on the track at USC [University of Southern California] last track season to see the students, this girl says, "I'm the sprinter," and I said, "I'll race you—10 yards." She said okay. The coach said, on your marks, and I said, "Wait a minute, because of my age I want a five-yard handicap." I beat her. I'm going to go back and challenge her again to a 20-yard race and get a 10-yard head start. If she runs full speed she can probably beat me. 
Twice a year I talk to all the athletes at USC. They're real nice. Whenever I go on the track, they all gather around and we talk about the old days. 
I tell them, if you want to be an Olympian, you've got to persevere.You've got to focus on one thing—coming in first. It's a natural thing we're born with; no matter what you're doing, even on the freeway, you want to be a winner, right? Everybody wants to be a winner. 
I saw Allyson Felix before she got started. Her coach called me and said, "I have this girl here who is going to be a runner." So I went over and spent an hour watching her train. I said, "Yeah, she's going to be a real good sprinter if she puts her heart into it," which is what you have to do. 
The most important thing for a great athlete today isn't just winning. It's being a real role model. You'd be surprised how kids get very emotional about their heroes, and look at all the heroes that have let them down. 
We'd been offered drugs right and left in my day. But I never heard of any athlete taking a drug. To me, it was like death. We wanted to win on our own. The nearest thing I came to drugs was when my coach had me run three races in one day. Before the last race, I took a teaspoon of honey. I thought, well, I'd run two races; I'd burned up a lot of energy and honey turns into energy quick. And I felt guilty. 
You've got to realize, when I was a kid I was nothing. Nothing. I was just a juvenile delinquent. I formed a gang and started stealing. With running, I got a taste for the first time of accomplishment. I became a fanatic. I didn't eat pie or milkshakes. That first accomplishment, boy, that felt good. 
I slept outside a lot. I would take my sleeping bag and sleep on the grass in the backyard. Life magazine recently did a feature story on dogs; it showed dogs from the turn of the century until about the 1940s. Boy, they were really dogs! In those days, the dogs lived outside. Today they live inside and not only that—people are kissing them! It was pathetic to see what we've done to the animal. The dogs should be outside in the fresh air. 
As a kid, I often had my .22. I was always hunting. In those days, people were poor, so half the food we ate was game. We ate a lot of jackrabbits, cottontails. We used to shoot them on the run. In the military, they put us on a firing line. The sergeant said to me, "Your first shooting and you made expert—how come?" I said, "The target isn't moving!" 
The horse is the most beautiful animal on the face of the planet. It's very inspiring to see a horse run. In my day, Seabiscuit was such a favorite, they'd stop the track meet while everyone listened to the radio broadcast over the loudspeaker. After it was through, I'd run my race the same way Seabiscuit had run his—if he ran slow, then sped up at the end, I did that. If he ran close to the front, I would, too. 
I had another secret. My biology teacher told me when you breathe carbon dioxide on a plant, it throws off oxygen. So Saturdays before my race, I would lie on the infield grass on my face, breathing in extra oxygen. And I would wait for Seabiscuit to race. I would lie there for a half hour, and pretty soon Seabiscuit would run. 
I could have broken the four-minute mile before Bannister. I was ready for it. At the national collegiate finals in 1938, I broke the national collegiate record. My time was 4:08. That's when I knew I could do the four-minute mile. I never had another chance because of the war. 
People say, "Hey, did you get a gold?" I say, no, I got the lead. That shuts them up. It's like the guy who got second or third was nothing. In my day, they would say, "Louie what place did you win?" 
All the things I learned from running applied to any survival situation. You learn to be 100 percent obedient to discipline. It's not just running and training—it's proper diet and the right attitude. But besides that, I took a lot of survival training. I was an Eagle Scout, an outdoorsman—which is probably the reason I could be busted up like I have been and still be healthy. 
People say, "After so many days on the raft, you must have hallucinated." Baloney. We were sharper after 47 days than the day we started because our minds were empty of all the worldly contamination and wars. We had a clean mind to fill with good thoughts. So every day we'd do something to exercise our minds. 
Did I think about all the races? Sure I did. You got to keep your mind active. 
If you proved to be a liar in an interrogation, you were finished. As proof of that, after being captured, we were skeletons who couldn't stand up, couldn't walk, had to be carried across the backs of the Japanese. Yet we were able to defeat six naval officers trained in interrogation. 
After the war, when we pulled out of that horrible slave labor camp, I had to close my eyes. I was treated so horribly, I couldn't bear to look back and have the memory of that place in my mind. 
I carried the Olympic torch in 1998 in Joetsu, Japan [near Zamperini's former POW camp]. It was kind of nostalgic. I started to think about how lucky I was to get home alive. We lost so many guys in prison. Then I saw these little kids cheering me on, and the nostalgia left. When I finished, all these young people were around me asking questions, wanting autographs. It was great. I just couldn't believe it. The love these people offered me made me forget about the labor camp. I told them, "When I leave tomorrow, I will look back." 
Even at my age now, I'm trying to improve. Never give up, no matter what. Even if you get last place—finish. 
I ran up Mt. Hollywood when I was 65. It took me eight minutes, 28 seconds to get to the top. I held the record for about six years at my old age, and then some high school miler beat it by about 10 seconds. 
I have been qualified in 83 different professions. I quit going to the movies 40 years ago because I wanted to do everything. I've been a lifeguard, a cowboy, a scuba instructor, a ski instructor. I was 83 different things. Boy, I wouldn't trade that for anything. You have to be consistent in your persistence with your endeavors. 
I don't have the appetite I used to have. I have nothing but pure juices, and I have what we call the Olympic food—oatmeal. I have a big bowl every morning sweetened with grapes or cherries, whatever is in season. So you have your oatmeal and your protein with an egg and whatever it is that's in cherries and grapes. It's a good breakfast. I try to keep away from grease. 
It's always been recommended you do eight flights of stairs a day for your heart. I probably do about 25. 
I fly what they call a T34. That's a World War II trainer. My buddy has it. He's 88, and his wife doesn't want him to fly anymore. She says, "Well, you can fly if you have someone in the back seat who can land the plane." She's afraid he'll have a heart attack. So I fly in the backseat, and if he has a heart attack, I can take over. So we get up and we do slow rolls and loops. It's an acrobatic plane. 
The greatest generation was hardy because we were all in the same boat. Everyone pitched in and helped each other. You don't see that today. 
If people would just keep on exercising, they wouldn't die so young.The important thing is those stairways. They're good for senior citizens. They stumble over carpets that are a quarter-inch thick because they don't walk up stairs. When they do stairs, they lift their leg about 10 inches with each step—they're getting exercise and have less chance of stumbling over the carpet. 
I'm always doing something physical, all day long. I'm moving things, sawing, fitting things. 
Pain is that last quarter of a mile. The last of anything. You feel it, but when you're through racing, your whole body just feels elated. So the pain is worth it. I had a high tolerance for pain. When I carried the torch in Japan, the mayor asked me, "Tell me Mr. Zamperini, did anything good come out of you being a POW?" "Yeah," I said, "it prepared me for 55 years of married life." I was going to say I developed a high tolerance for pain but I didn't want to hurt their feelings. So I said the next worst thing. 
I got pains. I got to accept it. I shouldn't be alive. But I have wonderful friends, a great family who loves me, and the pain doesn't bother me. I just accept it. I have a little back problem, but nothing gets me down. Everything that has happened in my life, good or bad, has worked together for good.

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