The alternate horse won the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

To frame the immensity of this upset, consider that the horse, named Rich Strike, is the biggest long shot to win the Derby in 110 years – which is pre-World War I.

I often turn to sports for inspiration and energy, and what happened over the weekend is a glorious study in perseverance, persistence and grit.


Of the record $179 million bet on the big race, only $501,135 (0.27%) was bet on Rich Strike.

That’s because nobody knew it was going to even run in the Derby until the day before. Before winning the biggest race on the planet, this horse had never placed higher than third place.

It was also the very first Kentucky Derby for the trainer and the owner, an extremely rare occurrence.

The owner, Rick Dawson, purchased the horse for $30,000 in September, and was hoping to land a different horse but got out bid. This was the horse he could afford. On Saturday it chased down the multimillion-dollar horses, and won the $1.86 million purse. Pretty good ROI, no?

The 57 year-old trainer, Eric Reed, has had horses in 9,000 races, but had never come close to sniffing the Kentucky Derby. Six years ago, his barn in Lexington, Kentucky, was struck by lightening, burned down, and killed 23 horses. He was this close to quitting the industry.

And finally, let’s talk about the jockey, Sonny Leon. He runs 1,100 races a year in places like a Cincinnati casino horse track (turns out, that’s a thing), where he had six races the day before the Derby because he had no idea he’d be needed in Louisville the next day.

Then a Derby horse with a far greater pedigree scratched at the last minute.

And Dawson, the owner, learned he was going to the Derby 30 seconds before the deadline to get in.

So what’s the connection to revenue growth and selling more?

That you don’t need to have the brand name to make the big sale, only the relationship, the effort, and the perseverance.

That you don’t need connections or investors to do the good work of consistently showing to help people more.

That you can come out of nowhere to shock the world, because you put in the work (over, say, 1,100 sales efforts, or 9,000).

That it only takes one right opportunity to change your life, and you never really know when it will come. So you better be ready when it does come along, and you better follow on every opportunity, because you never know if this will be the one that changes everything.

And if the customer tells you no, you darn well better try again. Try differently. But for goodness sake, keep trying.

Because you never know if the next effort will be the one that gets it done.

Because this opportunity might be your Kentucky Derby.

I’ll let the owner, Rick Dawson, close it out: “Maybe I can figure it out, maybe I can’t,” he said in the Winner’s Circle, “but I always keep trying. And here we are.”

Buy my latest book, WSJ bestseller Pick Up The Phone & Sell.