How to Transform an Old Man’s Screaming Into a Lifetime Achievement

Nick Pappas learned early on what it means to pursue a dream, no matter what. Nick grew up in Athens Greece, near the beach, and throughout his high school years was a singer in a top rock band and a top notch athlete. At 17, he won 3rd place in 110 meter hurdles in the Greek school games; At 19, he won 2nd place in high diving from 5 meter platform and 5th in 3 meter springboard diving for the prestigious athletic club Panathenaikos. But the meaning of never stop pursuing your dream came earlier…

The stage was set in Athens at the historic-all marble Panathenaikon Stadium where the international track and field meeting was to take place between Greece and Sweden. Track and field being popular in Greece, that day was attended by about 20,000 people. Nick was scheduled to run 200 meters.

The unique thing about that stadium is that it is probably the only one in the world where 200 meters is a straight shot, no twists and no turns. You just have to make sure that once you crossed the finish line you veer quickly to your left to avoid crushing against the marble barrier. Nick’s coach was a 60 year old, 5’5, 180 lbs loud mouth man who nevertheless had a passion for the sport and had devoted his whole life to it.

That fateful day, the coach had no alternative but to ask Nick to run 400 meters, in addition to 200 meters, because the 400 meter runner got sick. Nick had not trained for 400 meters; this distance requires a different strategy, and a different mindset. A quick lesson from the coach did not do much good that day as Nick set up at the start with an unclear picture of what the second-by-second strategy was going to be. When the gun shot was heard, he sprung out of the kick stands guided by the physical-mental instincts of a 200 meter sprinter, rather than the 400 meter strategist who makes sure that with every stride he positions himself according to the well-studied enemy field surrounding him. At 300 meters, Nick’s legs were going no more. His lungs were feverously pumping volumes of air but the directions from the brain to the muscles were going unanswered. At about 330 meters, the machine that would later go on and win top 5 positions in several sports in Greece came to a complete stop. Suddenly, the coach, who had smartly positioned himself behind the marble barrier at the 350 meter mark, started screaming at Nick to start again, waving his arms frantically and pointing to the finish line. Out of all the fans screaming and encouraging their own runners, Nick could hear the coach’s yelling clearly.

Somehow, Nick managed to gather enough strength and carriage to continue and finish the race, albeit last. The proud worrier, trying to catch his breath, exhausted embarrassed and beaten, felt like he wanted to disappear and die. But this was nothing compared to what was about to occur 5 seconds later.

The coach arrives at the finish line. Nick looks up and sees a fuming, brilliantly red-faced coach. To a 16 year old, a fuming 60 year old is a scary sight. The coach wastes no time to get to the point. Screaming and calling Nick various names, manages to sum up the following: “you never, never, never, never-ever quit a race! You die before you quit a race! You always finish a race even if you have to crawl on your four to the finish line! I am 60 and I could run right now and finish this race!” Later in the dressing room, he reiterated the lifetime lesson, this time with a fatherly look on his face: “Niko, you never quit, not just a race, but anything you do in life. You never give up anything, the race, your dream. If you quit now, this will follow you in everything you do. You just never quit, period!”

There was a lot to learn that day for a 16-year-old cocky kid who up to that point thought he was god-like-unbeatable in anything he did. Nick went on to win races, diving competitions, volley ball trophies in Greece and also later after he moved to the US, and finally car races while competing for Porsche’s PCA. The lesson he learned that day pushed him to pursue and receive four college degrees, including a doctorate, and launch a very successful career in the medical field, his current passion in life.

Eight years ago, Nick moved to Los Angeles pursuing another dream, following his true passion – music. Over the years he had written plenty of music and songs but it wasn’t until he came to California that this dream was to become reality. He collaborated with 3 famous musicians and completed 2 CDs which are marketed on over 65 music websites.

Nick is calmer now than when he learned that fateful lesson years ago. He now lives in Del Mar, again near the beach, still pursuing medical research and still working on the next CD. He may write another scientific paper for a medical journal and add it to the over 50 already published. Besides regular gym workouts and flying the F4 fighter jets on the Midway carrier simulator in San Diego, his major sport these days is …pampering his rare Aston Martin Vanquish or riding his custom Harley up and down the coast. By the way, he designed this bike and won 4 trophies in bike shows; “no more of that”, he says, “too much cleaning, too much pressure; I just want to ride now”.

One thing is for sure: Nick will be pursuing his dream no matter what.

“I think the coach is somewhere up there still watching me to make sure I don’t quit on my dreams”, he says running his hand over his chin and looking upwards to the blue California sky…


Related Articles

Back to top button