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Don Yaeger to Channel Partners: ‘Greatness Has Inner Fire’Don Yaeger to Channel Partners: ‘Greatness Has Inner Fire’

The longtime sportswriter shared four principles for success at the 2022 Channel Partners Conference & Expo.

Kelly Teal

April 13, 2022

2 Min Read
Don Yaeger CP Expo 2022

CHANNEL PARTNERS CONFERENCE & EXPO, LAS VEGAS — “Greatness is available to all of us.” That’s the takeaway from Don Yaeger, renowned sportswriter turned motivational speaker.

Yaeger took to the main stage on Tuesday to kick off the 2022 Channel Partners Conference & Expo in Las Vegas with his talk, “What Makes the Great Ones Great.”

In his years as a Sports Illustrated writer, Yaeger worked with some of the greatest winners in athletics, from Walter Payton and John Wooden to Michael Jordan and Pat Riley. After collecting 2,500 interviews from people throughout the sports world, Yaeger started wondering, what makes someone great?

He answered that question with four principles. And he presented those on Tuesday to guide agents, managed service providers, resellers, systems integrators, and other members of a converging indirect channel through change.

The first principle starts with a simple idea: that greatness is available to everyone — “If you are willing to do common things uncommonly well,” Yaeger said.

Prior to the keynote, Yaeger had spoken with some of the most prominent people in the indirect channel. For instance, AT&T’s Chris Jones told Yaeger that greatness means not living in fear about making mistakes. Eclipse’s Dave Dyson said greatness boils down to how people treat one another. And Anurag Agrawal from Techaisle said it’s about outworking the competition.

The second principle of greatness? Contrary to what Yaeger witnessed over 25 years, “it’s not about physical aptitude.” Rather, he said, greatness ties to mental, emotional and spiritual discipline.

Third, proper nutrition — but not the kind you’re thinking. Instead, people who achieve greatness take care in what they read, listen to, what they watch and who they talk to, all for creative advantage.

Finally, they don’t stop pushing themselves. “To be better … you have to grow first,” Yaeger said. A large part of that means seeking out the company of “better people,” he added.

“You will never outperform your inner circle,” he said.

Don Yaeger’s History with the Greats

Yaeger regaled the audience with tales of going one-on-one with Michael Jordan, becoming only the sixth person so far at a private charity event to get a shot past the all-time NBA great. And he shared the life story of NFL player Warrick Dunn, who used his mother’s murder as the impetus to start a charity that provides homes to single mothers and their children. (Yaeger called it “the single coolest athlete charity I’ve ever had a chance to witness.”)

In both cases, adversity paved the way to success.

“Greatness has inner fire,” Yaeger said. People who strive to be great use “adversity as fuel.”

Yaeger also shared tales from his time with legendary UCLA coach John Wooden, with whom he had grown very close.

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Kelly Teal or connect with her on LinkedIn.





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About the Author(s)

Kelly Teal

Channel Futures

Kelly Teal has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist, editor and analyst, with longtime expertise in the indirect channel. She worked on the Channel Partners magazine staff for 11 years. Kelly now is principal of Kreativ Energy LLC. Follow her on LinkedIn at /kellyteal/.

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