John Pennington saw a statistic two years ago that floored him. Of people surveyed who suffered a heart attack, only 14 percent are able to make lasting lifestyle changes.
That trend doesn’t stick to the extremes. He sees how many people come up with a New Year’s resolution, only to see that resolve quickly fade.
The West Virginia State football coach wanted to help as many people as he could stick to whatever goals they have. To do so, he fulfilled one of his goals: writing a book.
“SMALL WINS = BIG GAINS,” Pennington’s self-published book, is now available on Amazon and through his website coachjohnpennington.com. It’s a step-by-step guide to not only take action, but remain committed to achieving goals.
“It’s really a system to keep you on track with your goals and keep you disciplined,” Pennington said. “The major problem I see with people who set goals and New Year’s resolutions isn’t the actual setting of the goals, it’s sticking with goals.”
The book came to life by Pennington following the advice he offered in his book. During the offseason — he’d take five-month breaks for the football season and recruiting — he’d spend a half-hour each morning before his family woke up working on the book. The writing took about six months. Editing with Tim Abraham took another six months.
He already had experience in long-form writing. Anyone who has written a doctoral dissertation, as Pennington did to earn his Ph.D. in organization and management from Capella University, can tell you that. Yet he also admits he was more of a math-brained student and that writing wasn’t his main strength.
“I like challenges,” Pennington said. “I like having that mountain to climb. That’s why I’m a football coach, the battle of the season and your personal battle of every day wanting to get better.”
It’s the everyday challenges and conquering them that Pennington promotes with the book. No goal, great or small, can be achieved instantly. It takes work and performing that work at a consistent pace.
“If you want to lose 100 pounds, you can’t eat nothing but kale for four months,” he said. “It’s not going to happen. You have to create a habit that you can stick with.”
All those half-hour writing and editing stints ultimately paid off in a book that he hopes will help others, whether they’re athletes, ex-athletes, potential athletes or never will be athletes. And he hopes the feeling they experience when they meet their goals is the same joy he felt when he had a finished product in front of him.
“There’s so much relief and satisfaction and fulfillment that you did something you said you were going to do,” he said. “Not only that, but there were so many times in my playing career at WVU and getting a Ph.D. and being a head coach where there didn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Then you continue to push through that and you make it there and you look back and you’re like ‘Wow, it’s like being on top of a mountain.’ ”
Pennington will be in the community through the next couple of months promoting the book. He’ll hold a signing at the Charleston Town Center during the boys and girls state basketball tournaments and he’ll speak to groups around Charleston.
“I want to inspire and motivate as many people and have as positive an impact on as many people as possible,” he said.