I had the honor of attending Starnet’s annual membership meeting this spring, which also happened to be the organization’s 25th anniversary celebration. Their tagline for the event was “As we turn silver and work together, reaching for gold,” which seems appropriate, yet humble, given all the successes the group has already achieved in a quarter century. Starnet is comprised of more than 171 independent full-service commercial flooring contractors, servicing more than 300 locations throughout North America. With $3 billion in annual sales, they are a force to reckon with.

The opening night reception was held in the large courtyard of the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa and was everything you’d expect from California in late April—warm temps, clear skies and a soft breeze—the perfect backdrop for celebrating. More than 700 contractors, vendors and special guests attended, and three hours of chatting and photos flew by in a flash. I had the chance to speak with longtime Starnet members like Maureen Anderson, president of Carpet Fair in Baltimore, and Rob Hailey of Howard’s Rug Co. of San Diego; along with new member Sean Barnett of Rainbow Builders in Anchorage, Alaska, who was checking out the group for the first time.

Another highlight of the event was hearing Australian athlete John Maclean tell his triumphant life story. Many of us have the simple wish to walk on the beach while holding a loved one’s hand, but after John Maclean was struck by an eight-ton truck while training for a triathlon at the age of 22, this wish became an impossibility.

After 25 years in a wheelchair, John had become one of the most accomplished wheelchair athletes in the world: he was the first wheelchair athlete to complete the Ironman World Championship, the first non-American inducted into the event’s Hall of Fame, and the first paraplegic to swim the English Channel. He even competed in the Olympic wheelchair demonstration race and in two Paralympic Games in two different disciplines, winning a silver medal for rowing.

And yet, John sought one more win: to walk on the beach with his wife holding her hand. In 2013, John began to access his full potential by retraining his mind and body. Through intense determination, he is now able to stand, walk, and fulfill his wish.

While Mclean’s story is an amazing tale of setbacks and overcoming them, it sent a loud and clear message to everyone at the conference about how fortitude and the ability to focus can allow each of us to achieve our own goals. Let’s not take any of our opportunities for granted; embrace them and turn them into gold.