Behind most great performances lie great coaches. I was thinking recently about one of my personal peak achievements and realized the truth of that afresh. If you’re looking for a wow-inducing peak achievement, prepare yourself to be underwhelmed. But here it is.

When I was 17, I competed in a music competition. (This was way before American Idol – and thankfully didn’t involve public embarrassment in front of Simon, Paula, and friends.) The winners got a chance to play as soloists with an orchestra in a classical concert. I ended up being one of the winners and a few months later, stood in front of the orchestra with my French horn to play my chosen piece.

In the years before this, I had had several teachers who led me down the way. These included an elementary school music teacher, the middle school band director, and an incredibly arrogant (and genius) teacher at a prestigious music camp. All played an important role.

But the guy who started it off didn’t play French horn and wasn’t even at the concert. His name was Stanley Hummel, a top-class pianist who had groomed a love of music in me from the time I started taking lessons with him in third grade. He pushed and encouraged and laughed and inspired me to get the most from my above-average musical talent.

Though Mr. Hummel wasn’t on stage that day, I wouldn’t have been there without him. That’s true for other peak achievements I’ve had in my professional and personal life. Behind any of them was at least one coach who kept drawing the best from me.

How about you? Who were your best coaches and what did they do?