That’s me with two Olympic gold medals. They belong to Steve Williams, OBE – English rower and two-time Olympic champion. At the time I was working in Great Britain and he came to address our team at a mid-year sales conference. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know who he was when I saw him. I love sport and watch all kinds. Especially during the Olympics. But I’d never really watched much rowing. In Great Britain it’s pretty big, though. They’ve achieved many successes in the sport and have a number of multiple gold medal winners.
When Steve was introduced as a two-time Olympic gold medal winner I was on the edge of my seat. When he took them out and let us pass them around the room while he was talking I could barely contain my excitement. I was actually going to hold genuine Olympic medals. I was going to touch them. But I’m letting my memories of the thrill get ahead of what I want to share in this blog post.
Steve came to talk to us about Goal Setting and Achievement using the story of his Olympic preparations as an example. What a privilege! To be able to listen to the wisdom of someone who reached the peak of his sport. To have insight into the world of an Olympian. I was even more on the edge of my seat and risked falling off. There is a YouTube video of a similar talk he gave available here.
He tells the story of how he missed out on a spot on the team which went to the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and then he made the decision to dedicate himself to making the team for Athens 2004. And, boy, did he ever dedicate himself. He lived rowing. He lived making the team. He had a specific plan in mind and together with his fellow teammates and their coach, they mapped out how they were going to achieve it. Seven days a week, 365 days a year, including Christmas. This was carried through into the planning and preparation for the next Olympics in Beijing in 2008. Clearly it worked – two golds are all the proof you need.
These are the things which stuck:
- Crystallize your thinking around a clear goal. Know what you want to achieve and why. Know what you will gain from the achievement. Understand why it means so much to chase this dream.
- Put together a plan for how you’re going to achieve the goal. Break it up into manageable steps. Ensure you know what you need to accomplish by when. The smaller the steps the better. Small steps lead to big gains.
- Use every available resource in the execution of your plan. He tells how the team employed a scientist to figure out how to shave a few seconds off their time. The solution this highly paid gentleman came up with was a piece of tape on their oars which would reduce air resistance by a fraction. This would translate into a fraction of a second time-saving in a race. But in an Olympic final, that’s all it takes to win sometimes.
- Remain relentless in your daily pursuit of your goal. You eat an elephant one bite at a time. So keep at it. You’ll get there eventually.
- There will be setbacks along the way. There will be times when you want to give it all up. That’s why it is so important to understand the why behind your journey. The why is what gives you the motivation to keep going.
- Get lean and mean. What I’m getting at here is that you need to shed anything that is superfluous to the achievement of your goal. If it doesn’t help, it goes. Obviously this is not always an easy decision, but, again, if the why is big enough and the gains are great enough it will be worth it.
I’m not doing the talk justice – there were so many points to ponder. I was completely inspired. I had goosebumps. Steve was a great guy. He’d also climbed Everest, gone to the North Pole, run a sub 3hr marathon. But he was very down-to-earth. After the talk he hung around for photos. And I was able to have another dream come true – he let me put a medal around my neck!! How totally awesome is that? I’ve had an Olympic gold medal around my neck. Photographic evidence below.
I am in the process of setting some big, audacious goals. Stay tuned – I’ll chronicle the journey as I go along.