Author Ben Hunt-Davis accomplished one of his dreams at the 2000 Sydney Olympics when he and his team won the gold medal in the Men’s Rowing Eight. So how did he accomplish this? After ten years, Ben and Harriet Beveridge have been honing the methods the Olympic rowing team uses with clients from all walks of life, including managers, leaders, sales reps, and athletes. No matter your challenges or goals, the ideas laid out in this book can help everyone. Through first-hand experience, Ben details how the team used the methods in action and explains why and how they work. So if you’re simply interested in personal development or searching for how to achieve goals in either business or coaching, then keep reading to find out how you can turn those goals into a reality.
Chapter 1: The Layers of Goal-Setting
When it comes to achieving your dreams, it’s no secret that setting a goal is important. Everyone has goals, but how do Olympian champions set their goals? At first, Olympic rower Hunt-Davis was skeptical about goal-setting. Sure, he had a dream of being an Olympic gold medalist, but wasn’t that enough? While he didn’t necessarily like the idea, he soon realized that when we become aware of what we want, it becomes much easier to work towards achieving it. In fact, there are three core benefits to setting goals:
- Goals give you a sense of achievement
- Goals focus your energy
- Goals help you learn and gro
Let’s take goal-setting one step further by dividing them into four categories: crazy, concrete, control, and everyday. As the name suggests, the crazy goal is an outrageous one! It’s the bold goal that fuels your imagination and kindles your greatest desires. The author’s crazy goal? To win the Olympic gold medal in rowing, of course. However, your crazy goal doesn’t have to be something big. “Significant” might be a better word to describe it, and anything that is significant to you can be your crazy goal. Perhaps your goal is to have a good day. While insignificant at first, having a good day can turn into having a good week, month, year and the results could be huge.
While you may have a crazy goal, that goal can never be achieved without a solid foundation. Here’s where your crazy goal gets broken into a concrete one. This is where you get down to the specifics. For example, setting the goal of rowing two kilometers in 5 minutes and 18 seconds is a concrete goal. And considering it’s the world record in rowing, your chances of winning the gold medal are highly likely if you can accomplish this! Another example of a concrete goal might be to spend more time with your kids. Of course, sometimes factors become outside of your control, like your kids may be in an unhappy mood, so here’s where the next layer comes in.
The control layer helps you identify what you can and cannot control. For instance, rowing is an outdoor sport and you cannot control the weather, but you can control how often you practice. Additionally, here’s where the goal of spending quality time with your kids becomes “leave the office at 5:30” and “read them stories.”
Finally, we get to the last layer: the everyday layer. As the name suggests, this layer consists of identifying what you can do daily to accomplish your goal. For instance, having a daily workout routine like accomplishing x bench presses in x minutes on Monday and rowing with teammates for an hour on Tuesday will help you reach your ultimate, crazy goal. If you’re simply searching for a work-life balance, daily goals like doing laundry on Monday and taking the car in for service on Tuesday become realistic ways to accomplish your desired balance. At the end of the day, each layer works together to help you achieve your dreams. Without each layer, the structure could collapse, and without structure, your goal simply becomes a pipe-dream.
Chapter 2: Daydream and Make it Fun
Imagine standing on the podium receiving an Olympic medal, the feeling of knowing all your hard work has paid off. It’s exciting, liberating, and undoubtedly one of the best feelings in the world. But what did it take to get there? Becoming an Olympic medalist is far from glamorous, waking up at 5:30 a.m. every day, doing painful weight training in a cold boat shed, eating 7,000 calories a day, and missing out on social events because you have to get enough sleep.
The reality is that accomplishing goals, like losing weight, is filled with boring day-to-day realities that are painful, difficult, and even sometimes scary. How often have you set a New Year’s Resolution only to quit after just a few months or even a few weeks? We’ve all fallen victim to spurts of motivation, only to give up when our goals prove to be too difficult to achieve. You are not alone, even author Ben Hunt-Davis struggles with motivation. For example, each year his family takes a trip to Italy. His Italian wife has taught their children the language, and each year Ben promises himself he will learn Italian for the next trip. Each year, however, he can only muster “Buon Giorno.” So what’s the secret to staying motivated?
Ben and his teammates used a number of methods to keep them going each day. Their main focus was to make their training entertaining and fun. In fact, you’ll be far more likely to reach your goals if you enjoy the experience. Ben says he and his teammates simply tried to enjoy one another’s company, “taking the piss” at every opportunity. So when it’s time to set your goals, ask yourself, “What will make this experience more enjoyable?” For many, watching television while folding laundry or listening to music while vacuuming makes their daily chores more enjoyable. Ben had many friends who aimed to get fit but hated going to the gym. Instead, they took pole dancing classes. Not only did they get fit, but they had fun and even learned something new!
Ben also emphasizes the importance of daydreaming about your goal. He realized the power of daydreaming after he qualified for the 1992 Olympics and received a letter from a friend. That letter featured a quote that Ben would never forget. “All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible” -T.E. Lawrence.
The benefits of daydreaming are twofold: it makes the journey enjoyable and strengthens your desire and belief. There is a difference, however, in daydreaming and fantasizing. You could dream about winning the lottery all day long, but that doesn’t make it more likely to happen. Instead, Ben says that your daydreams should be intense. He dreamed about rowing and standing on the podium so intensely that he could feel it, he knew that if went out and trained hard enough that it would eventually happen. If you can feel something so intensely that you can taste it, then you can make it a reality.
Chapter 3: Strive for Hunger and Create Milestones
When you become comfortable in life, then it becomes difficult to motivate yourself to change. For example, how many times have you sat on the couch and watched bad television because you simply couldn’t be bothered to get off the sofa and change the channel? Only when something truly dreadful came on were you motivated to change it. We can use this same idea when following through with our goals. We need to make commitments or take action that makes it uncomfortable not to follow through.
For example, when you promise to begin working out with someone, you become motivated because you don’t want to suffer the consequences of letting someone down. Others take action to create a hunger for change, like throwing away maternity clothes to force themselves to get fit. Making these commitments and taking action makes the consequences uncomfortable, which in turn, makes you hungry for change. Ben and his teammates did this by creating an uncomfortable gym for training. There were holes in the wall where water poured in when it rained, making it constantly damp and cold. But being uncomfortable made them work harder and their makeshift gym became a place they grew to love.
Ben and his teammates also stayed motivated by creating measurable milestones and rewards. For instance, have you ever counted down the days on a calendar leading up to an event? Or mentally count down the miles traveled on a road trip? When it comes to motivation, creating milestones similar to counting down the days can help you achieve your goals. While the Sydney Olympics were still seemingly a long way off, Ben and his crew always had stepping stones that they could focus on. Instead of thinking about the big event being four years away, they focused on the next rowing machine test or Regatta which was only days or weeks away. These tangible and measurable goals continued to give the crew a sense of achievement and made them feel as if they were moving forward.
Next time you find yourself failing to accomplish your next milestone, turn to the tried and tested time management technique: The Ten Minute Rule. If you set a goal of doing something for just ten minutes, you overcome the hurdle of simply getting started, and are more likely to continue working towards your goal for longer than ten minutes. For example, if your goal is to learn a new language, then simply tell yourself that you will learn vocab for just ten minutes today. You’ll be far more likely to turn off the television and open your vocabulary book which will likely lead to a longer study session.
Chapter 4: The Importance of Teamwork and Focus
As the old saying goes, “There is no ‘I’ in team” and this is especially true when working with a group of people who share a common goal, such as winning an Olympic gold medal! For instance, you can have some of the most talented individuals on your team, but if you are working for different goals, then you’ll never achieve your dreams. That’s why the key for a successful team is working for a single, common objective.
In addition to having a common objective, each team should have a clear set of rules. These rules should be clear, spoken, and agreed upon by each member of the team. For example, a senior manager at HSBC bank faced the challenge of trying to turn around the worst-performing regional office. He succeeded because of his skills in setting clear team rules. To begin, he gathered each manager in the office to discuss what they wanted to achieve. Even if there were 200 managers, they would come together and discuss their goals until they each agreed upon a single one. Once the common goal was established, the group of managers would plan out how they would achieve that goal.
With a clear set of rules and a common objective, you’ll also need to share a common focus: the process. When you focus on the process, you figure out exactly what will help you achieve your goal and what will hinder you from it. So how can you do this? Ben’s coach, for example, began to observe their competitors in order to figure out how their processes differed from one another. By comparing their differences and similarities, the team’s coach was able to identify exactly how they could beat out the competition. Of course, you’ll have to learn how to pay attention to the details.
For instance, a management trainer who sought better client feedback had to sharpen his attention to discover how to achieve his goal. The manager realized that if wanted better feedback, then he would need to improve the quality of questions that he asked during his training sessions. Once he focused on the details, he was able to improve his questions and receive better feedback. Lastly, you’ll need to focus on analyzing your process as well.
Some rowing teams, for example, measured their success by the number of competitions, or regattas, that they won. Ben’s team, however, analyzed their performance and measured their success by determining if their performance reflected what they wanted to do. Their team focused on their process so much that when they finally won the gold medal, it took them a while to realize they won!
Chapter 5: Prepare For the Unexpected
When you begin your journey towards achieving your goals, you’ll inevitably encounter a number of setbacks. Life comes with unexpected surprises and many factors are outside of our control. So how can you overcome these setbacks? The key is to plan for the unexpected, and luckily, Ben lists out three important steps that he and his team followed:
- Identify your weaknesses
- Accept when things go wrong
- Reflect and learn from setback
When it came to performing in the Olympics, Ben and his teammates identified where they needed improvement. Additionally, like many teams, they had conversations surrounding “what if?” scenarios. What if this or that happens? How are we going to overcome it? By discussing potential setbacks, the team was able to come up with preventative actions to set them up for success. Of course, you can’t prepare for everything. Undoubtedly, things will go wrong that you had no control over. For instance, when their driver had been driving through southeast London, the tow bar on the back of the track suddenly sheared off. This caused their bow of the rowing boat to break off. Instead of sulking in the fact that they no longer had a working boat, they accepted that “shit happens,” and they created a plan.
They decided to take the boat to a builder who would glue the bow back on. Of course, it wouldn’t be perfect, but it would get them through training for the next few weeks until their new boat arrived. In fact, the Searle brothers’ boat became damaged a few weeks before the 1992 Olympics and it didn’t stop them from winning, so why should this setback have an impact on them? While the boat was being repaired, they spent their time on rowing machines and made the necessary adjustments to prepare for their next regatta. In the end, the team accepted that something went wrong that was outside their control, but they worked together to create a plan moving forward.
Perhaps the next time you’re on your way to an important meeting and get stuck in a traffic jam, you should simply accept that the traffic jam is outside your control and take the necessary action. Whether it’s calling to say that you’ll be late or even postponing the meeting to a later date, you can create a plan of action that works instead of frantically honking your horn and causing a scene.
Lastly, it’s important that when setbacks do happen, you reflect and learn from them. Think about what you can do to prevent the same setback from happening again. Perhaps check the traffic before leaving or leave at an earlier time. Don’t waste time dwelling on the setback, instead, learn from it and move on. Dwelling on setbacks becomes dangerous because they can cause you to lose motivation and hinder you from accomplishing your goal.
Chapter 6: Take Risks
According to Ben, “In order to win, you have got to risk losing,” Winning is all about taking the necessary risks, which he calls unskewing the scales. Unskewing the scales simply means changing the way you think. When it comes to taking risks, many of us are skewed toward not taking any action for fear of losing too much. However, no successful person achieved their goals without a little risk.
For instance, Ben and his crew entered competitions and regattas knowing they could potentially lose. However, the risk of losing wasn’t enough to stop them from competing. If you allow fear to get in the way, then you’ll never allow yourself to succeed. Of course, taking the right kind of risk is key, which is why Ben evaluates risk by looking at four categories: List: Risks we can afford to take List: Risks we can’t afford to take List: Risks we can afford not to takeList: Risks we can’t afford not to take
By evaluating risks, you can better determine which risks you should and shouldn’t take. Additionally, you should evaluate the risk of sticking to the status quo. Oftentimes we make decisions based on what others are doing because we fear to be different. Unfortunately, this thinking causes us to take fewer risks which will ultimately hinder our success. For example, going against the status quo is how the British sailing team was able to fight their way to victory.
Many sailing teams in the Yingling race adopt the same strategy: to win every race. This causes the teams to do whatever it takes to come in first place, even if it means suffering penalties or even disqualification. During the Olympics, the British team chose an entirely different strategy. Instead of aiming to win each race, they focused on receiving zero penalties. In the end, their strategy worked and helped them secure a gold medal.
Chapter 7: Final Summary
When it comes to accomplishing your goals, there are many strategies and plans out there to help you get on the right track. However, few plans have been proven effective by an Olympic gold medal team. Of course, you don’t have to want a gold medal at the Olympics, you can use the strategies in this book in all areas of life, even if your goal is something as “simple” as having a healthy work-life balance. By layering your goals, you can create a system that works. Add in some daydreaming, fun, and milestones and you’ll have a proven recipe for success. Lastly, if you plan carefully, expect the unexpected and anticipate upcoming problems then you’ll be able to achieve whatever you set your mind to, even if your dream is winning an Olympic gold medal!