Goal planning is easier said than done. 70% of people who set out to achieve goals never see those goals to fruition. I can’t count the amount of times I planned to get up early for a morning workout, spend less money on eating out, or bring to life my next big idea, only to come up empty handed.
But while most of us struggle to make our dreams and aspirations a reality, one small sector of the population is exceptionally good at it.
I’m talking about world-record holders. You know, those who set out to accomplish an impossible goal and are able to do it faster and more efficiently than anyone else in the world? These super-humans seem to have an indestructible strategy for making things happen that the rest of us could seriously benefit from, whether it’s in our jobs or personal life.
Meet Colin O’Brady, a pro endurance athlete who holds the world record for completing the Explorers Grand Slam—climbing the tallest mountain on each continent and trekking the last degree of latitude of the North and South Poles—in just 139 days. O’Brady is also a TEDx Speaker and the founder of Beyond 7/2, a project sponsored by Nike, Columbia, Sorel, and Prana, on a mission to inspire kids to lead active and healthy lifestyles.
This week on the Unconventional Life Podcast, O’Brady shares the mindset you need to achieve your goals in the face of life’s trials and setbacks. Here’s what he has to say:
Jules Schroeder: What’s one of the biggest obstacles in your life you’ve had to overcome?
Colin O’Brady: When I graduated from Yale with an economics degree at age 21 I decided to take some time to travel around the world. Unfortunately on that trip, I was severely burned in a fire in Thailand. My entire body caught on fire and I had to jump in the ocean to extinguish the flames, but not before 25% of my body was severely burned. Doctors told me I may never walk again normally.
Jules Schroeder: How did you grapple with that news, and how did you respond to it?
Colin O’Brady: It’s a story of resilience and recovery. My mother came to my bedside and said to me, ‘Your life is not over, you’re gonna do amazing things. What do you want to do?’ And I set the goal of racing a triathlon. Fast forward 18 months, I signed up to race a Chicago triathlon and not only finished the race, which was my goal, but I ended up winning the entire competition and beating 5,000 other participants.
It taught me that you’re gonna face some setbacks but it’s your mentality that determines how you move forward. I think all of us have amazing untapped potential and it’s thriving on the other side of this injury that taught me that.
Jules Schroeder: How do you execute on making your goals a reality?
Colin O’Brady: You’ve got the big idea, the aspirational project. Maybe you want to found a tech app and have a $100M exit. That’s the macro, so then you have to ask yourself, what’s the micro? Because it’s so easy to get overwhelmed by the big thing, like how am I ever gonna get there?
I was sitting in a wheelchair and hadn’t taken a single step in three months and my mom said, “Great, you want to race a triathlon, well first you need to figure out how to take one step,” and she grabbed a chair from my kitchen table and put it one step in front of me. And I took that one step and that was my success for that day.
I carry around a small rock that I have from the summit of Mt. Everest. It’s a reminder for me that even that tallest mountain in the world can be broken down to its smallest incremental parts, just small stones stacked on top of one another. Have that big aspirational goal, but then ask yourself what is that tiny rock, what is that first step out of that wheelchair, what is that first thing? If you stack enough of those things against one another, one day you’ll realize you’re at the summit of Mt. Everest.
Jules Schroeder: How against the odds, against the fears, and against the exhaustion, do you keep taking one step in front of the other all the way to the top?