What do an 80-year-old Israeli racewalker and a young, ambitious Trinidadian podcaster have in common? In this post, I will share the story and the lessons we can all draw from it to improve our goal-setting approach and motivation.
A couple of weeks ago, I was interviewed by a Trinidad-based podcaster named Engel Jones who is going for a very lofty goal: he wants to set a new Guinness World Record for the most podcasts recorded (1509) in 3 months. I admire Engel’s ambition and initiative, and figured “sure, why not help the guy out?” [PS – you could help him too by signing up for a 12 minute time slot to record for his show – he says he wants to interview “champions”.]
It was a fun interview – just 12 minutes (his podcast is called 12MinConvos). He asks the same set of questions of all his guests, some of which were quite unlike the ones I am accustomed to answering in my role as author, speaker, and consultant, such as how much TV I watch (answer: none if I can help it) and whether I believe in God (I did answer him).
But the question that sparked this blog post was, “what is your earliest childhood memory?”
My earliest childhood memory and the insights it sparked
Thing is, I cannot recall very many early childhood memories. This has always frustrated me somewhat. I really wish I could remember more.
Now, I had a happy childhood, so it’s not that I suppressed them or anything. But for whatever reason, I just can’t recall very much from my childhood beyond things my parents or brothers told me from their memories or stories that have been attached to old photos based on what others told me about them. Oh well…
So, Engel’s question challenged me to dig deep… and here’s what came up:
When I was 6 years old, back in my native Israel, I lived in a small community in the Negev (the south of Israel). And when I started first grade, we had to take a bus to the nearby city of Beer Sheva. We rode the bus along a narrow 2-lane road through a very barren, undeveloped area. There wasn’t very much ‘civilization’ between our community and the entrance to the city.
Every day on the bus ride I’d look out the window. And every day, I would see the same baffling sight: a man racewalking along the shoulder.
Have you ever seen a racewalker? It’s quite a peculiar sport, I must say. And it certainly doesn’t look like the typical things people do. So, through a child’s eyes, this sight stood out in the otherwise barren landscape of our route.
I remember the wonderment of that sight and it stuck with me.
I told my parents about this strange walker – I wanted to know why that man was walking by himself along this long barren route, and why he walked so ‘funny’.
The backstory made this story even more memorable to me: My parents told me that this man was Shaul Ladany, a world record holder in racewalking, a two-time Olympian, and a survivor of both the Holocaust and the Munich Massacre.
And to this day, he still holds the world record for 50-mile racewalking. And, supposedly, Mr. Ladany continues to practice racewalking regularly even at 80. Oh, and he’s also a Professor of Industrial Engineering and Management at Ben Gurion University, has authored over a dozen books and 120 scholarly papers, and reportedly speaks nine languages.
Isn’t that incredible?
He has worked very hard to accomplish those achievements, and he has certainly experienced a variety of obstacles and challenges, some of which are seemingly insurmountable and deeply horrifying in comparison to many other people’s challenges.
I feel inspired by his commitment, perseverance, grit, resilience, and accomplishments.
3 goal-setting and motivational lessons we can learn from my childhood memory
As I reflected on this experience of recalling my earliest childhood memory, about a man working on being a world record holder, as told to a podcaster trying to set a world record, it occurred to me that it holds some pretty useful lessons for me and you. I thought I’d list three here that can help us as we set our sights on lofty visions and set goals for achieving them:
1. When it comes to goals, go big. Set big, audacious goals and then work hard to achieve them. I admire people who do the same and look up to those who can withstand challenges that would seem insurmountable and achieve accomplishments that seem impossible. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: going for BIG goals that seem almost out of reach is incredibly important. (My Goal-Setting Coach friend Caroline Miller agrees.)
2. Don’t let the fear of failure (or incomplete success) stop you from pursuing big goals. Life brings obstacles and challenges, big and small. You will struggle. There will be no guarantees. You might reach some or all or none of your targets.
We don’t need to fear failure and we shouldn’t settle for mediocrity just because we worry about it. And anyway, fear is perfectly normal and should not stop us. We must go after our big scary goals despite fear.
3. Role models can help to provide the grist to persevere in the face of obstacles. It’s ironic and fitting that a man going for a crazy world record helped me reflect on this memory in my childhood. Both inspire me to pursue bigger goals, as do many other role models.
Who inspires you? Keep them front-and-center. Learn from them. Hang out with them if you can. But look up at those who reached high before you, rather than around to the sides or down behind you at those struggling or too afraid to try. They will try to keep you back, to drag you down. It’s up to you to fortify yourself with motivational fuel to stay the course.
My favorite quote, attributed to Michelangelo, which I shared at the end of that podcast interview:
“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” ~Michelangelo
So: Go big!!
What’s your earliest memory? And what is your perspective about the big scary goal idea? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
Note: at the time of publication of this blog post, the podcast interview has not yet been published. As soon as it is, I’ll link to it here. UPDATE: It's live! Here's my interview with Engel on 12MinConvos - go check it out!
Sign up to my free weekly newsletter and get more actionable tips and ideas for making yourself a better leader and a more effective communicator! It’s very short and relevant with quick tips, links, and news about leadership, communication, and self-development. Sign up now!