SETsquared Blog

Why winning the Olympics is simple.

Every four years I receive a two week intensive course of inspiration. It's called 'The Olympic Games'. Being British, I was particularly inspired this year and so I thought I'd blog about the age old topic of success.

I’m going to tell you how to be successful and in particular how a simple ‘state of mind’ is the biggest obstacle to your success. Now, I know what you're thinking - 'that's a little bold coming from some youngster who's name barely registers on a Google web search'. Which Is why I'm not going to talk about my success. Rather I'm going to talk about the success of arguably one of the greatest sportsmen to ever walk the earth. Muhammed Ali.

The Rumble in the Jungle, 1974.
What Ali taught me, not personally of course but rather vicariously, was that you only need three things to be successful. And these are all states of mind. Of course natural ability or talent help but they are by no means essential. The first thing you need is the  desire to achieve your goal. Now this might seem obvious but it’s often overlooked. You might want to get up early on a Saturday morning so that you can be more productive with your weekend. But when it comes to it – that’s not what you want at all, what you really want is to lie in bed for as long as possible. If you don’t want something you won’t try to get it. If we look at the second fight between Ali and his all time opponent George Foreman, Ali wanted to win that fight. I mean he truly had an overpowering desire to win, winning this fight was incredibly personal since the previous bout had ended in Ali's defeat. The desire Ali felt, much like many of this years Olympic champions was so completely overwhelming, which is precisely why we see so much emotion on the podiums. So that’s the first state of mind – desire. And you must have this as a solid foundation.

The second mind-set you need to have is to actually believe it’s possible. Now I might want to compete at the games in Rio or I might want to be the first man on Mars but unless I think it’s possible then it won’t happen. If you don’t think it’s possible you’ll find reasons why it can’t happen or why it won’t happen and soon enough these reasons will come to light because they seem far more probable. Again, if we look at Ali versus Foreman, Ali truly believed he could win the second fight despite the boxing world believing the opposite. Even his coach and long term supporter when interviewed before the match said “Ali can’t win this fight, he thinks he can but he can’t”. Just look at Bolt, he knew he could win, he believed it even if his critics didn't. Which is why he crossed the 200m line with his finger to his lips in a gesture which said 'shhh, I told you so'. So that’s the second mind-set – a firm belief that you can achieve your goal.

Utter belief. Silencing the doubters. 2012.
The third and perhaps the hardest mind-set is to expect to achieve your goal. If you expect to be the fastest man on the planet, or the greatest boxer of all time then your whole focus is geared towards that outcome. You’ll start to subconsciously make the necessary decisions or put in the hours required to achieve your goal. Why make contingency plans if you know the outcome already? It’s this complete expectation of the desired outcome that is the crucial last piece of the puzzle.

Before the fight with Foreman, Ali was in his dressing room going through the fight in his head. He concentrated on the win, he imagined every detail. The noise of the crowd, the taste of sweat and saliva in his mouth, the weight of his arm as the referee lifted it up, the image of Foreman on the floor of the ring, the feeling of winning and the delight on the faces in his corner. To Ali, he had already won the fight – all he had to do was go out there and relive the victory in the ring, which he did, in a historic fashion. So that’s the final piece – to expect to be successful.

It’s very simple – desire, believe and expect. I don’t proclaim that it’s easy, in fact it can be tremendously difficult, but it is undeniably simple. If you can think in this way then I have no doubt you will achieve any goal you set your mind to. So do it, book your tickets to Rio now, you'll get your flights reimbursed when you're selected to compete for your country.