Is There a Formula for Success?

I was in one of my coaching sessions a couple of weeks ago when my client said something profound. “Getting results we’ve never gotten before requires doing things we’ve never done before.” This sounds intuitive, but it isn’t something we actually think about that often. Often in pursuit of excellence we actually seek to follow exactly what someone has already done, but I think that if w really want to become the best we can, we need to try new things. We need to be creative.

This idea was further developed for me when I watched the movie “In Search of Greatness” last night. The movie is a series of interviews with some of the greatest athletes of all time. They each tell their individual story, and one of the main takeaways from the film is to be creative, and find what works for you. The reality is that what works for you is likely going to be different than what has already been done.

One thing the film talked about that I find really fascinating is that people do great things, and then science figures out why it worked, it’s never the other way around. Science never makes the breakthrough with great athletes following. A good example of this is in the high jump. People used to jump over the bar forward because that was what everyone did, but there was one athlete who was willing to step outside of the box.

With his creativity, Richard Fosbury set the world record and won the olympic gold, as he revolutionized the high jump by jumping over backwards. Everything changed in that sport from that moment on.

A more recent example is the speed skater Nils van der Poel who dominated the most recent olympic event and world championships, taking Gold and beating the world record. He didn’t do what everyone else did, he did what he discovered worked for him. He got creative. Rather than speed skating for a couple of years he just biked. A lot. 30 hours a week in Zone 2. He developed a huge aerobic engine and only skated at race pace. Had anyone else done this before? No. It was groundbreaking. Because getting results that we’ve never gotten before requires doing things we’ve never done before.”

If you simply do what has already been discovered, and copy a formula, you can be good. But you’re not going to become great, you’re not going to be the best, unless you get creative, and try new things.

I’m starting to believe more and more, that there is no ideal formula for anything. I’m gathering more and more evidence that the path to success in anything in life is individualistic, and and a process of personal discovery and growth. You can’t copy someone else’s path. You must forge your own.

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