Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Michael Phelps Way of Reaching Your Goals

By Sariah S. Wilson

Of course, like so many of you out there, I was glued to my DVR during the Olympics (and can I just say what an awesome way that it is to watch the Olympics? I swear it would take me 20 minutes to watch a five-hour segment. Finally you can skip not only the commercials, but all the boring interviews with experts I’ve never even heard of/could care less about (seriously, I really don’t care what Bela Karolyi thinks about Nastia and Shawn) and all those backstories and waiting around. So much to skip and then you get to watch all the good parts!).

But I was enthralled by Michael Phelps’ quest for eight gold medals, and watched every second of it.

I realized while listening to him talk and reading articles about the Games how I could apply his ability to reach his goals to reaching goals in my own life.

1. Work really, really hard. Phelps trained five hours a day seven days a week. Even on his birthday and Christmas. That’s not including any cardio training (on a stationary bike instead of running because he’s clumsy on land and tends to hurt himself) and what weight training he does. Everyone wants the easy way out. Everyone wants to write the million-dollar bestseller easily. It doesn’t work that way. It’s your rear end in your chair day in and day out. Working hard is the only way to reach your dreams.

2. Be humble. Coach Bowman said that Phelps was an extremely adept swimming student that took direction well. Teachability is probably one of the most important things you can have if you’re trying to succeed. Find people who know more than you, and learn from them. Phelps admired and emulated those who had gone before him. You can do the same.

3. Be a team player. Phelps’ ability to work well with others helped him to succeed. As a writer, think of all the people you’ll come across that will be helping you in your writing career. You have to be able to get along with all different kinds of people who will want the same thing as you – for your book to do well.

4. Use negative comments/reviews to motivate and inspire you. Phelps had a habit of taping printed negative comments from other swimmers and coaches up in his locker to inspire him to work even harder. When someone says they hate your stuff, take it in stride. Use it to motivate you to write even better the next time.

5. Be gracious and give credit where credit is due. Phelps’ is always extremely thankful for and thoughtful of those who helped him along his path (and continue to help him). His great sportsmanlike conduct was actually learned – when he was younger he threw a fit at a meet when he lost (throwing his goggles) and his coach warned him to never act that way again. Nobody likes a diva. Nobody will want to work with you if you are one.

6. Did I mention working really, really hard?

7. Apparently eating a lot of food helped Phelps to reach his goals. I wish I could justify following Phelps’ daily menu in an attempt to rationalize chowing down on Twinkies before I start writing, but since I’m not swimming five hours a day I can’t. But wouldn’t it be fun if we could include this one to reaching your goals?

8. Set a goal and work toward it. Phelps decided he wanted to win eight gold medals in the Olympics to beat a 36-year-old record. This may sound obvious, but what is your writing goal right now? Have you written it down? Do you wake up every day knowing that all the work you’re doing is because of the goal you have in mind?

9. Take a setback and make it a strength (Ether 12:27 anyone?). Phelps was diagnosed with ADHD at a young age. His mom got him into swimming as a way of burning off some of that excess energy. This supposed limitation didn’t limit him. Or take his fall in October 2007. He slipped on a patch of ice (clumsy on land, remember?) and fractured his right wrist. There was a lot of fear that he had effectively ended his Olympic dreams. For weeks he was only allowed to use a kickboard to train. This ended up being a blessing in disguise because all that practice added some strength to his kick. Insurmountable setbacks, rejections, all of these things are for your good. You can overcome them and succeed in spite of them.

10. Even when your vision is blocked, keep swimming. Despite goggles full of water, Phelps didn’t panic that he could no longer see. Instead he counted swimming strokes to get from one end of the pool to the other. No one even knew. Sometimes there’s another way around writer’s block or a sagging middle. Persevere even when it seems like you’ll fail.

11. Don’t give up when you get close. Phelps had a goal of winning eight gold medals. In Athens he won six gold and two bronze. For many people, this would have been nearly as good as their original dream. It wasn’t for Phelps. If your goal is to be a New York Times bestseller, don’t give up when you hit the USA Today list. Celebrate when you get close, but keep working until you get what you want.

12. “Dream as big as you can dream and anything is possible.” Michael Phelps

And for the self-promotion this week, there have been two recent reviews for “Servant to a King.”

The first is from Jennie Hansen at Meridian Magazine. You’ll have to scroll all the way down to the bottom to find it (although I disagree with her assertion that my books are YA. I’d say the opposite is true – that I write for an adult audience but have some devoted teen readers. But I was very happy with it – I think this is the best review Jennie has given me so far).

The second is another positive review, this time from author Marsha Ward on her blog.


At 8/31/2008 12:46 AM, Blogger Marsha Ward said...

Thanks for the good analogies, Sariah, and for the mention.

At 8/31/2008 2:30 AM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

I know that I'm in the minority here, but despite my love for the Olympics I just couldn't bring myself to watch the swimming. Blah, blech, boring.

I totally admit that Michael Phelps is awesome, but every swimming race is exactly the same. The swimmers are so obscured by the water that you're essentially watching little dots move across the screen, and cheering when the Phelps dot is moving the fastest. You don't get any perception of their technique or skill or strategy--it's just "Wow, Phelps is fast". And to that I say: BORING.

At 9/02/2008 12:32 PM, Blogger Don said...

Good analogy.

And for #7, if you say "Consume a lot of fuel," that will work.

For writers, words are fuel. Read voraciously. Words inspire, teach, and motivate.

And they have less calories than Twinkies.

At 9/02/2008 1:31 PM, Blogger Pat said...

I like this - I'm going to put a linky on my blog for easy reference.

At 9/02/2008 1:32 PM, Blogger Traci Hunter Abramson said...

Great post Sariah! Of course, since I'm a swim coach and an author, I guess I related to your analogy pretty easily. As for Rob, we'll consider his lack of appreciation for swimming a sad side effect from spending too much time in school lately.

One more side note I have to mention. Several years ago, I coached a couple of elite swimmers on my high school team. Every year when they went to the North Baltimore meet they would both come back and complain about a particular swimmer and how he was unbeatable. That swimmer was, you guessed it...Michael Phelps. Maybe I should have been more sympathetic to the challenges they were facing!

At 9/03/2008 6:56 PM, Blogger Rebecca Talley said...

Great blog. Love the analogies.


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