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  • Keenan Harrell

What's Your Winning Formula?

The 2016 Summer Olympic games in Rio will go down as one of the most prolific games in Olympic history. We watched Michael Phelps shatter a 2,000-year-old record by winning his 22nd Olympic Gold Medal, becoming the most decorated Olympian in the history of the Olympic games. We watched Usain Bolt dominate all competition in the 100m, 200m, and 4 x 100m relay race, making each race look easier than the last. We also had the opportunity to witness a new generation of Olympic greats. Simone Biles captured the nation’s heart, leading the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team with 4 Gold Medal wins. Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel also emerged as Olympic elites; dominating in Women’s Swimming and collecting a combined total of 6 Gold Medals.


In all the glamour, celebration, and high-profile stories of the Olympic Games, we witnessed something even more profound. We observed the culmination of years and years of purpose driven repetitions, a relentless commitment to the betterment of one’s craft, and the unyielding determination to succeed. Each Olympian that competed in this year’s Olympic games has spent their entire lifetime preparing for a moment that only lasted minutes, or even seconds, on the world stage. Like most people, I could not help but feel a sense of admiration for what these Olympians accomplished in front of the entire world.


Inside every individual who achieves such great feats, there exists a set of daily practices, habits, and beliefs that propels them to a great accomplishment. What each of these aforementioned athletes has is something I call a “Winning Formula.” They’ve personally crafted a formula or manner of execution that elevates their way of thinking and doing, creates opportunities for them to grow, and propels them towards an extraordinary existence. They’ve started their journey with an end goal in mind. A goal not bound to the standards of precedent, but rather goals that conventional thinkers only dream about - goals that were previously revered as humanly impossible.


Your winning formula is that unique blend of action combined with a grander mindset that sets you apart from the pack. It is what elevates you from good to great. Although most of us will never be a world-class, highly decorated Olympic swimmer or gymnast, it is still true that we ALL have a winning formula inside of us. We ALL have the capability to construct, design, and implement our own individually unique process to maximize our lives and achieve success in our respective pursuits.


The Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” This concept is a vital component in establishing and recognizing your winning formula. In its essence, a winning formula is a set of strategic habits executed daily, accompanied with a specific goal in mind and a relentless motivation to succeed. Executing on your winning formula daily will naturally generate momentum towards your goals. When we change one part of our formula, we change the nature of our results. Whether you’re seeking to surpass a new sales goal, finish a marathon, or master a foreign language, there are actions you can take daily to close the gap between you and your goals. What mindset is going to get you closer to your dream? What strategic methods will you implement in your daily routine to close the gap between you and your zenith? What efforts are going to help you optimize your strengths and build upon your weaknesses? These are all questions you must answer to ultimately construct your winning formula.


Growing up, it was always my lifelong dream to attend and graduate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Every night before going to sleep I would visualize receiving my acceptance letter, my first day of class as a freshman, and my final days on campus as a graduating senior. I had a healthy obsession with this vision. I would go on the university’s website and review admittance statistics weekly. I would even call into the admissions office at random requesting more information on the university and what exactly they look for in a qualified candidate for admission. I somehow convinced my parents to drive me around the university’s campus several times just so I could get a glimpse of what life would be like once I started school there. Through self-guided research, I learned that the university sought “well-rounded” and “academically strong” applicants, so I did everything in my power to become as “well-rounded” and “academically strong” as I possibly could. I would meet with my school counselor almost weekly to review my academic progress and ensure I was on track to optimize my admissions application. I signed up for numerous Advanced Placement courses, subjected myself to relentless SAT preparation, founded and participated in several extracurricular clubs, participated in Track & Field, completed several internships, and worked a part-time job during high school. Nothing was going to stop me from attending the university of my dreams. If I struggled in a particular academic subject I would get to school early to review the material with my teacher, do the same during lunch period, and even stayed after school to review if needed. I developed effective habits such as waking up early to review class material, planning out my weeks every Sunday afternoon, surrounding myself with like-minded individuals with similar goals, and minimized distractions that I felt were not going to get me closer to being admitted. Today I am humbled and blessed to say I was admitted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the spring of 2010 and graduated in May 2014 with a B.A. in Exercise & Sport Science. My actions and efforts during my high school years molded my winning formula; helping me to be my best self and achieve something I had always dreamed of accomplishing.


In working to cultivate my own winning formula I’ve learned that mindset plays the most important role in shaping the dynamic, yet subtle nuances of your winning formula. What you believe can be your biggest catalyst in achieving your goals; or it can be your biggest vice. The late Mahatma Gandhi explained it best in saying:


“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.”


Believing is the very first step in creating your winning formula. Using your mind to think optimistically and to visualize your goals is a unique capability that makes you better. Your beliefs help you every day; guiding you closer and closer to the goals you’re working to attain. They influence your actions, daily decision making, and keep you focused. The way you think can have such a profound impact in all areas of your life. Having a set of guiding principles or beliefs gives you a sense of direction and meaning that will propel you towards your dreams. To give you a better idea, I’ve listed personal beliefs that shape my mindset and are instrumental in the development of my winning formula:


·Seek to achieve goals that are in line with your moral compass.


·Look for opportunity outside of your comfort zone; this is vital to growth. If you always continue to learn, you will always continue to grow.


·Keep an open, optimistic mindset in all situations; especially in the face of adversity.

·Accept that, while you may not have the ability to control all situations in your life, you do have the power to control how you respond to them.


·Have an unshakable faith that there will be a better tomorrow.


·Make an impact while you can; time is always of the essence.


And so, I challenge you. I challenge you to expect great things out of yourself and never settle for a life that is less than extraordinary. Understand that you already have the tools and capability to become your own Olympian. Take time to learn your strengths and embrace your weaknesses as opportunities for growth. Stay focused, stay disciplined, and remain relentless in your pursuit of victory. Find your winning formula and be a catalyst in making your dreams a reality. A winning formula is not a “one size fits all” type of thing. Determining your winning formula is a journey unique to you and you only. In taking these steps, you must always remember to strive for progress and not perfection. It may take years of trial and error to figure out what does and does not work for you, but take ownership in the belief that who you become and where you end up is your responsibility. Have faith that you are doing the right things to get you closer to where you want to be. Remember, your winning formula is a blueprint to success and the framework for all of your achievements. To master your winning formula is to maximize your level of effectiveness in anything you do.

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