Usain Bolt knows why he needs to win races and shatter records. Though money and fame are nice additions, what drives him is something much, much bigger. It's even bigger than winning each individual race.
The 23-year old, gold-shoe wearing Jamaican track star became a household name after he shattered multiple world records at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. When asked what his secret is, he replies with surprising humility, "my secret's just hard work and dedication." Great advice, for sure, but it takes more than just hard work to become such a dominating force in sports...or in anything, for that matter. It takes a sense of purpose so big, it's hard to measure. It may even sound like fantasy. And for Usain Bolt, he wakes up everyday to, as he puts it, "become a legend."
It is this sense of purpose, the sense of WHY Bolt works as hard as he does that makes such a difference. Whereas other competitors train for a race or for an event, Bolt trains for something that he may not fully appreciate in his lifetime, because inherent in legend-status, is that it will outlive him.
Though each race he wins and each record he breaks matter, they are not the end goals. They represent the milestones he needs to pass to achieve his very big dream.
In our careers and in our businesses we often limit our ability to succeed because we set goals with relatively short time lines. We work hard to achieve these goals, then set new goals the following year. But quarterly or annual goals are just too short. How many people or organizations are planning to achieve something that will be fully realized after they die?
A strategy of setting a goal, reaching it and working to achieve the next goal does not inherently prevent progress or success, but it limits the ability to make massive leaps. It also begs the question, why are those short-term goals important? "To be successful" or "to grow a business" are insufficient as answers. Everyone who races against Bolt is running to win races, but few, if any, are running to become legends.
Quarterly or annual goals should not be the goals, they should serve to mark the measurable progress we make on our way to something much grander. The Wright brothers didn't set out to simply make a flying machine, they set out to change the world. Steve Jobs didn't just want to build a successful computer company, he set out to, as he put it, "make a dent in the universe." That ability to see beyond the year, to see beyond the money and the profit, to see how the world will change because of what you achieve, is what makes legends.
Consider this analogy: If your goal is to drive 350 miles in one day, you may achieve your goal, you may even drive a little further. You'll be elated that you reached your goal or surpassed it. Your victory may even encourage you to attempt to drive 400 miles the next day. But to become a legend, you need a lofty, almost unrealistic and quite bombastic vision of the final destination...not just one of the way points. It's not about getting 350 miles in a day, it's about seeing yourself laying on the beach on an island in the South Pacific. In one single swoop, you see the 350-mile achievement as small and slow. You are instantly able to see opportunities that others miss. Where others see the need to drive faster, you see the need to jump on an airplane.
Usain Bolt doesn't run each race because he wants to win. He wins each race because he wants something so much grander. And it is this ability, to understand why each race matters towards achieving the grand plan, that he will indeed become a legend.