Setting Goals & Maximizing Potential

My friend John Demmer has won four International Bowhunting Organization World Championships in archery. He has won eight National Field Archery Association and USA Archery National Championships. At the 2015, NFAA Mid-Atlantic Sectional Championships John Shot a 299 out of a possible 300. Using a recurve bow with no sights, standing twenty yards from the target, John put fifty-nine out of sixty arrows in the 3.15” five-ring. Thirty-seven arrows, over half, were in the X-ring, which is a mere 1.5.”


What if I told you that I could work with you for a few hours and you could beat John Demmer at archery? You could……if I blindfold John, spun him around a few times and then told him to shoot the target. You see John can’t hit a target that he cannot see. Nor can you reach a goal that you have not set. Setting goals is critical to success in any endeavor.

Below is a picture of my running logs dating back to 1981.


Each of those logs, spanning almost forty years, began with realistic goals for that particular year. My goals, the logs, nor the training itself would guarantee that I would win a championship race. They would not even guarantee that I would win a local fun run, but they would certainly assist me on the road to maximizing my own personal potential, and your goals can do the same for you.

“You can only control what you can control,” my good friend and archery coach, Rod Jenkins often says. It sounds silly. Of course you can only control what you can control, but what Rod is actually saying is that you control everything when it comes to achieving your potential. You define success, and success is a choice.

I began running when I was very young. I ran competitively until I entered the Army, and then I only ran recreationally. In 1995, I was attending an Army school at Fort Knox, Kentucky. One spring afternoon, I turned the television on and saw the Olympic Track and Field Trials. I watched the 5,000m and the 10,000m races with great interest. Bob Kennedy and Todd Williams ran wonderful races that qualified them for the 1996 Olympics. Both Bob and Todd were only a couple of years younger than me. Throughout high school and college, I had watched them achieve their own goals. Seeing them run so well at the trials made me wonder what I could have achieved had I continued running competitively.

I walked to the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. I was twenty-eight years old. Having focused on Rugby and lifting weights more than running, I weighed 200 pounds. Okay, I was fat and out of shape. That afternoon I committed to seeing how well I could run. If Tylenol and Motrin had been banned substances, I would have been hotter than a firecracker within a week.

At first I only ran two to three miles per day. Within a few weeks I got a five mile run in, then an eight miler, and a ten. Soon I was up to thirty miles per week and the weight began to drop. My initial goal was to run sub-33:00 for a 10K and sub-16:00 for a 5K. I did not set a date within which to reach my goal. It was just out there. In December of that same year, I ran a 5K race in 16:33. I weighed 150 pounds. In February of the following year I ran the lead five-mile leg of a marathon relay at the Austin Motorola Marathon and ran 26:02. I was making significant progress. The following summer I ran 32:26 for a 10K, 15:31 for 5K, and in 2000 I placed third at the Richmond Marathon with a time of 2:33, which was an average pace of 5:51 per mile. I weighed 139 pounds that day.


I never qualified for the Olympic Trials, nor did I ever win a major marathon. You see I could not control how fast my competition ran, nor could I control how much fast-twitch muscle was packed into my legs. The only thing I could control was my commitment to work. Focused training would enable me to maximize my own personal potential, whatever that potential might be.

A few years later, I won a 10K road race in Washington, DC. After the race I was sitting on the curb recovering. A fellow walked up to me and said, “You know you amaze me. It’s just no effort at all to run fast. It must be nice to have been born with all that talent, for it to come so easy.”

I smiled and said, “Thank you, sir,” but what I really wanted to say was, “You have no idea what I went through to run this fast. In January, when it was 20 degrees out and drizzling rain, I put in a twenty miler, because I knew that others would peek out the window and decide to sleep in.”

Like Rod said, I controlled the things I could control, and you can too. Maybe you want to get more sales next year in your job. Perhaps, you want to lose ten pounds, improve your tennis game, your recreational league basketball game. Maybe you want to qualify for the Olympic Trials! No matter where you want to find success, you must set goals and you must fully commit. Remember, success is a choice, but that choice will involve sacrifice.

Define your own success and commit to maximizing your potential today!