At the age of 17, I had set one of the biggest and most difficult goals of my life, to run faster than my idol Carl Lewis.
Many people just laughed in my face. Nearly 99% of them took me by the shoulders and told me to be "realistic".
At that time, I wondered what being "realistic" meant. What does it mean to be a realist? How do we determine if a goal is realistic or not? Faced with unclear boundaries, I ignored their advice.
Fifteen years later in 1999, I achieved a time of 9.84 seconds in the 100 meters; two hundreds of a second faster than Lewis. My performance would be the second fastest of all time.
In 2003, following the evolution of Usain Bolt's career, I predicted that this great athlete would succeed in achieving the 9.60 second mark within five years. Again, they told me I was crazy. Five years later, we heard the same thing from Bolt, that he would reach this goal. He was also told to be more realistic. At present date, the world record stands at 9.58 seconds.
I have experienced this lack of faith dozens of times in my career; from winning the gold medal in the relay in 1996, to my decision of going into business.
This is why when I meet young people today, I make it my duty to tell them that they have all the potential to go after their dreams. I also encourage businessmen I network with to remove such words as “realist”, “achievable”, and “durable” from their vocabulary.
I like giving them the example of Nike, the biggest sports equipment supplier in the world with whom I collaborated in the creation of my own competition shoe. The founders of this huge firm started like everyone else, at the bottom of the ladder, selling imported products from Asia while travelling across the United States by car. Little by little, they started promoting their products during track and field competitions and sponsored athletes. Their road to success was extraordinary, but not unachievable.
Dream big, dare to set goals which take you out of your comfort zone and inspire you to greater achievement. No dream is impossible.
As Walt Disney used to say, “If you can dream it, you can do it”.
Go get it!