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Leadership Lessons from USA Judo’s Kayla Harrison – A Goal Set is a Goal Met

I recently attended a free Judo clinic led by American Olympic hopeful, Kayla Harrison. I found this young lady not only wonderfully gifted in her sport, but also an exceptional instructor for all ages. I was so impressed with this young woman’s enthusiasm for teaching, passion for her sport, and drive for competition success that I knew I wanted to highlight her in a blog post. She is a very inspirational 21-year old! Here are some of the highlights on Kayla, and you can read her career highlights at her site:

  • Kayla has been training since she was 6 years old
  • She left her home in Ohio as a teenager to train full-time at Jimmy Pedro’s facility in Massachusetts
  • She trains 5 days per week. Those workouts include judo twice per day as well as either running or lifting weights
  • She lifts weights on Saturday before getting the rest of the day off
  • Some of her career highlights include 2008 Junior World Champion, 2010 Senior World Champion, and a recent gold medal at theĀ 2012 World Cup Budapest as she tunes up for the Olympics

So what are some Leadership Lessons we can learn from Kayla:

  1. She has talent – Kayla followed an interest in judo, and then realized she was truly talented in the sport. There is no denying that talent is required for success. Work ethic will “put you over the top”, but a base talent level must match your pursuits. Otherwise, everyone would be star athletes, entertainers or CEOs.
  2. She has dreams – It is liberating to finally discover the match between our talents and our pursuits. But pursuit implies a conclusion. There has to be a dream or big goal worth pursuing, or else we will naturally under-achieve our talents. Kayla’s dreams are to be both World Champion and Olympic Champion…and she became World Champion in 2010!
  3. She sets goals – If Kayla’s only goal was achieving her dream, then any number of obstacles, failures or distractions could dissuade her from achieving that dream. She focuses on mini-goals in training and competition, and those mini-goals are consistent with accomplishing her life dreams through a series of “small successes”. She took one of her favorite quotes from her coach Jimmy Pedro: A Goal Set is a Goal Met. It takes confidence and determination to make that quote come true.
  4. She makes sacrifices – Kayla knew that she could not accomplish her goals or dreams by staying in her comfort zone at home, sleeping in on the weekends, maxing out on sugar and video games, and maybe hitting a local tournament occasionally. Instead, she sacrificed everything she knew to go train under an Olympic medalist. She gave up her rights to be a “normal teenager”, so she could pursue the exceptional.
  5. She perseveres – Kayla did not win a gold medal every time she entered a competition. She also fulfilled one of her dreams as 2010 World Champion only to have lesser results in subsequent tournaments. I am sure that a teenager also had many days when she would wake up and simply wish to go back home to family! Kayla has not been deterred, she remains focused, and she stands at the brink of the unthinkable: An American judoka winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games!

Now ask yourself…

  • Are you exhibiting these championship leadership qualities in your own life and career?
  • Have you found your talents and your dreams?
  • Have you set goals and been willing to make sacrifices?
  • Are you willing to persevere when success does not come easy?

Join me in congratulating Kayla Harrison on a wonderful career that hopefully culminates in Olympic Gold on August 2nd, 2012!

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Brian Vickery

I love my Vickery Girls - and grandsons! My career has blessed me to the point I was able to start a new consultancy in 2018: Analytic Integrity. I look to provide analytic experience, and business integrity, to an Analytics world while helping data-driven organizations mature. I enjoy teaching and coaching, watching football and basketball, and playing tennis. I graduated UT-Austin.

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  1. I enjoyed this article and see how it could be applicable to many things in our lives. Balance is also important once we are doing life with a spouse and family. It is not possible to stay completely focused on many things at once. I agree having goals and steps to get there is more likely to produce reaching those goals. So lesson learned give yourself time to dream, plan, and set goals. Also enjoy the journey and celebrate goals reached or the attempt to try.

    • Thanks for the comment, Kris. I agree that dreams/goals, and focus, may vary depending on where you are in life. And the more variables you add (spouse, kids, mortgages, college tuition), the more flexible you have to be regarding the timeframe to achieve those dreams/goals.

  2. Brian, aloha. Kudos to Kayla for all she has accomplished in her young life. What a wonderful experience it must have been for you to meet her, hear her speak and, of course, see her in action.

    Brian, in order for people to succeed, they have to have a dream big enough to keep them going when they would rather not–or perhaps would rather run the other way. Dreams are fuel.

    Something you pointed out, Brian, is how much she was willing to sacrifice to achieve her goals, her dreams. How many people give up when they approach the first hurdle? How many people broke their new year’s resolution to lose weight after the first week or two?

    Key, Brian, is each person knowing what is important to them. In my case, I can say “yes, I have persevered” on my way to achieving what I want.

    And, I can say, “Yes, I am doing what I want to do.”

    What a terrific way to start the week. Thanks so much, Brain. Until later, aloha. Janet

    • It was refreshing to meet a young athlete who was so accomplished yet still focused on her long-term goals while remaining courteous to judoka of all ages. I wish her well at the 2012 Olympics.

      And I agree that dreams can be great fuel…especially if you have attainable goals acting as stepping stones to achieving those dreams.

      Thanks as always for stopping by, Janet!

  3. You forgot to say how you did in a match with her, BV? We want video!

    • Let’s just say I would get smoked in a match against Kayla, Bruce. She is “wicked good”, and I’m only getting slower ;)!


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