How Doing Your Best Can Put Any Dream Within Reach

Rowers from the Netherlands react after competing in the men's rowing pair final at the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Niki van Sprang and Guillaume Krommenhoek of the Netherlands react after competing in the men's rowing pair final at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 29, 2021, in Tokyo. (Darron Cummings/AP Photo)

Teammates, it should come as no surprise that to be an Olympian, you have to be the best at your sport. No rocket science here. The catch is, how do you become the best? Here's a picture of the mountains above Sochi, Russia (site of the 2014 Winter Olympics) to get you fired up to be at your best.

Here's a little story to get you thinking. I remember when I was a 14-year-old budding rower in high school when Olympic aspirations started to creep into my brain bucket. My very first thought was, how on Earth am I going to get myself to be an Olympic-level oarsman when I'm rowing in a club boat in high school?

I remember the pessimistic side of my attitude coming out in an attempt to sabotage my fragile dream before it even could take hold. I told myself: "You must be kidding yourself. You're in the third boat. You suck. You, an Olympian? Get real, Alden."

But I loved rowing too much, and it always pisses me off when anyone, especially myself, tells me I can't do something. Just then, as I was having this internal battle, I got a "crab" (my oar got stuck in the water), and I nearly got flung out of the boat. (Yes, I do have a short attention span, and yes, I was daydreaming in the middle of rowing practice.) 

I remember that day as vividly as yesterday -- it was the first time in my life I committed to a big hairy, scary goal, one that was sure to get my friends and family laughing at me. I was so passionate about it, though. I didn't care how many folks laughed at me -- and they did laugh -- but their laughing and smirks fired me up even more to prove them wrong.

However, the wisecracks about my goal were the least of my concerns. I needed to figure out how I was going to become the best rower the United States ever had seen. That was a pretty daunting task for a 14-year-old with asthma who couldn't seem to stop getting sick during his inaugural rowing season, let alone had a propensity for catching "crabs" during a race. But a funny thing happened. Once I had made up my mind that I was going to be an Olympian and I started telling people about my goal -- not everyone was laughing; some actually believed me -- they took me seriously and gave me clues on how I might accomplish my goal. 

The first clue to attempting to accomplish my Olympic goal was to understand my capabilities, or what I now call "taking inventory of my arsenal." To be the best at something, I first needed to learn how to do my best. I didn't always do my best, and I knew when I didn't. I could feel it in my gut.

Sure, we can fake exhaustion and even fool ourselves momentarily into thinking we gave it our best, but at the end of the day, there's no fooling ourselves. You know when you didn't give it your all. The reason it's so important to learn how to do your best is, that's your benchmark for learning how to raise your game. Until you know what your best is, you don't know what your best can be.

We use this exact same principle at Team Perfect on our workout programs by asking you to do a one-set max (i.e., do your best set of repetitions) of push-ups or pull-ups. We do this, so you will have a benchmark from which to measure your improvement. After all, if you can't measure it, you can't reward it, and if you can't reward it, you won't get it. 

Doing your best is not as easy as it sounds, and it's a whole lot harder when you're under pressure, which is one of the many reasons I love the Olympics. Athletes are under tremendous pressure to do their best in order to be the best. So whether you relate with the Italian way of thinking ("Rome wasn't built in a day") or the Chinese proverb way of thinking ("The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones"), being the best at something starts with baby steps toward your goal.

Like everything in life, the key is giving it all you got, all the time and, of course, never, ever giving up on your dream. 


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Alden Mills, creator of the Perfect Pushup, is CEO of Perfect Fitness. Mills went to the Naval Academy and later became a Navy SEAL. After retiring in 2000, he earned his MBA at Carnegie Mellon. His ultimate mission is to inspire everyone to pursue their own dreams. For more from Mills, check out

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