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Kaizen - Achieve Any Goal You Set With This Foolproof Strategy

From not even being able to swim one lap in a pool to becoming an Ironman – how the Japanese business philosophy “Kaizen” helped me achieve my most incredible personal and professional goals.

This isn’t your usual business blog post – it starts with ahem… *graphic warning* …throwing up, and ends with being able to achieve any goal you set your mind to. So why does it start with throwing up? I’m embarrassed to admit it, but after I swam my first few laps to begin training to become an ironman I spent the next few moments throwing up in the change room. I could hardly swim one lap in a pool yet I was determined to eventually swim 2.4 miles in the open ocean to claim the Ironman title. How did I come up with this lofty goal and eventually achieve it? I’m excited to tell you and share how the Japanese goal setting strategy Kaizen is a foolproof way to achieve any goal you set out to achieve.

First we have to back up to July 2010. I went to Ironman Lake Placid to cheer my good friend Tim on as he competed in this triathlon. Before I set out to watch him, I didn’t expect to be witnessing one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever seen. You see there’s this tradition at Ironman where almost everyone comes to the finish line at midnight to cheer the last finishers in. With Ironman you have to finish in 17 hours in order to be considered an Ironman. I found myself in tears at the finish line watching people struggle but determined to cross that line. At that moment I was inspired to want to do an Ironman myself but the fact that I knew I couldn’t even swim one lap in a pool initially made me think that this would never happen.

Kaizen in action
I then remembered the Japanese approach called Kaizen. It’s the art of achieving small incremental improvements. The term actually means “change for the better” and has been used by hundreds of top global organizations to create an environment of continuous improvement. So I set my goal to start with a half marathon and signed up for the Baltimore Half Marathon that October.

Using the Kaizen approach is setting truly small, achievable incremental steps so that you essentially cannot fail. Here’s an example of how I used Kaizen to begin my training plan:

  • Day 1: Research running shoes
  • Day 2: Find running store to buy shoes
  • Day 3: Buy shoes
  • Day 4: Try on shoes and stand on treadmill
  • Day 5: Walk on treadmill for 10 minutes
  • Day 6: Walk on the treadmill for 5 minutes. Jog for 1 minute. Walk for 4 minutes
  • Day 7: Walk on the treadmill for 5 minutes. Jog for 5 minutes. Walk for 5 minutes

You get the idea…

I eventually completed the Baltimore half and knew I was going to have to turn my attention to swimming if I was ever going to do a triathlon. So I found the shortest triathlon I could find, signed up for swim lessons and practiced swimming daily. I got a game changing tip from my swim coach to stop kicking so hard and only kick enough to keep your feet from dragging. Finally, I was able to step it up to the big leagues and completed my first half Ironman – 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike then a half marathon.


Surrounding yourself with good people
I was now ready to train for a full Ironman – but I had one more big obstacle to cross – selling my wife on it. You see, signing up for an Ironman is a huge family commitment. You’re spending the majority of your free time training – a 5 to 6 hour training ride is normal. My wife agreed and supported me all the way, so I signed up for Ironman Florida 2013. It is absolutely vital to be surrounded by supportive, positive people when you’re working hard to achieve a goal.

True to the Kaizen approach, I laid out my schedule week by week, day by day for the entire year. I knew my goals for each phase and I had my nutrition all laid out almost to the minute. I executed my plan flawlessly and hit my goals in almost every phase. I wasn’t fast, but I finished – I crossed that finish line – and that was my goal, to be an Ironman. 

What my Ironman training taught me
So how does this all translate into business success? You can accomplish any goal out there as long as you:

  1. Write down the goal
  2. Make the plan
  3. Work your butt off
  4. Surround yourself with good people

These simple habits of success will ensure you accomplish anything – and I have woven all of these habits and the Kaizen approach into how Vintory services our partners. We sit down to intimately understand the goals of our partners. We create the game plan – we call it our “playbook” and then we let the math and numbers do the talking. We use our ROI calculator and marketing calculator to map out their goals, targets and timelines to successfully invite new properties to join their rental network – it’s a proven approach to success. 

Whether it’s a big business goal, or a personal achievement – I’d love to hear about goals you’ve achieved and what you think the key ingredients to your success were. Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn and/or Pulse and drop me a comment or DM.

– Brooke Pfautz, Ironman

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