Notable Achievements: 2x NCAA Indoor Heptathlon Champion
PB: 8084 points
‘So I started running when I was 6 years old before I even knew what running was. I used to live on this ranch….and for about 2 hours I would just chase [my grandma’s] horse.’
Would you ever imagine such an interesting training strategy for one of America’s top decathletes? Although running was what first came most naturally to Curtis, and still does, he eventually expanded his repertoire of events to include jumps and throws. I sat down with Curtis recently to find out more about who he is, his motivations and success techniques. And I unpacked so many tools for progress from our discussion, I just had to share them…
First of all, Curtis clearly loves what he does, which alongside ‘setting a realistic goal’, allows him to ‘enjoy it [decathlon] regardless of the result’. Curtis decidedly states this to be a ‘more consistent way of being motivated. I think the other way [medals] is a huge driver for a while, but then it’s hard to sustain that under a lot of different conditions and contexts.’ Curtis says this ‘counter-intuitive’ approach allows him to be more successful. Similar to what I’m beginning to discover myself, when you focus on the process: ‘mental queues, KPIs and the whole reason for being here’, you are more likely to get a better result than if you had focused on the medal. Because you’ve relieved yourself of some pressure, and you enjoy it more! (If you don’t believe me or Curtis, read about the other successful athletes I’ve interviewed. They say the same thing!)
Curtis hits the nail on the head, therefore when he speaks about a ‘more internal and personal-driven’ motivation, as opposed to being based on external, uncontrollable factors such as winning medals.
Reflect again on the boy who loved running so much he chased after a horse in his spare time. There’s more… ‘I did a 10km [race] for my 10th birthday. That was my birthday present to myself.’ Who loves running that much? You may laugh or say you can’t understand why anybody would do that, but here’s a thought: you too have your own personal passion that may sometimes err on the edge of ridiculousness to an outsider looking in! I was initially astounded by his level of commitment, and then immediately realised there was no commitment required because, like now he is ‘just running for the pure enjoyment of it.’ As the saying goes: ‘choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life!’
And so it’s no wonder Curtis has the 2nd fastest 1500m time within a decathlon ever in world history! (Wiki Fact!)
Despite this blog’s intentional focus on Curtis’ athletics – conception and cultivation to his current career, Curtis stresses ‘it’s important to stay really balanced in life, because if you’re too narrow-minded and focus on one thing, then I think that’s hard on every part of your life.’
Curtis believes we are designed ‘so you’re always chasing something….a challenge to overcome….some things you have to work on in order to improve and get better.’ And this thrill of the chase is not limited to one area of your life. Challenge yourself to improve at least one thing in your life every single day – from your relationships, finances, and career, to your health, spirituality and recreation!
And as much as you or I may complain when we have difficulties in our way, Curtis thrives in such circumstances.
‘I feel like if everything’s perfect, amazing and glorious and no problems at all then it’s really not that fun.’
This is why I am certain, after being disqualified in the 400m at the USA National Track & Field Championships this weekend (25.6.15), he will come back stronger, hopefully reminding himself of his own important words: ‘you can even fail at achieving a goal, and still be successful in the process of trying to get there.’
Failure only occurs when you fall and stay down. So get up, dust yourself off, and keep going. Curtis finished his decathlon despite knowing he would be unable to achieve a significant score to top the medal tables, which is within his capabilities (because of the disqualification). Would you? Resolve today to keep going in the direction of your passion and purpose, even when the immediate rewards slip from your grasp. Curtis rightly states that success comes from your desire to keep ‘stretching your comfort zone….overcoming obstacles and challenges, and having the willpower to get there.’ Because ultimately you ‘grow into a better person.’
So, follow Curtis’ lead on how to be successful in life in 5 short steps: (1) discover your passion by recommitting to your first love, (2) constantly ‘push boundaries’ to make life as challenging but fun as possible, (3) find the intrinsic nature of your motivation, and (4) grow daily on your journey of success, realising that each battle lost is still a battle fought – and that makes you better than never having tried at all. And finally, (5) balance is key. Don’t live so blinded by your all-consuming passion that you neglect the other essential areas in your life – you don’t want to blink and miss all the ever-flowing opportunities for love, success and happiness that life has to offer you.