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Josh Williamson made the team—here’s how he sets a goal.

College student Josh Williamson had a goal, but he never dreamed he’d be competing as part of the U.S. Bobsled team just a few months after he walked into the 24 Hour Fitness Super Sport club in Winter Park, Florida.

Last summer, Williamson and dozens of everyday athletes answered the call from the U.S. Olympic Committee and 24 Hour Fitness to try out at “Scouting Camp: Next Olympic Hopeful” for spots at national team camps of four Olympic sports: bobsled, skeleton, track cycling and rugby. The winners of that competition made it through a battery of performance tests and further intensive screening and training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in order to prepare for the chance to compete for a spot on the teams going to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Williamson, who is from the Orlando area, played Division I lacrosse until injuries prompted him to focus on academics instead. But at Florida State University, he decided to pursue the sport of bobsled, and after shoulder surgery in January 2017, he began rehabilitation with the goal to return to full athletic strength. He had a big dream, but even he was surprised to be named to the U.S. Bobsled team and begin competing less than a year later. Already, Williamson has won a gold medal in his first-ever international bobsled competition and again in North American Cup competition.

24Life asked Williamson how he makes a goal and pursues it—and what advice he has for anyone else who does.

24Life: What’s it like to have a “moon shot” goal materialize like this?

Josh Williamson: It is an indescribable feeling, really, to see the dreams you’ve had unfold in front of you. The best way I could describe it is that it makes you feel extremely lucky: lucky that you—out of everyone—got the opportunity to live the life you wanted. The hard part about that, though, is that in the back of your head, you know it’s not luck. It’s just a culmination of long hours of work, being uncomfortable and believing you could do it even if others didn’t. It makes you feel so grateful and so lucky to be living this life that it makes you wonder how you got to be the one that it all worked out for. But deep down you know why it happened, and it motivates you even more to keep doing all the little things you thought would be unimportant if you skipped them—because in the end, those things are what made the difference.

24Life: What’s your approach to setting or pursuing goals, and has that changed?

JW: My approach has always been pretty straightforward: Define what you want to achieve, make a plan to get there, and then forget about that long term and take care of the present. Dreams are reached by consistent work every day. The biggest enemy to achieving your dreams is impatience. Be patient and trust that the small strides you take every day are inching you closer to your dreams. Even if they are small steps, at least you are moving forward. Imagine what you could accomplish in a year if you improved only a fraction every day. Make it a point not to expect for your life to change in a few weeks, put in the necessary work every day and trust in due time you will get there.

24Life: Life has changed quickly and dramatically for you. What have you learned about managing change?

JW: I’ve never been big on change, and I have always struggled to get out of my comfort zone. Recently, I’ve traveled more than I ever have in my life, tried new things in some new places, been in some pretty uncomfortable weather (to say the least) and failed a lot, but I always learned from my failures.

The real secret to managing change is to never stop pushing forward even if you’re uncomfortable. Most people throw in the towel just steps before they reach the finish line. No matter how many uncomfortable changes or situations you’ve never been in before, force yourself to go through them. In the end, whether it was a great experience or a terrible one, you learned and you changed to be better than you were before. Just because a change isn’t the one you had in mind doesn’t mean it was a failure. There is value in every situation—you just have to be willing to look for it.

24Life: What advice would you give someone who’s setting a moon-shot goal?

JW: The best advice I could give someone setting a moon-shot goal would be to believe in yourself, even if no one else does. When I first left college lacrosse to go to Florida State University, I decided I wanted to continue to compete and find a new way to do so—something [else] I would be good at.

When I decided bobsledding could possibly be something I was good at, I set a plan, decided this was something I could definitely reach eventually and began to work slowly toward it. At that point, I could count on one hand the number of people who didn’t think I was crazy. I couldn’t tell you how many times I was laughed at, questioned about why I was doing all this work for nothing, and written off as another kid who was wasting his time on something impossible.

I’ve done what I’ve done because I knew in my heart I could do it. I saw my own vision of where I could be and what I could do, and even if others couldn’t see it, I could, and that’s what mattered. If you have a dream and know you can get there, forget about what others are going to think about you if you go for it and let your belief in yourself be enough. Do it for yourself, because if you do it for anyone else, it was never really your dream to begin with.

Photo credit: Mark Kuroda, kurodastudios.com

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