Work Hard, Play Hard: 6 Success Factors for Achieving an Impossible Goal

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September 26, 2023
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Patrick J. Karol,

What does it take to achieve an impossible goal? And why pursue an impossible goal? After all, by definition, it is, well...impossible. To answer the “why” question first, if you are interested to know what you can achieve, then set an impossible goal. What does an impossible goal look like? Some safety and operations leaders might say achieving Zero injuries is an impossible goal. My question would be, is it a worthy goal? Will it make you better? Not just a little better, but extra better? If yes, then it’s worth achieving.

I learned some lessons about achieving an impossible goal from running Spartan obstacle course races. Recently, I finished my 10th race which gave me a reason to reflect on my journey. Was running a Spartan race an impossible goal? If you had told me three years ago, that I would be doing this, I probably would have looked at you like you had three heads and said, “Why would I do that?” I did it for two reasons; I wanted to know what I could do physically and mentally, and I knew it would make me a better person. Here are the 6 success factors that I learned and that you can apply toward achieving your impossible goal.

  1. Differentiate between a stretch goal and an impossible goal. Often times in the corporate world, we are encouraged to set stretch goals. Stretch goals are important. But what would an impossible goal look like, and what does it take to achieve it? Running a Spartan obstacle course race was an impossible goal for me. Zero injuries may be your impossible goal towards an extraordinary safety culture.  
  1. Invoke the Law of Urgency. Sign up. Get it scheduled. Get it on your calendar. For me, it was registering for an event. Now, I've got skin in the game. I'm committed. It's harder to come up with an excuse when it is scheduled. We talk about this law in my CSP prep courses. Schedule the exam, and you are more likely to start studying today.  
  1. Invoke     the “ABC rule.” Allies Build Careers, and they help you get things done. Find your ally. Your accountability partners. Your coach. Robin Blair was my ally and running partner in all ten races. My behind-the-scenes ally was my wife, Nancy. She took away any possibility of implementing my exit strategy by making my travel arrangements. Aside from visible leadership, a strong network of allies is the next most important factor in building an extraordinary safety culture.  
  1. Visualize success. Don't visualize yourself standing on the podium. Visualize yourself doing the things it takes to achieve your impossible goal.  
  1. Start small. I started with a 5-mile race, worked up to an 8-mile race, and recently completed a 14-mile, 30-obstacle race. Can you go one month without an injury?  
  1. Celebrate your successes. Set large and small milestones and celebrate each one. I celebrate every practice run with my favorite chocolate smoothie...I love chocolate!


For me, it took all 6 factors to turn this impossible goal into a reality and an achievement that I am very proud of. Will achieving Zero injuries make you or your organization extraordinarily better? Will it help to create an extraordinary safety culture? Then it is worth pursuing. How hard are you willing to work to achieve it? Start by setting an impossible goal.   

If your impossible goal is to earn the Associate Safety Professional or Certified Safety Professional designation, know why you want to achieve this goal and follow these success factors.

What is your impossible goal? And what are your success factors?