5 Tips to Achieve Epic Goals

By Todd Tipton
September/October 2015
Chances are that during the first four months of the year while you were waking up and fumbling with the coffee maker Daren Wendell was busy running. When you were starting work, he was  still running. Getting lunch? Yep, still running. As the world went about its business every single day of those 4 months, Daren Wendell was putting one foot in front of the other to muscle through the 30,000 daily steps he needed to take to accomplish his goal.
Starting at rise of the sun on the cool day of January 1st, 2015, Daren Wendell set off from Santa Monica pier in Los  Angeles, California to run the length of the United States one marathon a day to bring clean, fresh water to people in the world. 100 days, 100 marathons, 2903 miles, 14 States, and 3 million+ steps. It was quite a sight on April 10th, 2015 to see Daren approaching the Times Square finish line deep in the heart of New York City. Garbed in black, weaving through the crowds of people, he emerged from the mass of buildings crowding the street with a Forrest Gump style entourage in his wake. His beard was bushy. His gait betrayed a limp originating from his left hip causing him to look a little like an old man. The limp came from an injury he had gained all the way back in New Mexico that he had to modify his running style to accommodate.
Yet, a beaming smile ­a Daren Wendell trademark showed through those long whiskers on his weathered face. He ran through a congratulatory banner. People clapped and crowded around. Reporters asked questions with smirks of wonderment on their faces. A stranger passing by lamented not having a selfie stick for the occasion. It sunk in to all of us. He had really done it. And, he had raised over $146,000 for his charity, ActiveWater, in the process. 3600 people living a long ways away in a small part of a big world now had access to clean water for life.  
For a lot of us, running just one mile a day would be difficult, let alone a marathon a day across the country. If you were to ask Daren, however, he would tell you that God has given you the same body as he and that you are more than capable of doing it. He would tell you that there is nothing special about his body. In fact, he ran the entirety with a metal rod through his tibia that he got from a soccer accident long ago. What is special is his determination and his approach. Daren let me in on how he accomplishes epic things over the last 2 years of training and executing those 100 marathons in 100 days. If you believe him, you might just find yourself doing the impossible too.    
1.   Focus On The Next Step    
Sitting in a high rise building overlooking Central Park, photographs of Daren running through different parts of the country cycling through a projector on the wall next to us, I asked Daren a question during my post-run interview that he got often during the run. “Daren, what epiphanies did you get during the days of lonely, endless running?”  
Daren laughed and surprised me by  saying, “None! I was too busy making sure I didn’t step on a cactus or get hit by a Semi!”
Great things are accomplished by the extraordinary, tireless execution of small things.  Remove  your mind from the future and place it in the present.    
2.  Set Achievable Small Goals    
It’s easier to focus on the next step of impossible tasks when achievable goals are in mind. I would often run with Daren during his training with my mind focused on the end result. I would  think “I’m done in 10 miles.” However, that got discouraging. At 5 miles I would be thinking about how tired I was and whether I could make it up the hill 4 miles from my present place. Daren approached this differently. He would take my mind off of the end mileage by saying, “Let’s run to the water fountain over there and have a drink,” or “I like to run this next street and smell the food cooking in the restaurants”.  Later he told me that he gets discouraged if he thinks about the end mileage. He started every run thinking about the first place he was running toward. During the actual run across America, Daren’s support team would drive ahead 5 to 15  miles and park their van along the route. As he focused on the individual steps, he trained his mind to think that he was running to the van to get a drink and see friends.    
Doing epic things requires mental strength.  It’s easier to be mentally strong if you break down  great tasks into steps you know you can accomplish.    
3.  Keep the Heart of What You Are Trying to Accomplish Pure    
Often during training when we were tired and we would walk a little bit. There is a stubborn thing in me that would rebel against that walking. It told me “You should be able to run this!” Suddenly, running wasn’t so much about helping my friend train, it was about my frustration at limitations and the glory I wanted to receive for never having to slow down. The truth is that we often set a goal that looks in itself pure and singular but is actually muddied with ulterior motives and unspoken desires. Daren consistently kept the overall goal of crossing America in mind and gave it precedence. He wouldn’t let it be about his pace, style, or individual glory.    
With whatever impossible thing you set out to do, don’t make the task harder by attaching an abundance of qualifications on it to make it valid.  Keep your goal as singular as possible, then keep it pure.    
4.  Include Others in the Event    
Daren would be the first to say “we” accomplished the run across America instead of “I”. Other people made running across America lighter and more possible for him. Runners came out and  ran sections with him. His support team was always close by. People sent texts and wrote emails. This was something Daren learned after previously walking across the United States. During that time, he was mostly alone and it broke him. He suffered on the verge of nervous breakdowns two separate times. Having people along to laugh with and complain to made him feel like himself.   
For most of us, our identity comes from our relation to the people around us. Our family, our kids, our church, and what we accomplish as part of a work force is part of who we are and are likely contributors to why we would set out to do something epic in the first place.
Trying to  accomplish epic things without them would be doing so as half a person.    
5.  Find a Cause    
Including others also means setting out to accomplish something that helps others. Doing something for yourself is a precarious place to be when trying to accomplish the epic. That is because quitting the task might become something paramount in your mind to help yourself!
When others gain from the finished task, persevering becomes deeply rooted.
Daren ran to bring safe, clean drinking water to people who need it. You can learn more about his passion at Activewater.org. Daren has just announced that he will be leading a team up Kilimanjaro on June 1st, 2016, so if that cause reaches your heart, you can start achieving the epic with him. However, whether it’s clean drinking water for the world or something else, be sure to find your cause and go boldly forward.  

About the Author

  • Todd Tipton's picture

    Todd Tipton is the father of a new boy, Asher, and married 8 sweet years to his beautiful wife Kara.  He lives in Kalamazoo, MI where he writes, drinks coffee, talks to people, and does his best to have a full life that overflows to others. You can read more from him at toddtipton.wordpress.com

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