The Best Athlete in the World

For my inaugural column here on, I’d like to start with a few questions to you, dear reader: What does it mean to you to be the best athlete in the world?

It’s got nothing to do with times, rankings, pounds, or any number. People with narrow vision like to focus on numbers and control them. Those numbers are the end product to a process. Seek to control the process, not the result! While the numbers are good indicators of progress, you can’t count good habits, and that’s a far better predictor of success.  Being the best athlete also has nothing to do with any particular training method–anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something, guaranteed.

The truth is, you can be the best athlete in the world!  You experience the world through your own unique perspective, so why not shift your perspective on what it means to be ‘the best’ and then work to be the best athlete in the world by fulfilling that vision?

The best athlete in the world is the individual who seeks to progress by setting and achieving challenging but attainable goals, serves others, and measures ultimate success in sport by their happiness.

With that definition in mind, what does it take for you to be the best athlete in the world?

To start, it’s best to sit down with pen and paper and review where you’re at, by taking inventory of the following:

  • What are my long term goals?  (This can span next season to the next 10 years)
  • What do I need to do on a daily/weekly/monthly basis to achieve these goals?
  • What does my inner circle (immediate family, close friends, boss) need to do to support these goals?
  • How can I support and serve my inner circle and peer group with these goals?

Write those things down and once every three months, pull them out and review/update them as needed.  As you write, consider the following points on what it takes, in my humble opinion, to become the best athlete in the world.  It’s got a lot to do with balance and everyday, somewhat to do with hard work, and a little bit to do with maturity and service.  Let’s break those down a bit:


Balanced: Training for any sport adds stress to our lives.  The more commitments we have in life, the more we need to balance our resources, aka time and energy, with demands, aka family, work, training, and anything else we’ve got going on.  If you can’t handle life’s demands without training, then you’re certainly not going to be able to handle life with training.  Seek balance and harmony in your life so that you can handle the demands of training.

Everyday: Don’t look at your sport in the context of the next race or the next season.  Life is a long game and it rewards those who plan for the distant future while executing quality work in the present.  There are a lot of protocols out there that would have us focus on just the next week, 30 days, or 90 days.  Forget them.  Think about about a goal you have, and think about working everyday towards that goal for the next four months. That’s 120 days, and that’s about the minimum to achieve a lasting change in your habits.  If 120 days sounds too hard, then think about a new goal.

Hard Work: To sum it up, there is no easy way.  Genuine results are achieved from genuine hard work, not ‘hacks’ or anything with a bar code on it.  What kind of capacity is there in your life to support hard work?  You should consider your schedule, body, and stability (financial, emotional, geographical).  Do you live in an environment that supports hard work?  You need to figure out how much your peer group supports hard work and work within those limits–or upgrade your peer group!  Until the infrastructure is in place to handle hard work, hard work will not pay off.  Instead, work to prepare yourself and do what it takes to build that infrastructure.

Service: Few consider life’s end game, when honor is rewarded through the good and service we have rendered those most under our influence: family members, peers, and students in the sport.  When planning your athletic future, consider your commitments to others, and how your commitment to your sport can serve others.

Maturity: Speaking of commitments to others, it takes a great deal of maturity to honor those commitments.  Consistently delivering quality ‘product’, in the form of time, attention, energy, or work, we build our reputation for integrity in their eyes.  It makes it easier to have them on board with “I need to go ride my bike for six hours” or “I need three days off to go to a training camp.”  We can further increase our inner circle’s buy-in with our training when we focus on the task at hand: when I’m training, I’m not thinking about work.  When I’m working, I’m not thinking about training.”

As you align your vision for what it means to be the best by considering the above points, and then working to fulfill your vision, your sport will take on greater happiness and deeper significance to you and your inner circle. Thanks for reading, and I hope that this article will be of use to you in becoming the greatest athlete in the world, in your eyes and in the eyes of your inner circle.  Train smart!

Porter Bratten is a Bellevue-based triathlon and running coach who owns and operates Elements Multisport Coaching.  A two-time Ironman finisher, he is also a USAT Certified Race Director and is head race director for BTO Multisports.  His favorite color is green and he can be reached at