We talk so much about setting goals, sometimes we forget to talk about how to actually find the path to achieve them.
It’s important to set goals, but for me, it’s just as important to identify the obstacles that will prevent me from getting there as well.
This mentality first came about when I was at a leadership camp the spring after my freshman season.
Being selected from our team, I wasn’t sure what to expect at first since this was my first one and it included students from throughout the athletic department, but I quickly learned how valuable this day would be.
During one of the sessions, we were asked to think of our goals for the future. This was easy for me since I had been setting goals since back in my Houston days, but then we were given a piece of wood and asked to write down our obstacles that could prevent us from reaching them.
Coming up with the goals was pretty simple. I put some numbers down—like getting five or more sacks and leading the Big 12 in sacks.
I also put down that I wanted to be more of a vocal leader. I knew because of my play I had a good chance of being a captain, but I wanted to become a complete leader.
Then it was time to come up with the obstacles. For this, I had to think a little longer.
As for reaching my goals as far as the numbers, the main obstacles would be opposing offenses and how they schemed against our defense.
Would I be getting double-teamed and how would I respond to that?
Also, I knew with playing a physical sport like football I would need to stay healthy in order to achieve my goals. Lastly, I was going to have to step out of my comfort zone as far as being a vocal leader.
I am a quiet guy by nature, so I was going to have to challenge myself to speak up and be that leader my teammates needed.
Then, after writing down what might stop each goal from happening, we were then asked to punch through the piece of wood with the obstacles on it.
I know, it sounded weird to me too…..
This, they told us, would represent the idea that in order to achieve each of our goals, we would need to beat each obstacle first.
Looking back at the career I’ve had at Kansas so far, there couldn’t be a better example that represents my journey.
Originally, I came to KU out of Houston because of the relationship I had with Coach Bowen and Coach Thibodeau and the chance I had to make an impact early. I knew it would be a difficult process, but I was excited to come help build this program.
I set my goals on playing early, but this came with its own set of obstacles as well.
From gaining tons of weight to learning a whole new playbook, the transition took me a few games to truly get comfortable. But with a sack in our first game against South Dakota State, I could feel that I was beating those obstacles.
Now, as my career has progressed, my goals have changed and so have the challenges.
Trying to be the best defensive lineman in the conference and one of the best in the country, I knew there would be many obstacles thrown in my path along the way.
Whether it be offenses game planning to make me less disruptive or a losing season that has tried to push me off track and drain our passion for the game, I refuse to stop working to achieve my goals.
These goals are so deeply important to me, that it would be impossible to let any obstacle overtake me.
They may be tough but I get my motivation from somewhere that can’t be affected by any sort of distraction.
For me, that motivation has always come from two things.
The first being, I want to be able to support my family and be an inspiration to my younger brother, Kaleb Cain.
My mother raised both of us on her own, and I didn’t realize until I got older that she has had to make so many sacrifices to give us opportunities. So for that, I want to pay her back.
If I were to give in, how would I ever achieve this?
And with my brother being 9 years younger than me, I want to help show him the way to becoming a better man. We continue to strengthen our relationship so I want to make sure I continue to be someone he can look to for advice.
When I’m down, I just think of letting down my brother, and that’s something I can’t ever let happen.
But there is also one other thing that pushes me. The drive to succeed over my opponent.
In football, every snap, every drive, and every game is you against the man lined up across from you. I made the decision from an early age growing up, I would never let anyone manhandle me.
It doesn’t matter how difficult the opponent is or what the scoreboard says, the idea of an opponent succeeding over me is what keeps me grinding when things get tough.
So when you’re looking to set goals for your next season or the next chapter in your life, just remember to focus on what obstacles might prevent you from achieving them too.
And if you ever feel like those obstacles have become too much, just remember who you might be letting down if you give up.