Case study, Podcast

How to DREAM Big and achieve your goals and dreams with Ian Hacon | EP#142

 August 13, 2018

By  Mikael Eriksson

​​​​How to DREAM Big and achieve your goals and dreams with Ian Hacon | EP#142

Ian Hacon is an age-group triathlete and CEO turned energy coach and business owner with the dream to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona. To do so, he needs to shave more than two hours from his current best Ironman time (12:18). In this case study, he explains how he will accomplish this using a system he calls DREAM.

Discuss this episode!

  • Let's discuss this episode and the topic in general. Post any comments or questions in the comments at the bottom of the shownotes. Join the discussion here!

In this Episode you'll learn about:

  • Dream it - painting the canvas.
  • Routines - including the importance of sleep.
  • Effort - nobody said it would be easy.
  • Accountability - the importance of having a coach and a peer group.
  • Mindset - the difference of having a growth versus a fixed mindset. 

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About Ian Hacon

4:54 -

  • I come from the East Coast of the UK in a place called Gorlestone, south of Great Yarmouth. 
    • I live on the coast so I have sandy beaches as part of my training environment, and countryside inland. 
  • I've been doing triathlons for about 11 years now. 
    • I started off wanting to get fit, starting just before my 39th birthday. 
  • I started with a couch to 5K, then did the London marathon a year later, then quickly found triathlon. 
  • I've done 4-5 long distance triathlons - depending on if you count the Powerman World Duathlon Championships. 
  • I have loved every minute of it, I'm addicted to the sport.
  • The journey of self discovery that came with it has been great, in terms of physical fitness.
    • I started to think about how things like nutrition were affecting me at work, as well as my sports performance. 
  • I was a CEO when I started triathlon, I'm originally a chartered accountant. 
    • I've owned a couple of businesses and was CEO of a local leisure business. 
    • People noticed I had more energy every day.
  • I then started to invest in my mental fitness and wellbeing too. 
    • I really went on a journey with this, and that's what drove my career change to become an energy coach.
    • I formed my company Yellow Brick Road about 4.5 years ago. 
    • I've been helping other people unlock their energy ever since. 
  • I'm married and I have 3 daughters. 
    • 2 grown up girls from a previous relationship, and an 11-year-old with my current partner. 
    • I've got the challenge of trying to put in the training hours and also being a father and a husband, which I know is a big challenge for many other triathletes. 
  • My work is full time, but I try and adopt the approach of striking the right balance between work and training as that's what I'm working on with my clients. 
    • I've got enough income to pay the bills and sustain my lifestyle from my long term contracts so I pretty much do a normal working week. 

Ian's triathlon goals

9:26 -

  • ​My TedX talk that I did focused on my dream to get to Kona. 
    • The theme was how to dream big. 

Ian's TEDx Talk

  • The significance of my particular dream to get to Kona is that I'm not a podium finisher.
    • I'm not doing 2 hour Olympic races and finishing Ironmans in 10-10.5 hours. 
    • My best Iron distance time (in a Challenge event) is 12:18. 
    • I'm nowhere near where you would say there's likelihood of me qualifying without a seismic shift in performance.
  • I'm currently in the 45-49 age group, but step up to 50-54 next year.
  •  There are two reasons I have decided to try and qualify next year:
    • 1) Stepping up an age group will maybe give me a few more minutes in terms of qualifying time. 
    • 2) The journey of being in my 50th year - being able to celebrate that fact.
  • The acronym I follow for this journey is D.R.E.A.M

D stands for 'Dream it'

11:40 -

  • The D in DREAM stands for 'dream it'. 
  • Ultimately it's about articulating that plan properly.
  • We all have lots of dreams, but that's often as far as they get. 
  • The Dream it part is about articulating the dream in much more detail. 
    • Painting every detail on the canvas.
  • Thinking about how and what we need to do to get there before we take any action.
    • What are the key milestones and things we need to overcome. 
    • What are likely to be the challenges. 
  • In the TedX talk I talk about someone who has climbed all seven summits - the highest peak in each of the 7 continents. 
    • What struck me about this man was his attention to detail on things that could go wrong. 
    • In exploring and mountaineering it's life and death. 
    • I took a lot from him about planning for things that can go wrong. 
  • You start to think like that, planning all detail such as what will my qualifying race be, how fast do I need to be, what do I need to be at various different markers. 
    • You set mini goals around the goals. 
    • And then you start to think about what could go wrong and planning for that. 
      • E.g. planning more than one qualifying race to give me more chances. 
  • The daily visualisation I do is me crossing the line at Kona, with a wreath around my neck and the finish line time stamped at the top. 
    • However I'm setting goals specifically for my qualifying race because I'm not expecting to be challenging for any podium places at Kona. 
    • The time is not as important in Kona, I want to enjoy the experience. 
    • The key is to get around about 10 hours in a qualifying race as that's what I think I'll need. 
  • I'm pretty certain I'm going to book Copenhagen as my qualifying race, which is a fast, flat course, so that'll need to be 10 hours. 
  • I think someone famously said a dream is a goal without a plan.
    • That's the point! The 'dream it' part is about the plan.
    • It bridges the gap between the dream and an actual way to get there.
    • This is why I can think I can qualify even though I'm maybe not as physiologically fit as other competitors. 
  • My goal is to get there in my 50th year, but actually if I need to go a year longer I'm okay with that. 
    • I'm okay with stretching the dream as long as I'm still on target to get the dream. 

R stands for 'Routines'

17:40 - 

  • The R in DREAM stands for 'routines'.
  • Visualisation is very important to me everyday.
  • My business goal is to energise 10 million people, and we have a very scalable product so I think we can do that. 
  • When I sit down every morning, I draw the picture of me crossing the finish line at Kona.
    • I also, write down 'energise 10 million people' and draw lots of dots to represent all the people. 
    • Visualisation is a routine I've got every day. 
  • Arianna Huffington used the same technique to get through her school years and pass enough exams to go to Oxford. 
    • Her mother actually took her to Oxford and had her walk the streets and halls so she could feel what it felt like to be there, and go home and really believe it. 
  • The other side of this is playing into what I do with clients everyday - managing your energy. 
  • Within routines, I'm not talking about the stuff you do for the actual goal itself, I'm talking about the things around that. 
    • If we don't look after ourselves, we won't meet the goals.
    • The is particularly important for athletes - if we're not sleeping well, eating right and looking after our mental wellbeing, we will burn out. 
  • I meditate at least once a day, and I'm obsessive about getting enough sleep. 
    • I will interchange my morning training sessions based on my sleep pattern. 
      • It's not that I won't do a session, but I maybe won't do it first thing or do 2 in the morning if I don't feel fully rested.
  • In terms of sleep, for me ​I need 8 hours. 
    • All the science suggests we all need at least 7 hours, if not 8, and athletes generally need more.
    • Unfortunately, as a society we don't value sleep. 
    • Out of all the things I talk to clients about from an energy management perspective, I now treat sleep as the fundamental building block to everything. 
    • If you're not sleeping, nothing else can happen.

E stands for 'Effort'

21:09 - 

  • E in DREAM stands for 'effort'.
  • You can't expect to achieve great things if you're not willing to put in great effort.
    • If you're not prepared to do what's required of you, assuming you're fit and well enough to do so, you won't get anywhere. 
  • If you know you're ill obviously that's a different matter. 
  • In the talk I refer to Michael Phelps and how he worked every day for 5 straight years in the run up to the Beijing Olympics. 
    • He was young at the time, so I'm not suggesting someone my age can put in that kind of effort on a daily basis for 5 years without a break. 
    • But it's a good story of the importance of effort - he knew that by going in and doing more than anybody else, he was going to be better than anybody else. 
    • I try and think of Michael Phelps when my motivation wanes.
      • Especially in the pool, because swimming is my weakest discipline! 
  • If you've done visualisation in the morning before you start the day, this can help feed the effort.
    • You've pre-conditioned yourself to see each workout as part of a bigger picture. 
  • The notion of 'eating a frog':
    • If one of your daily tasks is to eat a live frog, there's no better time to do it than right now because it's not going to get any easier. 
    • You might as well just get on with it and get it done. 
    • It then clears you mentally for all the other tasks at hand, and you feel a load lifted once it's done. 
  • I actually have Haribo frogs in my office so if I do a great session I reward myself with a Haribo frog. 
    • Making the connection with a reward: you've eaten a frog so you can have a sweet. 

A stands for 'Accountability'

26:19  - 

  • A in DREAM stands for 'accountability'. 
  • This is about making sure you're accountable to someone for whatever your goal is.
    • With a coach and athlete it's an obvious link. 
    • If you look through all successful people in history you'll find someone stood behind them.
      • For example: Martin Luther King was mentored by Ghandi. When Richard Branson started Virgin Airlines he got a lot of advice from Freddie Laker. Mark Zuckerberg was actually mentored by Steve Jobs for much of his early career. 
      • They had somebody to go to and somebody to hold them to account. 
  • Not everyone can afford a coach, but they can find a way to be accountable to someone. 
    • It could be a family member that could be holding you to account. 
  • Peer groups are good for this as well, in our training and coaching we use this as much as anything else. 
    • I just had a conversation with a client this morning about what he was going to do, and I got him to share it with the 5 other people in his group. 
    • He's far more likely to do this now because he's accountable to others. 
  • Some people are quite self accountable but most people aren't.
  • In terms of my accountability I have two JB's - one in triathlon and one in work. 
    • My triathlon coach Joe Beer who has been in and around the triathlon scene for many years.
      • I had a call with him at midday, which I have every Monday.
      • We work my training programme fluidly, we do each week at the start of the week based on the previous week. 
      • We constantly iterate the programme which works well for me, I don't need to know what I'm doing weeks in advance. 
      • I've got an Iron distance event next week so we had a big conversation about race prep. 
      • I'm a naturally disorganised person so Joe holds me to account to actually write a detailed race plan. 
      • I may have possibly left these to chance had I not been accountable to Joe. 
    • In my business life there's another JB - John Burrows, who is my business coach. 
      • He similarly holds me to account with what I'm doing for my business. 

M stands for 'Mindset'

29:50 - 

  • This one is probably the most fundamental for me, particularly for overcoming set backs. 
  • Looking at the work of people like Carol Dweck, an American psychologist who has talked about growth mindset a lot. 
    • She talks about the key differences between a positive mindset and a negative mindset. 
    • She drew on the reference of the Borg versus McEnroe battle (tennis). 
      • Describing John McEnroe as the typical fixed mindset person back in that day. 
      • His behaviour around a line call was all about the fact he was a precocious talent and therefore it couldn't be his fault that he made the mistake - it must have been out. 
    • A lot of that is the way we're spoken to as children, and a lot of skills use growth mindset.
    • Now there's a lot of work ensuring people are rewarded in the right way, for the effort they've put in.
      • My eleven year old has my aptitude for maths but I try not to tell her she's a genius at it, I try and tell her she's put a lot of effort in. 
  • We can use techniques and tools to nurture growth mindset and overcome setbacks.
    • Looking at something that went wrong and establishing what you can do about it.
    • E.g. I was chatting with Joe (my coach) this morning:
      • I did a full dress rehearsal ride this weekend in preparation for my race next weekend - not as far though, around 2 hours. 
      • I came back and I tried to bump up a curb outside my house and completely wiped out.
      • I caused a bit of damage to the carbon flaring on the bit, bruised my backside and my arm, a little bit of scraping. 
      • I picked myself up, and yes I was annoyed for a bit but the fall reminded me about the importance of attention and focus on the bike. 
      • My race next weekend is a through the night race - the Midnight Man - so it was a good time to be reminded of this. 
  • Making sure you own a situation can help with mindset.
    • In the moment, your emotional brain takes over and it's easy to get upset with things or experience a fight/flight/freeze response. 
    • When you have the cold light of day after, it's helpful to sit and think about a situation and be honest about what you did or could do to improve the situation.
    • This is particularly important when things go wrong. 
  • A few years ago I had a serious cycle crash, I'd just finished a 100 mile ride and took a detour to the sea front near Great Yarmouth.
    • There were lots of tourists around and I got hit by a car. 
    • It wasn't my fault, I was in a cycle lane and the driver came across the lane to get into a car park. 
    • I reflected on the situation and thought:
      • a) I shouldn't have been there, it was a bad place to be. 
      • b) It was getting towards the end of the day, dusky, and I had no lights on. 
      • c) I wasn't wearing reflective clothing.
    • So yes, I could have blamed everything on the driver, but I needed to reflect on the situation. 

Benefits of the DREAM strategy

36:20 - 

  • For me it's about a holistic approach so you have the best chance of success but you also enjoy it.
  • One of my clients asked me if I enjoyed racing, and I thought 'what would be the point if you don't enjoy it?'
    • I am the guy that's out on the course and always smiling. 
  • You see so many endurance sports people who are so obsessed with it they're not even enjoying it anymore. 
    • They're just singularly obsessed on effort - doing more than everybody else. 
    • That's a key component but they haven't got everything else around it. 
  • This approach makes you a more rounded athlete, makes you enjoy the experience and I think gives you a better chance of success.  

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Practical tips for each part of DREAM

37:52 - 

  • Dream it
    • Draw the picture of your goals, and include all the detail.
    • It is a graphical illustration of your goal broken down. 
    • Draw it on a big sheet of paper and stick it on the wall, and you can then tweak and change it. 
    • Even using post it notes so you can keep adapting the goal. 
    • If you've got specific goals about other distances, or each discipline, include these. 
    • What are the goals to get there - do you need to get a bike? Do you need to lose some weight? Do you need to join a local club. 
    • The more you can segment it down in the dream the closer you'll get to an actionable plan.
  • Routines
    • Visualisation and energy management are key.
    • If you've got something like a Garmin Fenix 5 you've got the tracker already, but start holding yourself accountable for your sleep. 
    • If you haven't got a device that tracks sleep, you can have a pen and paper beside the bed. 
      • Note the number of hours and the quality of sleep you had. 
    • The more you hold yourself accountable to sleep the more you'll change your habit and structure of sleep. 
  • Effort
    • Get out there and get it done.
    • Have Michael Phelps on your shoulder! 
    • A great way to get the effort done is partnering. 
    • If you've got one buddy you can commit to it'll make it more likely you get the early morning sessions done than if there's 5-6 of you going out. 
  • Accountability 
    • Get a coach if you can afford one. 
    • If you can't, try and find a local group to train with. 
  • Mindset 
    • Spending time on honest but constructive self-critique when things go wrong.
    • Spend time thinking about what you can do differently to improve things next time. 
    • Try and not let the past affect future performance. 

Rapid fire questions

43:02 - 

  • What is your favourite book, blog or resource related to triathlon?
  • What's a personal habit that has helped you achieve success?
    • Visualisation. I use it in more than one area of my life and it is the one daily habit that I always do and it always makes a difference. 
  • What do you wish you had known or done differently at some point in your journey?
    • I wish I'd have known the 80/20 rule a long time ago. I spent the first few years going out with too many high effort sessions at too high pace and cit aused lots of niggling injuries. I also didn't train effectively. 

Key takeaways

  • Dream stands for:
    • Dream it - planning the goals out carefully.
    • Routines - including things like sleep.
    • Effort - you need to do some hard work. 
    • Accountability - having a coach or a peer group. 
    • Mindset - adopting a growth mindset. 

Links, resources and contact

Links and resources mentioned

    Connect with Ian Hacon

    Connect with host Mikael Eriksson


    Hi! I'm your host Mikael,

    I am a full-time triathlon coach and an ambitious age-group triathlete. My goal is podium at the Finnish national championships within the next few years.

    I first started the website Scientific Triathlon in autumn 2015 as a passion project to share my learnings with a larger triathlon audience. Later on, in early 2017 I started the podcast That Triathlon Show. 

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    Mikael Eriksson

    I am a full-time triathlon coach, founder of Scientific Triathlon, and host of the top-rated podcast That Triathlon Show. I am from Finland but live in Lisbon, Portugal.

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