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BBH Feature – Accidental Success: Lessons from a Swimmer Who Accidentally Broke a World Record

The World Record That Was ACCIDENTALLY Broken

World records are broke all the time, so just hearing that one was broken isn’t that attention-grabbing.

But the world record that I am about to tell you about is newsworthy and “attention-worthy”, because of one, incredible fact: it was broken accidentally!

Listen to what happened from

“WHEN Katie Ledecky peeled off her goggles and saw the clock she started laughing. 

“She had no idea she’d just set a world record at the Swimming World Championships in Kazan, Russia.

“The American, who famously won the women’s 800m gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in London as a 15-year-old, was stunned by the cheers and applause that showered her as she stared at the flashing green time on the big screen.

“Bewildered by the noise of American swimmers shouting her name from the pool deck, the 18-year-old did a double take at the screen, looked back at her teammates and casually shrugged her shoulders as a mischievous teenage grin stretched across her face.”

Katie has broke records before, but she’s never done it by accident!

You need to realize why this is so amazing. Katie wasn’t even trying to swim fast!

In fact, her coach,  Bruce Gemmell, told her to act like this race was a warm up for the final race that she was competing in that Wednesday morning.

And get this, not only did Katie break a world record – accidentally – but she finished the race 28.81 seconds ahead of her closest competitor!


The Secret of How to Succeed at Something without Even Trying

Most people have trouble succeeding at this level when they are trying with all their might.

So that leads us to an interesting question.

How do you succeed like this without even trying?

I think I might have an answer.

Listen to what she told The Washington Post

“It’s probably one of the coolest world records I’ve broken. Each one is really unique, but just sort of how relaxed I was and how calm. I think breaking that record is just testament to the work I’ve put in and the shape I’m in right now.

Did you notice the part I bolded?

The secret to “accidental success” is preparation.

To key to accidentally breaking a world record, or becoming an “overnight success”, are all those days that come before your success.


To Accidentally Succeed Tomorrow, You Must Prepare Today

We all want to succeed effortlessly, but how many of us are willing to put in all the work it takes today, so that in the future success can come “effortlessly”?

As Gary Ryan Blair said, “Every person who has ever been legitimately successful has formed the habit of doing things that others don’t like to do.”

In a book called Inventors at Work: Interviews with 16 Notable American Inventors by Kenneth A Brown, he shares a story that reveals the crazy amount of work that success really takes, behind the scenes work – work that no one ever sees.

Brown reveals this through a story that Nat Wyeth, engineer and inventor, told this about his brother, artist Andrew Wyeth

“Andy did a picture of Lafayette’s quarters near Chadds Ford, Pa., with a sycamore tree behind the building. When I first saw the painting, he wasn’t finished with it. He showed me a lot of drawings of the trunk and the sycamore’s gnarled roots, and I said, ‘Where’s all that in the picture?’

“‘It’s not in the picture, Nat,’ he said.

“‘For me to get what I want in the part of the tree that’s showing, I’ve got to know thoroughly how it is anchored in back of the house.’

“I find that remarkable. He could draw the tree above the house with such authenticity because he knew exactly how the thing was in the ground.”

Preparation is the anchor for your future success!

You see, it’s not the immediate, surface things that everyone can see, which are the things that really bring you success.

It’s those things that are under the surface, which will open the door to success when you least expect it.

Preparation is the thing that differentiates those who “make it look easy” and those who make it look agonizing and difficult.

In Flight Plan: The Real Secret of Success, Brian Tracy says this…

“Preparation is the mark of a professional. Preparation is also the mark of a successful person in any field. As you move upward in an occupation, you will find that the top people spend far more time in preparation than the average person does. The top 10 percent in any field are always more thoroughly prepared in every detail than those who struggle for a living in the same occupation.

The 10% who make it look easy are more thoroughly prepared for their moment to shine than the other 90%.

So what do you have to prepare for success in your business or just your life in general?

I’ve three ideas for you…

3 Ways to Prepare for “Accidental Success”

Let’s use the three basic things that all athletes need to do to prepare to win as our template for preparing for success…

1. Practice

Any area you want to get better in is going to take practice. Choose an area that you want to become better in and focus on doing the things that you’ll need to do in order to do this the best.

Zintro created a great infographic that shows just how important this deliberate type of practice is and what the difference is between this kind of practice and mindless repetition...

10,000 hours to to become an expert

Let’s use selling as an example. If you want to become better at selling, then you are going to have to practice the different parts of the selling process.

You might need to practice things like: what how you will counter objections, or practice cold-calling, etc. 

2. Workout

To become more successful you’re going to need new to develop “muscles”. If you want to grow any muscle, then you must purposely choose to put that muscle through at least some level of stress, strain, or resistance. 

Let’s use selling as an example again. If you want to become better at dealing with objections, then you are going to need to figure out ways to workout those “muscles” that you need handle objections. Those “muscles” might be: the ability to not be bothered by rejection, the ability to think on your toes, etc.

That means you can’t just practice handling objections, but you need to actually begin to put yourself in small situations where you can use those muscles that you will need to do what you’ve been practicing.

In this short video Jeffrey GitomerThe New York Times best-selling of The Sales Bible, gives some great areas that you should workout if you want to become better at sales…

3. Get in the Game

You finally have to get out there and apply it all in real life situations. It’s only by winning and losing (and losing some more) that you’ll ever get to the place where you one day can “accidentally succeed.”

Again, if we use handling objections as an example, then you need to practice, workout those muscles that you need to handle objections, and then actually get out there in selling situations to implement the muscles you’ve developed and the practice you’ve done.

As Mark Hunter aka “The Sales Hunter” says, “Success is not a constant…you have to live it and sell it each and every day.”

It takes that day in and day out work to truly achieve any success you hope to achieve.

If you really want to succeed effortlessly, then you must be willing to put in all the work it takes today, so that in the future success can come “effortlessly”.

Because I really do believe that success can happen in a moment.

It can happen “overnight”.

It can happen “accidentally”.

But it only happens overnight or accidentally, when you put in lots of time and hard work beforehand. 

That’s the secret of how Katie Ledecky “accidentally” broke a world’s record.

I bet she never imagined something like that could happen.

But she put in the all the preparation and it did.

I wonder what records you could break in the area you hope to succeed, if you’re willing to do the same?

Let me leave you with this famous quote that Samuel Goldwyn, the founder of the film studio MGM, once said…

the harder i work, the luckier i get

“The harder I work, the luckier I get.” – Samuel Goldwyn
Image from


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About Scott Aughtmon (1872 Articles)
I’m author of the book 51 Content Marketing Hacks. I am also a regular contributor to and I am the person behind the popular infographic 21 Types of Content We Crave. I’m a business strategist, consultant, content creation specialist, and speaker. I’ve been studying effective marketing and business methods (both online and offline) since 1999. ===> If you would like to see ways that we could work together, then please click here to learn more.