Using External Goals to Optimize Work Outcomes: Extreme Sports Case Study

February 24, 2023



Using External Goals to Optimize Work Outcomes: Extreme Sports Case Study

Using External Goals to Optimize Work Outcomes: Extreme Sports Case Study

Will Ridgway is a Cloud Solutions Architect at Microsoft, an extreme athlete, and a Guinness World Record holder. Graduating from his Masters in Aerospace Engineering just as the pandemic hit, Will launched his work career remotely. Supported by his employer, Will found that extreme sports goals forced him to develop effective training and working patterns. He discovered ways to hold himself accountable and micro steer his activities to optimize all outcomes as well as achieve life/life balance.


[03:24] Right out of university, Will starts trying to optimize his working life.

[04:29] Will and his friends wonder if their pre-pandemic job offers are secure.

[05:21] Feeling disconnected from his university, Will is skeptical about virtual on-boarding.

[07:00] When the second lockdown happens in the UK in November 2020, Will and his friends gather a large group to go work remotely in the Canary Islands.

[08:07] Will finds it hard to balance on-boarding with learning how to work effectively entirely virtually.

[09:48] Before serious work starts, Will wants to benefit from a less intense schedule and surf more.

[11:51] Will decides to set himself a sports related challenge to force him to improve his work pattern.

[13:24] Preparing for an Iron Man race requires 2 to 3 hours of training a day.

[14:12] To improve productivity, Will starts alternating periods of high intensity work and training.

[15:21] The culture of Will’s employer supports open conversation about mental well-being and how to achieve high outputs.

[16:04] His company backs the fundraising that Will connects with each race.

[17:15] Will gets more responsibilities and starts to focus on how to maximize outcomes.

[18:25] Sports training models help Will figure out optimization patterns for his work.

[19:30] WIll develops two ways to stay accountable and on track—a mentor and fundraising goals.

[20:30] A big hairy audacious goal is always the starting point!

[21:22] Will applies the same approach to commitment to his work goals.

[21:49] Setting a Guinness World Record as a new goal!

[23:35] Will and his friend tell everyone about the new goal so they can’t back out.

[24:10] They break the Guinness World Record and raise over £20,000 pounds for charity!

[25:27] Guilt about his non-traditional work routine was key for Will to manage.

[26:37] Work has a daily flow which Will “micro steers”, recalibrating often.

[27:25] The fine-tuning model was developed together with his boss—through experimentation and ongoing conversations.

[29:00] Will and friends are contemplating a new audacious goal!

[31:03] The difference between “willpower” and “way power”

[31:30] Removing layers helps maintain a baseline as well as motivation.

[32:42] Will wants to inspire people by what he has discovered through experimentation in sports as well as committing to something and finding external accountability.

[34:38] IMMEDIATE ACTION TIP: Discover what drives your energy patterns. Work out how to hold yourself accountable. Then map the way to remove steps or hinderances to achieving your goals.


“As long as I would give the output that was required, I could free myself to experience more surfing.”

“I would work intensively for 90 minutes, focus only, everything off, phone away and be very productive. And then I would allow myself to completely disconnect and have a 90-minute recovery from brain activity by doing exercise and physical activity. And then, switch back.”

“Aim big and you will figure a way to do it. You're not too busy. Aim to do a big fundraising, this will hold you accountable to your race because you've raised that much money.”

“Every time I complete one of those crazy extreme challenges, when I cross the line, I tell myself: never again, this was really suffering from A to Z.”