In seventh grade, Devon Kennard won the Student Athlete of the Week award, and he was featured in a prescient article in his school newspaper outlining his life plan to play football at the University of Southern California, get his master's degree and then get drafted into the NFL, just like his father had.
All of those things, of course, happened. He is now a starting linebacker on the New York Giants. But to make them happen, Kennard tells CNBC Make It that he had to break down his dream into small, achievable steps. He had to use stretch goals.
"A stretch goal is a goal that is going to make you uncomfortable but, at the same time, it's a goal that is attainable," he says. "Whatever career you're in, whatever you're trying to accomplish in your life, set the stretch goals and actually have a plan to achieve it."
Whether they were dietary restrictions, work out expectations or mental practices, Kennard got into the habit of writing down his goals and posting them on his bathroom door.
That's something he still does to this day, because he is not done growing. "I'm a firm believer in that you're either getting better or you're getting worse. You never stay the same," he says. Two veteran teammates of his, Jameel McClain and Jon Beason, shared this insight with Kennard during his rookie season. "Never get comfortable," they told him.
As soon as you start to feel relaxed in the locker room, you're going to decline. "You can't get comfortable in this profession," Kennard says.
That's echoed in what he says is his primary goal right now, which is to improve as a player. He wants his next season in the NFL to statistically be his best.
And to do that, he has established five manageable stretch goals.
The first, he says, is to simply strive to be better every day than he was the day before. The next is to eat healthy and avoid alcohol. The third is to bring energy and enthusiasm every day both on and off the field. The fourth is to be smart financially. Only recently did he decide to splurge on a new Range Rover (though he still drives his 2005 Kia Sorento from high school when he is back home in Phoenix). And his final goal is to stay focused on his faith.
The more you are trying to accomplish, the harder it becomes, says Kennard. That's why he breaks it down this way.
And in order to follow through and fulfill everything he expects of himself, he narrows his focus even further, in accordance with the principle: ACE.
Attitude, concentration and effort, are the three things he believes you can really control. And that applies to anyone.
"You can't control who your boss is today, or who he is going to be tomorrow," he says. "You can't control the coworker that you hate... But what you can control is what you're going to bring to the table every day no matter."
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Video by Richard Washington