03.15.2021

Towards the Gold

An Olympian’s quest using OKRs.

Samyr Laine, Olympian, Triple jump

Samyr Laine is a multidimensional success story. He’s an author, philanthropist, and graduate of Harvard University and Georgetown University Law Center. He’s an Ivy League record holder for the triple jump, an NCAA All-American, and an Olympian. Currently, he’s the Vice President of Good Goods, the consumer product division of Westbrook Inc. - a multimedia, entertainment company founded by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith

On–and now off the track–Laine is always pushing himself for greater - competing with yesterday’s version of himself. Long before his formal introduction to the Objectives and Key Results framework (OKRs) through Measure What Matters, he was goal-oriented, committed to results, and a constant tracker of his progress. He says he is a “goal setter by nature.”

Inspired by the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, he began to work strategically and follow a well-thought-out plan to realize his Olympic dreams. For this reason, goal setting for Laine began early on. He learned that “meticulously charting a course” toward where he wanted to go was going to be the best path forward for him.

Charting the Course

Laine proved to be a star in the classroom first, so his decision to attend Harvard University was “wholly unrelated to athletics.” But in track and field he started a new event - the triple jump, in his freshman year. His first goal was to increase his jump from 45 to 50 feet.

“I was able in college to understand where I was, where I wanted to go, and as an athlete and a triple jumper, what I had to do to get there,” he said. “For me, athletics are good because you can actually measure what matters - particularly in a sport like track and field and an event like the triple jump where every centimeter literally mattered.”

To close the five-foot gap between his start and his vision, Laine reverse-engineered a strategy and built out measurable action items for increasing speed and strength.

“I was able to chart the course from a video analysis and work with my coach to say - here’s my goal,” he recalled. “What I was doing was setting OKRs.”

Laine went on to become an All-American at the NCAA Championships and set the Ivy League record at Harvard, and went on to compete in six World Championships, two Pan American Games, and the 2012 Olympic Games.

From a World Stage to Westbrook

Laine now works on the executive team for Westbrook Inc. - a dynamic, new multimedia company using OKRs to empower artists, entertain through movies and TV, and connect and impact lives through storytelling.

A natural goal setter, Laine quickly appreciated the foundation being laid at Westbrook and the young team’s commitment to implementing the objectives and key results framework.

Although the stakes are different for an athlete than a VP, after reading Measure What Matters, Laine recognizes that the mindset and method for leveraging goals is largely the same.

“I was able to lean on goal setting and deliberate practice so much as an individual athlete that I really have a deep appreciation and understanding of how powerful it is,” Laine said. “ I could teach it in a way that helps people grasp why it matters, why it’s important, the impact it has, or the impact that not setting goals has on an individual or an organization.”

When onboarding OKRs, especially in the case of new teams and organizations, Laine emphasizes that executive buy-in is a must-have. Gila Jones, Westbrook’s COO, lead the charge toward using the OKRs.

“We also have buy-in from the top-down,” Laine said - noting that the president, CEO, founders, and division president all support objectives and key results. “Every team member has bought into the value of OKRs - that is extremely powerful,” he said.

Once a team or organization has chosen to implement OKR, the next step is commitment which can be challenging when it’s in the form of a new practice or habit.

“In a professional setting, it’s a new behavior for people,” he said. “It does take effort. We are still getting to the place where people lean on their OKRs to make decisions, guide how they prioritize their time, and to dictate what they say no to,” said Laine.

Samyr Laine, Olympian, Westbrook media

Photos courtesy of Samyr Laine

Olympic-Level OKR Tips

Goals don’t have to just be organizational. Samyr Laine has used the process of goal-setting to excel individually on and off the track and as part of a team, noting that it requires both effort, consistency, and a little discomfort at times.

As we face a new year, with new intentions and personal, professional, and organizational goals, Laine believes it’s important to keep the following principles in mind.

✓ “It’s a marathon, not a sprint - and I’m someone who prefers sprinting.”

✓ “Make adjustments - it’s not as rigid as you think it needs to be.”

✓ “Be kind to yourself.”

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