Ken Jennings is a quiz show legend. A stratospheric 74 time Jeopardy! Champion, Jennings re-defined the term “smart” as he lay waste to about 150 other contestants over almost 6 months along his path to dominance.
In the process, Jennings racked up over 2.5 million in prize money (and then later another million when he beat other trivia savants Brad Rutter and James Holzhauer. Over that span of time, Jennings had single-handedly boosted Jeopardy’s ratings by 22% and has become a household name – soon to be even more “household” as he will be the interim host of Jeopardy! after the recent passing of Alex Trebek.
But all of this stardom was almost for not.
The date was June 2nd, 2004 and it very nearly became a day that would have relegated Ken Jennings to obscurity – a one-hit-wonder on a show that has had thousands of other one shot contestants.
His opponents were returning champion Jerry Harvey, who had run roughshod over his opponents in the previous two days, amassing $70,000 in prize money and Julia Lazerus, a confident newcomer.
First time contestant Ken Jennings was nervous.. His goal? “It would be great to just win one game” once quipped in an interview. Despite the jitters, Ken had actually accrued quite a lead on his 2 competitors in the first round.. Then part way through double jeopardy, Julia hit her stride.
Going into final Jeopardy, Ken’s lead was a slim $1400. In the final, he simply answered with a last name (the category was the 2000 Olympics and the answer was “Marion Jones”). Trebek had to pause before greenlighting his answer. The gamble paid off, Jennings would take the game and rest as they say, is history.
So what does this have to do with you and your fitness and fat loss goals?
There are some striking lessons to be learned from Ken Jennings about our health, taking control of our situations, building momentum and employing the right strategies.
Being Aggressive in Your Decisions
Just as Ken put it all out there, we too must be decisive about our healthy path. Letting go of any resistance: Insecurity, uncertainty, tentativeness, apathy and waffling. Yes, Ken is smart – VERY smart, but intelligence isn’t enough to create this kind of leverage on its own. He had to stay focused, relaxed and not stress out when things got tense. In the same vain, it isn’t enough for us to be smart, have good self-awareness or pockets full of grit. It takes consistent, often forceful energy to manage dips, stay resilient and keep optimal health top of mind.
Momentum Trumps Motivation
I’m quite certain the most of the contestants who have graced the studio of Jeopardy! were highly motivated. In fact I’m willing to bet that Ken Jennings isn’t smarter than all of the close-to 150 other contestants he faced. What Ken did do is build on his successes. Every subsequent right answer gave him more fuel, more confidence. He was able to get into zones and “flow” his way to crazy runs. He knew that lapses in focus could be costly and that even 2-3 minutes of losing his concentration could dethrone him.
The Right Strategies:
While at first glance Ken Jennings seems like a robot in human form – A man on autopilot who just eats answers as they come. And yes, Jennings is absolutely a hyper-intelligent dude. But his compounding confidence and aggressive style helped him uncover 71% of the Daily Doubles – of which he bet sizeable sums – averaging over $5000 per game in doubles cash. He would answer an overwhelming 83% of these correctly – distancing himself from his competitors.
When He Did Lose, He Did Everything Right
The day finally came where Ken Jennings lost. He had his strategy in place and he was mowing down questions as usual. As usual he uncovered both Daily Doubles but uncharacteristically got both of them wrong – playing catch-up in the later stages. In final Jeopardy, he answered incorrectly and Nancy Zerg did not. It was over. Jennings lost despite answering 29 questions correctly to Zerg’s 10.
What To Take Home
Small wins – one after another after another. Keep collecting process victories. This may be an earlier wake-up to get a workout in or an extra trip to the produce store. It might be walking 2000 more steps each day.
Momentum: Use the small wins to build an upswing of momentum.
Battle adversity: While Jennings didn’t have much in the way of trouble once he got rolling, he overcame nerves/doubts and other jitters in the opening round. You will fail. You will have moments of doubt. Do it anyway.
You Win or You Learn:
Those battles that you don’t win contain valuable learning experiences. Ken did everything right in his final game but came up on the short end of the stick. You won’t always get the result you want to see but rest assured your work is never wasted.