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How to achieve like David Beckham

The documentary Beckham is the #1 program on Netflix at the moment. Audiences are clearly fascinated by his incredible rise to soccer stardom and also the dramatic lows of his career. Love him or loathe him, there’s no denying he’s lived an exceptional life. What lessons for success can we take from David Beckham? 

‘Dream Big, Be Unrealistic’

These words are lyrics from rapper Jay Z that Beckham has tattooed on his right hand. Beckham has said that from a young age all he wanted to do was be a footballer. He had big childhood dreams that most would have called unrealistic because so few people manage to achieve them… and yet he did.

Looking back, he has reflected on what he’s achieved and what success looks like to him. Beckham told M2 here that his number one priority and achievement are his family and added “personally I measure success on whether I’ve had a good time: have I had fun? Have I reached the goals that I wanted to reach when I was eight or nine years old? I wanted to captain my country, I wanted to represent my country in a World Cup, I wanted to win the FA Cup. And luckily, I’ve achieved all those dreams.”

Dreaming big gives you the freedom to tap into your deepest desires and acknowledge your intention to achieve them. If you immediately shut down a goal because it’s too unrealistic, then you definitely won’t achieve it. By dreaming big you open your mind up to incredible possibilities. However, achieving big goals takes a huge amount of hard work, consistency and luck. 

Hard work 

The Beckham documentary highlights the hard work that he put into becoming an elite soccer player. Spurred on by his Dad, Beckham was obsessive about practicing and perfecting his soccer skills as a child. Later when he joined Manchester United, he took this work ethic even further, as reported here in Football news site 90min – “Beckham was proof that hard work, dedication and, above all, practice could produce a world class footballer. He was not a naturally gifted athlete or outstandingly skilful, yet his fitness and work ethic were second to none. The stories of him hanging a tyre over the corner of the goal after team sessions so he could stay behind and practice free-kicks are legendary.”

If your dreams are big then the work you need to put into achieving them will also need to be big. Which sounds obvious, but people tend to underestimate just how much effort it takes to achieve their goals.


The good news is that this effort can be broken down into daily habits. As James Clear details in ‘Atomic Habits’, “Success is the product of daily habits not once-in-a-lifetime transformation.” Essentially, the behaviours you repeat will create your outcomes. Beckham’s tireless practicing of free kicks resulted in him achieving the Premier League record for most free kick goals, which he holds to this day. As Clear states “if you want to predict where you’ll end up in life, all you have to do is follow the curve of tiny gains or tiny losses and see how your daily choices will compound 10 or 20 years down the line.”

Take your big goals and then break them down into the habits and actions you need to consistently be taking day-to-day to achieve your aim. What habits do you have now that are going against your overall objective? What habits can you establish so that you’re on the path to achieving your goals?


There were low points in David Beckham’s career that many footballers wouldn’t have been able to overcome. The most infamous of which was during the 1998 World Cub. After being fouled on a contest by defender Diego Simeone, Beckham flicked his leg out, tripping the Argentine player in the process and received a controversial red card as a result. England went on to lose the game and the backlash for Beckham was intense. 

The press vilified him with headings, like The Daily Mirror describing the team as “10 Heroic Lions, One Stupid Boy”. Many in the general public also treated Beckham poorly, abusing him when he was out in public and some even burned effigies of his likeness. In an Adidas commercial from 2008, Beckham described the uproar after the World Cup: “What went on in my life and in my family’s life after that, I think, was very tough. It was probably the toughest moment in my career. I was having death threats. I never felt safe for 3½ years. People used to turn round saying: ‘You’ve let your country down and you’ve let your family down, so how does that feel?’ I don’t think I have ever felt as alone as a person and as a footballer.”

Somehow Beckham didn’t give up on football and overall he ended up having a remarkable career in which he won six Premier League titles, two FA Cups, one European Cup, one Intercontinental Cup and one FA Youth Cup in the space of twelve years. Where does his resilience come from? When asked in the Beckham documentary how he coped with the abuse of the entire country after the 1998 men’s football world cup, Beckham responded “I was able to handle being abused by the fans […] because of the way my dad had been to me.”. Growing up Beckham’s father Ted would shout at him and often brought Beckham to tears. 

Beckham also said he was scared of his father’s feedback and felt compelled to practise for hours every day. However the incident nearly broke him. “I wasn’t eating, I wasn’t sleeping. I was a mess. I didn’t know what to do,” he said. Beckham added that his wife Victoria was his shining light in those dark days. He also had something to prove. Early in life it was trying to impress his dad and later he felt spurred on to show the English general public how wrong they had been to dismiss and belittle him.

Most people won’t ever have to deal with the scale of abuse that David Beckham did (thank goodness), but we all face many tests of our resilience. From toxic bosses, to illness or the death of a loved one, it is through the toughest times that we most need to tap into our resilience. Being resilient requires us to grow from our hardships and failures, be adaptable to change and take ownership and control of our emotions and actions. 

If you want to achieve greater success in your life then you need to be ambitious, hard working, consistent and resilient – just like David Beckham. The choice is yours.