The eyes of the world are now upon some of the very best athletes our countries have to offer. These Olympians have spent their lives diligently training to deliver a perfect performance. Elite athletes have an inherent drive for success, which pushes them to the limits of human possibility as they prepare, train, and become the very best. The most successful athletes also know how to apply these athletic lessons to all aspects of their lives. When I signed up to complete in iron-distance triathlons, I never thought I’d learn lessons on the race course that would pay off in the boardroom. Here's a few:
Have the Courage to Try
At first, I didn’t want to be a triathlete. I didn’t want to learn how to swim, and more importantly, I was afraid of failure. After much soul searching and persuasion, I agreed to try. I’ve since completed three Ironman races, four marathons, numerous other multi-sport races, I’ve lost 50 pounds, I’ve gained many wonderful friends, and I’ve had more fun that imaginable. In the office, we’re often scared. We’re scared to learn a new skill, we’re scared to take a new job, we’re scared to switch departments, we’re scared to give a presentation. Step out of your comfort zone, take a chance, and have the courage to try. You may be surprised by the results.
Anything is Possible
Not only did I not know how to swim, but I had sustained an injury five years earlier that left doctors telling me I’d never run again. In the course of training for my first two Ironman races, my injury list included torn ligaments, torn achilles, a stress fracture, a torn rotator cuff, and a host of knee injuries. Quitting was considered by many to be my only option. However, I choose to believe in the impossible, and I believe that each and every day, God imparts favor and delivers miracles. Take the word “can’t” out of your vocabulary - you get to define success in athletics, in the office, and in life. Only you get to define what’s possible, and you get to go after it. Dream big, aim high, execute, and believe.
Life’s A Team Sport
If any sport would qualify as an individual sport, I would think triathlon is a good bet. One person swims, that same person cycles, and that same person runs. I quickly learned that’s not the case. To properly train, I needed a coach. To make it fun, I trained with a team. To fuel my body, I needed a nutritionist. To address my injuries, I needed physical therapists and doctors. To be able to put in the hours, I needed the support of loved ones. You’re no different. In the office, you need a great leader, great people in your workgroup, and great people in your organization. You need to interoperate with other departments such as finance, HR, engineering, product. There’s no such thing as a company of one, so if you want to win in the office, become a phenomenal team player.
Turn Lemons Into Lemonade
In my last Ironman race, the temperature was 15-20 degrees than my hottest day in training. Life’s not about what happens to you, it’s how you respond. In this case, a course correction on the nutrition and hydration plan was in order. The heat cost me some time, but it didn’t ruin my race. Others weren’t so lucky. In the office, bad things will happen. You need to rise above. People will steal your ideas, promotions will be given to undeserving co-workers, and corporate politics will drive you crazy. The winners in life quickly learn how to adapt, adopt, and overcome.
My last Ironman consisted of 2,496 swim strokes, 23,595 pedal strokes, and 47,850 steps to cover 140.6 miles in nearly 13 hours. There were no shortcuts. The only way to the finish line was to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. It’s no different in the office. Successful people know that you can’t achieve greatness overnight. You need to put in time, and it needs to be time in which you consistently demonstrate excellence. There are no shortcuts. If you have the right plan to achieve your goals, set your direction and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Make it Fun
In the course of my most recent Ironman, I made a personal goal to have fun. Despite the heat, despite the duration, despite the distance, and despite the pain, I had a fantastic time. Towards the end, a group of fans actually yelled to me that they noticed I was one of the few people on the course who was smiling every time I passed them. Mission accomplished. Most people spend nearly 50% of their waking hours at work, and you have a choice to make. You can choose your attitude. You can be miserable, negative, and down on life. Or you can rise above, keep a positive attitude, and make your own fun. The choice is yours.