I did my first live race in two years yesterday, and as with all intense endurance endeavors there are lessons to be learned from it. Essentially three rules for multistage events (triathlons, Ragnars, business and life) that if you have done your prep work should allow you to finish strong.
- Leg One: Don’t be an Idiot.
- Leg Two: Don’t be a Hero.
- Leg Three: Don’t be a Wimp.
It’s that simple but it’s sure not easy. Just like running thirty miles in a day is simple (just put one foot in front of the other, over and over) but not easy. Just like building a business (pick up the phone and call people over and over) or living (get up and do your best over and over).
Don’t be an Idiot. We all want to come out of the gate hot because we are so excited. We’ve been prepping for this and want to get at it hard and quick. It doesn’t matter if it is the swim in the triathlon or that first day in a new position: we are a little anxious, a little over zealous and probably over confident. The best thing to do: observe others that have been there done that. Observe, ask questions, listen. Heed the warnings of the race directors (or management, or spiritual leaders as the case may be). Start hard but not too hard because you have to keep the pace up. Find someone to track on and stay with for a bit that seems to be slightly better than yourself. You might have to drop off a little, or you might find as you get deeper in that you can be better and so focus on someone new to benchmark yourself against. Don’t be an Idiot, stay within yourself and learn every step of the way in this part to set the expectation for the other two stages.
Don’t be a Hero. Once we get through the first leg and have a good handle on how we feel, the tendency is to go beyond our abilities. On the race course we want to drop the hammer and overtake all the other competitors, in work we tend to try and do the same thing. But we have used a lot of physical and emotional energy already, and we try to do things that we shouldn’t. We probably are low on sleep, running on caffein. We take on clients way beyond our capability (because we’ve been told to fake it until we make it), or arrogance creeps in and we get off our gameplan and go way too hard to try and win the race in the still too early stages. We take unnecessary risks. We don’t rely on our team for the support we should (ego is the enemy as Ryan Holiday reminded us and the course will too) and think we can do it on our own. This is the most dangerous stage, be it the bike in the triathlon or the second leg of the Ragnar or your time a little past being a rookie where others start to look up to you in the office. This is where we need to do it right and be able to have the guts to say “no”. No, I’m not going to cut corners or burn bridges or sacrifice myself to try and get that little bit extra, be it sales or seconds. Don’t be a Hero, because you will flame out and become a warning to others.
Don’t be a Wimp. Ok, last stage. You got this. This is where you are running off of experience and muscle memory and your vision of finishing, tapping into that feeling to overcome the exhaustion of getting to this point in the race. This is where it literally is the marathon (triathlon) or the bulk of your earnings (career). This is the point you know you need your support crew and have no shame in tapping into them, to taking a pause to get nourishment, to have someone tell you “you can do it! Finish strong!”. It is going to hurt. That’s the fact of life, and dealing with the pain of all the buildup of lactic acid and fatigue and everything else is the most important skill, just like navigating the political environment and little tripups at work is what stands between you and victory. This is where you have the difficult conversations with clients and yourself, and if you wimp out you won’t win what you want. This is where you tap into the emotional strength from all that training, and belief in yourself and your goal. Suck it up and empty your tank, you can rest afterwards!
Everything is a race, something you have been prepping for with everything that has come before. The Three Rules (Don’t be an Idiot, Don’t Be a Hero, Don’t Be a Wimp) need to be your guide in each leg or else you won’t finish the way you could or should.