Post by Tanya Maslach, contributing Women On Business writer
It was in Lanikai, Hawaii where I did my first triathlon. Not a bad place to start, really.
My first race I stunned my husband. You see, he knew I could swim, but he was surprised to see me finish the first part of the three disciplines (swim, then bike, then run) ahead of every woman, and ahead of a good many of the boys. I was shocked myself. My first thought was I’d simply not swum the whole course. It would be just typical of me to miss a buoy marker somewhere…..especially during that first race. Have you ever jumped in the open ocean with 349 people thrashing about with little regard for the person next to them?
In my case, those 349 other people just happen to be dudes.
The explanation for my surprising swim? In my nervous energy at the start, while hanging out in waist deep water, I had jumped the gun – and shot out of the start with the boys, instead of waiting my turn and swimming with the girls.
This was a sign of things to come. And I can honestly say, I’m still learning how to slow things down.
What does any of this have to do with business?
As usual, plenty. Let’s take a look shall we?
As I embark on my seventh season of training and racing in this incredible sport of triathlon, I have a few nuggets to share that will help you along your leadership journeys: (Most will seem familiar, but so what? A good message is worth repeating.)
1. Even the best athletes have a plan: Yes, they change it. They have to. Body parts stop working, injuries happen, they get sick, their bikes break, it gets icy and cold outside so running 13 miles is out of the question – you get the idea. The point is, they start out with a plan for what’s going to happen each week and each month leading up to a race, with goals that are as intricate as P/E ratios, ROI, net present value, and cost per unit of sales. (I’d argue the stats some athletes track rival the stats in baseball, but that’s another topic for another day). This way, they mentally prepare for what’s coming and what they need to do to be prepared.
2. Don’t jump the gun: This nugget has two elements really. You see, there’s a strong element of self-awareness in this sport. And that is equally important in business – if not life. Learning more about yourself in this sport ensures you keep getting better. Knowing the impact of my nervous energy on my ability to start with my proper “wave” of competitors has ensured I never ‘jump the gun’ again.
But I said this nugget had two elements. Let’s make this 2a.
2a. Steady and according to plan at the start: Any experienced triathlete will tell you going out hard and fast from the start, most especially in the longer events (70+ miles), ensures disaster. The shorter distances, (less than 18 miles, or about an hour of racing), are usually raced at “my-heart-is-going-to-burst” capacities. Except for those, it’s important in triathlon that you work your plan, or your plan won’t work. For example, a 16-week plan for your next race has phases built into it that ensure you have a stronger and more efficient physiological system for racing your best race. Trying to rush that plan, or put in too many hard training sessions too early, breaks that plan – and your race. And let me tell you from experience, it’s not just the physical element that gets messed up – it’s your emotional and mental readiness that goes in the toilet, too.
Only two nuggets this week. But there’s really only one message in both – Be patient. It’s easy to say, hard to practice. It’s just one more lesson that triathlon tries to teach me every day. One that is so hard to practice in business, especially in relationship-building amongst our teams and with our customers, but a lesson when practiced well, always results in high returns.
Like I said, I’m still learning. But I have a plan. And I don’t jump the gun anymore…at least I don’t try to.
Onward and upward!