Lessons in Sport=Lessons in Business
The planning had started in February 2011 even though it wouldn't take place until July. It seemed like a simple and fun idea at first which encompassed everything I loved: cycling, travel, food and friends. The ring leader, AJ, had been my good friend for many years. He was a retired professional triathlete who had competed in two Olympic games and was now settled in a very small, quaint Swiss village. It was his idea really and since he had been a sort of mentor to me I just let him convince me it was a good idea. It didn't take much. The plan was this: Six guys, eight days of cycling, three countries and the Alps totalling over 1000 KM (620 miles). What could go wrong? Looking back now I realized what I had learned and what lessons I've taken from that trip into the business world.
To set the stage this was not a scenic cycling trip and I didn't know it at the time but one of the days would turn out to be my hardest training day ever. Each guy had been a seasoned bike racer and the pace was high every kilometer. I was certainly the weakest of the bunch and did as much drafting as possible. Most flat days were full on averaging over 22 MPH. There was not one easy day. I still don't know how I stayed with them but important for this story is that I did stay with them every day, every minute, every mile...until I didn't!
Details of the entire trip I'll leave for another post but one KEY take away occured on the second to last day. In the middle of the eight day trek, for some unknown reason, we decided that we could ride almost 200 miles in one day to get home. Basically we took three days to ride into Germany and now we're going to ride 300KM over mountains back to Montreux, Switzerland. The previous two days each were over 100 miles and afterwards I wasn't straight, not even close. Now they expected me to do the longest ride of my life, over the mountains and fast.
The big 300KM day was upon us. We began early and in the rain but that didn't stop the train from speeding ahead. In the first hour we were sitting over 40 KPH (25 MPH) constantly. I was angry! I calculated that we were going to be cycling about ten hours and didn't know why we were going so bloody fast. But, I stayed in. The hours and miles went on and I stayed in. Rotating pulls on the front up to 45KPH, I stayed in. I even managed to drive the front a bit after a coffee/pastry stop. After eight long hours of riding we came to the very final climb of the day. All we had to do was get over this one mountain and then it was a long, beautiful descent into the lakeside city of Montreux.
I saw the signs for the climb a few miles before the road went up and I wasn't in a good place. I had hunger knocks and the crazy Aussie guy on the front was driving our train again at 40 KPH. That seemed to be his standard pace, his happy place if you will.
It was when the road went up that it happened. The rubber band had snapped. I couldn't hold on. I had already been on the bike for over 250 KM and I was finished. I had two choices. I could either call our support car to take me in or finish the ride.
It was then I remembered what I had taught hundreds of times before to athletes I coached. Stay in the moment and make every moment perfect. I asked myself what I could do to finish this ride. I could eat, drink and focus on my heart rate and cadence. Every moment I controlled my heart rate, made sure I was at a good cadence and had some sugar in me. After half an hour I was starting to feel better albeit all alone, on a strange road and suffering. I had not dropped off the group at any point on the trip but here I was-solo! Every moment I worked on creating a positive mental picture instead of a negative one. Every moment I searched within myself for a reason not to quit and call the car. Mile after mile I turned my legs over making every moment perfect. I crossed the peak of the mountain and it was miraculous. I made it! Sure enough a great old Van Halen song came on in my ear bud and I descended fast to catch up with the group which had just finished in town. 300 KM and 9:15 of cycling done! Glorious!
Fast forward to 2019 and I was now the student taking a tactical firearms course from a Miami SWAT team instructor we'll call Robert. We were shooting, moving and going through various real life scenarios. What I like to call, running and gunning. Robert's main message to me was that if you are in an emergency situation ask yourself, What's Important Now? Gun has a malfunction, what's important now? Drop your magazine, what's important now?
Sound familiar? Stay in the moment, what's important now? I think I'm onto something here. Whether I was getting overly emotional and stressed about losing my bike mates on that final mountain or if god forbid there is some type of crime happening to me or my family the best way to handle it is to stay calm and think, What's Important Now.
Recently I was faced with a stressful business situation and the cycling/gunfighting lessons came right to me. Stay in the moment and figure out what's important now. I didn't get caught up thinking in the past, getting angry or worked up emotionally. I just thought to myself to work the problem in that moment and prioritize what's important to solve the problem. With so many parts moving in business, so many opinions and perspectives it's easy to become overwhelmed when faced with a stressful situation. There are so many lessons which can be pulled from training/competing in sports and applied to business so this is just one useful and magnificent gem.
It's really incredibly helpful but like anything it takes training. Every day I look at certain situations whether they be small or large and work them from this perspective. It helps to train the mind to get into this new habit. After a while it comes right to me in my thought process.
The best part is the acronym for what's important now....WIN!