FranklinCovey Consultant Blogs | Todd Wangsgard | May, 2009
Call me crazy. Almost two weeks ago I signed up for my very first triathlon. With the exception of a mountain biking event three years ago, I’ve never participated in an organized race. I’ve certainly never run or swum in a race. And yet, something within me thought this would be a good idea.
Over the course of the first three Fridays in May, I had the privilege of teaching The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in Livonia, Michigan. One of the participants was a four-time Ironman triathlete. Just to be clear, that is a triathlon that includes a 2.5 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and a full 26.2 mile marathon! I found this incredibly inspiring and, the more we talked about his experience, incredibly do-able.
I will not be participating in an Ironman, however.
My triathlon is the Topeka Tinman, to be held on June 20th – a mere four weeks away. It includes an 1100 yard swim across the open waters of Lake Shawnee, a 19.2 mile bike ride, and a 7 mile run – often referred to as a sprint or Olympic triathlon in length.
Although I have tried over the years to stay active by running 3 to 4 miles, 3 or 4 times a week, nothing quite matches the intensity of focus and discipline that result from actually registering for a real race. Plus, there is some inherent motivation in not letting that hefty $95 entrance fee go to waste!
I have become quite serious about my workouts. I have enlisted a buddy down the street, who is also planning to race in the triathlon. I have tuned up my bike, purchased new gear (aerobars, a tri-suit, swim cap and goggles, and the like). I created a scoreboard spreadsheet for both of us to track our daily and weekly training progress. We individually update it and send it to one another, at least twice a week. In essence, I have applied the principles of The 4 Disciplines of Execution to my daily routine to ensure I reach my ultimate goal – finish the race with a smile on my face.
Although I’ve only been ultra-serious about training since signing up on May 15th, already I’m beginning to see results. My dear family and friends are holding me accountable. I’m dedicated to my workout routine. My buddy and I encourage and motivate one another to stay the course. I’m actually shedding unwanted pounds and find the adrenaline rush of intense exercise to be increasingly addicting! I’m witnessing all the principles behind The 7 Habits come to life in this short-term, microcosmic experience.
Undoubtedly, I may have been able to merely finish the race without any level of training beforehand. But I’ve come to realize, more and more with each passing workout, that not only will I be mildly competitive in my age group, but I’m discovering a level of stamina, strength, and affinity toward triathlons that will positively influence my quality of life – for the rest of my life.
Without question: We reap what we sow. Now, I only wish I had been more serious about sowing sooner!
I recently read “Talent Is Overrated,” by Geoff Colvin, and thought I’d share a brief report on the things I found most valuable, especially since it’s all related to becoming more effective.
Mr. Colvin’s primary message is that people are not born with all the natural talent and abilities that will make them great it life. He asserts that, aside from some physical atributes that may give an athlete an advantage in a particular sport, everyone can achieve world-class performance through “deliberate practice” in his or her chosen field - business, music, sports, etc.
In his opening chapter, Mr. Colvin proceeds to debunk the commonly held beliefs that Tiger Woods and Mozart were simply born with the innate ability to excel at golf or music composition. Mr. Colvin argues that any of us may have been as great in either of these two fields, had we been born to Earl Woods or Leopold Mozart, their mentor fathers. He writes, “neither Tiger nor his father suggested that Tiger came into this world with a gift for golf.” He goes on to quote Tiger Woods himself, “‘Golf for me was an apparent attempt to emulate the person I looked up to more than anyone: my father.’ Asked to explain Tiger’s phenomenal success, father and son always gave the same reason: hard work.”
The author explains, drawing several research-based conclusions, that the secret – deliberate practice – is designed, can be repeated a lot, requires constant feedback, is highly demanding mentally, and isn’t much fun.
He goes on to say, “If it seems a bit depressing that the most important thing you can do to improve performance is no fun, take consolation in this fact: It must be so. If the activities that lead to greatness were easy and fun, then everyone would do them and they would not distinguish the best from the rest. The reality that deliberate practice is hard can even be seen as good news. It means that most people won’t do it. So your willingness to do it will distinguish you all the more.”
At this point in my reading I couldn’t get a famous quote by George Washington Carver out of my mind (apologies for repeating this in an earlier posting):
“People who do the common things in this life uncommonly well will command the attention of the world!”
Mr. Colvin’s book quite simply supports the premise our organization, FranklinCovey, is founded upon. That is, that everyone and every organization has the potential to achieve greatness. It is our mission “to enable greatness in individuals and organizations everywhere.”
Each of us might feel compelled, therefore, to ask this question daily, “What have I done today that will bring me closer to greatness?” It proves to be within our reach.
Will you grasp it?
In his recently published biography, “The Snowball,” investment guru Warren Buffet is credited with offering the following advice:
”Be fearful when others are greedy. Be greedy when others are fearful.”
You can change the word “greedy” to anything you like better. Eager. Aggressive. Risky. It means just about the same.
Anyway you look at the current economic milieu, it clearly represents a profoundly poignant opportunity for people and organizations to capitalize on principle-centered thinking and action. Here are just a handful of pairings between popular 7 Habits principles and crisis-driven actions that you and I can use to strengthen our organizations.
- Production/Production Capability: Invest in the best people who might be nervous and go hire the best people who have lost work elsewhere. Your talent edge will continue to sharpen while the competition loses its.
- Emotional Bank Account: Assure your best customers and suppliers of your loyalty. Reinforce abundance. See this as a chance to bolster relationships of trust that may have been stagnant or malnourished.
- Begin With the End in Mind: Redefine what you and your organization need to look like on the tail end of the recession. This allows you to begin aligning your reality with your newly formed vision – now.
- Put First Things First: Hone your ability to focus and execute on your highest priorities. Use this time to build highly motivated teams toward making significant weekly contributions that are documented during regular accountability session.
Sure, there are less noble actions that fear can breed, such as the chance for the clever and strong to take advantage of the ignorant and the weak. However, that’s exactly why I emphasize “principle-centered.” Only by operating on true principles of effective human behavior will our actions from these difficult times sustain the kind of rewarding relationships we are seeking over the long haul. More and more, people can read our intentions like a book and will judge us by the outcome. We can’t afford not to make principles the centerpeice of every action.