FranklinCovey Consultant Blogs | Todd Wangsgard | April, 2011
In exactly 10 days I will embark on a personal challenge unlike anything I’ve attempted to undertake in my life. Hundreds of thousands have done it. For me, it’s new. Its original creators thought to conceive an event that would test the human limits of physical endurance. And while recent years have witnessed the advent of longer courses and more strenuous tests, the Ironman distance triathlon remains the standard of individual sport maxims. 2.4 mile swim. 112 mile cycling. 26.2 mile run.
I was inspired 2 years ago on May 2nd by a participant in my 7 Habits of Highly Effective People workshop in Livonia, Michigan, who claimed to have completed three Ironman events. He was not in “Ironman” condition at the time – admittedly so. But he was roughly my age and build and – more importantly – he hadn’t just thought to do it, he had done it! Three times!!! It was in that moment that a new goal was cast in my own mind. “If he can complete three Ironman events,” I thought, “I can certainly complete just one.”
I went home and registered for my first Olympic distance tri (roughly one fourth the Ironman distances), to take place a mere 6 weeks later. No, my training was not ideal in duration or intensity, but then again my goal was to simply finish with a smile. A second Olympic tri and two marathons later (the running is certainly the hardest on my body), here I am contemplating the ultimate challenge that Saturday, May 7th, is about to bear.
To be clear, my goal is not to win or even place in my age group, but rather to enjoy every minute. Now, I’m sure there will be several minutes where I question my level of enjoyment. But I feel ready.
The whole training experience has been an opportunity to personally apply many of the precepts we offer in our FranklinCovey curriculum:
- Be Proactive – I couldn’t get off the couch and onto my trainer, onto the trail or out to the pool without some initiative.
- Begin With the End in Mind – My visualization of participating in and finishing the IM has consumed my psyche since the time my wife pressed ‘Enter’ on the keyboard to register me. (Yes, in a moment of ambivalence, I recruited Jana to initiate the first formal step of commitment. It was sort of like having someone else pull your loose tooth or rip off a big Band-Aid.)
- Put 1st Things 1st – Prioritizing time to train has been a rewarding challenge in itself, one whose multi-dimensional benefits have been surprising.
- Think Win—Win – Yes, it’s an individual sport, but wouldn’t have been possible without the encouragement and sacrifice of my wife and kids.
- Seek First to Understand… – Listening to my body has become a critical exercise in knowing when to push and when to take it easy.
- Synergize – The combination of training activities and public accountability of my progress have combined to keep me on track and deliver results.
- Sharpen the Saw – Say no more.
- The Four Cores of Credibility: Integrity, Intent, Capabilities, Results – I said I would do it; I must keep my word to myself and others. I clearly declared my intentions. My capabilities have increased with each passing week’s training focus. Next weekend will certainly reveal the results.
- The Productivity Pyramid: Mission-Vision-Values, Long-term Goals, Short-term goals, Weekly and Daily Planning – All of these must have been more or less aligned over the past 24 months to pull this off.
And the list goes on…
I share this not to boast, but to convey the enormous effort this has required and, more importantly, how more acutely than at any other time in my life, I’ve come to appreciate that principles govern. This is the Goose and the Golden Egg (P/PC Balance). This is maintaining those ever-important Emotional Bank Accounts, with self and others. This is the Law of the Harvest.
So for 12+ hours on Saturday, May 7th, beginning at 7:00 a.m. Mountain, if my self-imposed sojourn happens to cross your mind, know that you’ll probably already be on mine. After all, it was a participant just like you who planted the seed.
While on a recent business trip to Alabama, I found myself free for a day in the middle of a week’s consulting. Remembering that my aunt had told me we have ancestors in Alabama, I decided to ‘look them up.’ The ones I’m aware of are all dead. But why not connect with my past – see who I might dig up. (poor word choice)
With a family tree in one hand and the steering wheel in the other, I proceeded south to Montgomery, Alabama and then west to Fort Deposit and Mt. Willing, where many members of my dad’s mom’s family once lived. While underway, I thought I’d call my aunt, just to get any more tidbits about the family that may help me find something, someone. She explained how she’s always imagined that our forbearers were wealthy plantation owners, lounging about their estates sipping julep. She then conceded that it is more likely we hail from a family of back-woods red necks. Upon winding my way to the first of two cemeteries, I surmise her second theory is probably more accurate.
I quickly found the resting place of my great-great-great-grandma, Charlotte Pace! While standing over her grave marker and that of other extended family, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of respect, gratitude, even reverence, for what they did to survive, thrive, and ultimately get me here.
This ponderous moment caused me to reflect on the many people who have personally influenced me for the better – my favorite 4th grade teacher, a little league football coach, my mentor and scout camp director, countless friends and family, many great bosses and work associates, and of course my amazing parents. In their own way, each of them made a contribution to me – some of them on purpose, others by accident or fate. Either way, I’m grateful to everyone who’s helped make me who I am.
Each person was/is a leader – a person of great influence.
Leadership is about “finding your voice and helping others to find theirs.” Dr. Covey calls this The 8th Habit “Leadership really is the enabling art. Great leaders enable their people to produce far more than they could dictate themselves. Leadership is the highest of the arts, simply because it enables all the other arts and professions to work.”
Who brought you to where you are? What kind of leadership did they display? What kind of leader are you to others? So you know who got you here; now, who are you getting there?