FranklinCovey Consultant Blogs | Todd Wangsgard | Age Group
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.
A couple weeks ago I finished my second marathon. My effort was nothing terribly notable, except that I was hoping to beat my first time by a significant margin. I did. I ran 15 minutes faster than my first.
However, my time is discouraging when I compare it to my potential. I’ve only been a runner for about 3 years; I know I have plenty of room for improvement. Plus, I know how fast other guys my same age and build are running. Scores of them are significantly faster than I am. For example, I came in 174th place in my age group (out of 416). The guy who took second place in the marathon OVERALL was one year older than me! Now that’s something to strive for.
So what’s the best way to improve? Compare myself to me or compare myself to others? I think the answer is both.
Often in business we compare ourselves to the rest of the field. How are the top players in our industry faring. Where is our market share? How fast are we growing? Are we number one? There is healthy competition that can motivate an entire organization to rally behind significant revenue and growth goals, in pursuit of that top prize.
Then again, it’s also important that we don’t just settle for being on top of the heap. Oh sure, it feels good to be in first place. But we should also compare ourselves against our own potential. When we don’t, we could be settling for good enough instead of becoming our very best.
Living The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a tried and true method of balancing both approaches to success. The Private Victory is represented by the first three Habits of Be Proactive, Begin with the End in Mind, and Put First Things First. These lead me to mastery over self. Coupled with the Public Victory of Habits 4, 5 and 6, Think Win-Win, Seek First to Understand…, and Synergize, they permit me to collaborate with others in a way that differentiates our collective performance, allowing us to stand apart from the crowd and achieve our very best.
So, I suppose the next marathon I’m running in May 2011 will give me a chance to test this theory. My focus during training: Keep one eye on pushing for ever-faster splits and pace while training my other eye on the pace of those who ran the same race last year.
Ask yourself: In what ways can I and my organization learn from the successes of our competition? Where are we not testing our potential, because we’ve become complacent with “good enough?”