FranklinCovey Consultant Blogs | Todd Wangsgard | Last Saturday
Hearing Mike Reilly’s voice over the loud speakers shouting, “Todd Wangsgard, You are an Ironman!” was quite a rush. But it paled in comparison to the waves of emotion that would wash over me spontaneously along the 12 hour and 55 minute journey I took last Saturday through the vivid desert of southwestern Utah.
The primary goal for my first Ironman (and yes, there will be a second) was to “enjoy every minute of it.” I borrowed this from a first-timer Ironman participant and USAT executive who posted a video online last October about his preparations. “What a great concept,” I thought. “Just prepare yourself to enjoy the entire experience.”
I enjoyed every minute of it! Now, I simply need to redefine “enjoy.”
There were moments, like the first ten minutes of the swim when I thought my lungs would collapse or burst or both. The run was a brutal climb – two times – up the double lap course following Red Hills Parkway in 95-degree heat. But during the hard minutes of last Saturday’s epic adventure, I was reminded of the journey that had brought me to that point, and instantly I could feel the encouragement, kind words, and prayers (yes, there’s no doubt this feat required some Divine intervention) that had been and were being offered on my behalf.
Serendipity – defined by dictionary.com as “an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident” – is a rule I strive to live by. It requires some luck. But luck certainly favors the prepared. There were countless desirable discoveries that occurred during my first IM experience that will take a while to commit to print. Suffice it to say, the most important discovery was that anyone can accomplish anything he or she puts his or her heart and soul into.
What is that one thing – big or little – that you’ve been wanting to accomplish for a long time, or just decided to do last week, or you know will make you a better parent, leader, employee, human being? How long have you put it off? How long before the time required to get it done runs out? How many more “can’ts” before you decide it’s “can?”
If you’re feeling brave (and I know you are), add a brief comment to this posting describing that one thing you’ve been meaning to do. I’m sure there are plenty I need to commit doing right alongside you. Let’s get it done together!
This was my neighbor’s three-story house. It exploded and burned to the ground last Saturday. It was gone in less than an hour.
The man living here (…uh, who lived here) had a hobby of manufacturing homemade fireworks – the really big ones. He was home alone the morning of this tragedy and in the process of drilling a mortar in his basement shop when sparks began to fly. A small explosion erupted in his hands; he quickly escaped the house with minor injuries. It only took seconds for the small fire to spread to the stock pile of chemicals that he kept nearby. One explosion led to another and soon the house was quite literally gone.
By all accounts this was an accident, but certainly one that could have been prevented. It is not the first time something has gone awry while engaged in this hobby. Family members claimed on the evening news that this risky activity has been going on for decades. They claim smaller explosions in the past did not serve as the deterrent that they should have.
This wake up call for family, the local authorities, and the neighborhood got me thinking about some of the less obvious risks that we may be taking that jeopardize our livelihood in different ways.
Are there relationships I’m neglecting or mistreating that could someday “blow up” in my face. Are there habits in my professional practice that are leading me down a volatile path – less obvious patterns, such as not following up with my clients as thoroughly as I could, not keeping abreast of my industry’s latest thinking and research, or not proactively contributing to my division in ways that demonstrate initiative and make a meaningful contribution? Sure, these are acts of omission, rather than committing an overt act of mixing lethal chemicals in my basement. But the result can be just as serious and lasting.
In an economy that still appears to be limping along toward recovery, each of us should conduct a career “safety inspection” – ensure that the batteries in our smoke detectors are fresh, review all of the “exits,” and train those we care about on how to recognize behavior that might compromise one’s security. Professionally this can come in the form of soliciting valuable feedback from co-workers and clients, keeping your resume polished and poised, and seeking out creative ways to make a new and lasting contribution in the workplace. Consider adopting the timely advice shared by Dr. Stephen R. Covey and Jennifer Colosimo in their recent publication, Great Work, Great Career.
There’s no need to let your career go up in smoke!
It’s official. I’m a triathlete! Of course, that doesn’t mean that I broke any records or medaled in any category during last Saturday’s Topeka Tinman Triathlon. It does, however, mean that MS Word didn’t even recognize the word “triathlete,” and that I had to Add to Dictionary. It also means I accomplished my primary goal by finishing my first multisport event (swimming, cycling, running) with a smile on my face.
In this entry I offer six personal lessons (from countless possibilities) from this amazing experience that have broad applicability to life at large, both personally and professionally.
- Actively striving toward a goal is life itself. There is palpable energy in working daily toward the accomplishment of a significant goal. Sensing the progress I was making toward getting better and faster was both physically and psychologically gratifying. Knowing that I was doing something each day to improve was in itself extraordinarily motivating. In a much more extreme example, Victor Frankl, the late Austrian psychologist and WWII Nazi death camp survivor, realized the power of striving in his own survival. Even when all humanity and dignity had been stripped from him, he recognized that his ability to control his own thoughts, even during his unspeakable torture, is what quite possible spared him his life.
- You cannot “win” if you don’t know the score. Simply keeping track of my activity during training unleashed unknown sources of motivation to stay on course – to really take my preparations seriously. The detailed results that came from the officials about all 500+ entrants, including individual splits for each event, pace, transition times, and complete rankings for each phase, was a wealth of information. Most importantly, I learned how to use this type of information to keep score and improve for my next race. No doubt, this was an intense personal exercise in applying The 4 Disciplines of Execution.
- The greatest hurdle we have to overcome is our self. Half way into the run, I was exhausted. An internal debate ensued in my head. Loser Todd: “Go ahead and just walk for a while. No one will care.” Winner Todd: “No way! I’ve got to at least keep jogging, no matter how slow I’m going.” Loser Todd: “Come on! Your goal was just to finish with a smile. You’ll still achieve that.” Winner Todd: “Yes, but I’ll know I left something on the course – untapped effort, my integrity, a whole lot of pride.” I’m happy to report that Winner Todd won out. I kept running and achieved personal records in all three events.
- You always have more to give. The more you give, the more you get. Swimming is my weakest event. It is for most people. Especially on the open waters of a lake or ocean, most people succumb to self-imposed doubts about their abilities and unknown “forces” that may drag them down or hold them back. These are primarily mental barriers. Once out on the open water, I decided to focus on my reach and pull. I wasn’t the fastest, but I consistently passed others from beginning to end. The bike ride was by far my favorite. Sherriff’s deputies at each intersection allowed us to really dig in and focus on the race, not so much on traffic. Wish I always had that luxury during training! Again, as I focused on my cadence, what I was giving or not giving on the hills, and how I was able to get down and out of the wind on the downhill and straight-aways, I was predictably passing other racers. This became a game for me – to eye the next guy (or gal) in front of me, and make it my purpose to give whatever it took to reach and overtake him (or her). With few exceptions, I was able to dig into untapped sources of energy and drive ever closer toward the leaders.
- You’re never done, unless you say you’re done. During the final mile of the run, I began to consider whether I would ever want to enter another triathlon. The answer from my aching muscles was a resounding, “No way!” However, only a minute and a half after crossing the finish line, I was astonished by the surging rush of adrenaline and energy I was experiencing. It was a very real physical urge to want to keep running or get back on my bike and take in another 10 miles. To my own surprise, I began telling family and friends, “I can’t wait to do this again!” So, I just registered for my next Olympic distance triathlon. It takes place in 3 weeks on July 11th.
- It’s all about the relationships. This entire experience would simply be an exercise in personal fitness, if I hadn’t been connected to the dozens of people along the way (like yourself) who have inspired me, kept me on track, and allowed me to take the necessary time (thanks, Sweetheart and kids) to train for this short-term goal. It wouldn’t have been as fun! And I certainly wouldn’t be running in a July 4th 5k with my wife, immediately training for another triathlon (that I also talked my brother and a close family friend into doing), or contemplating a future marathon or even Ironman. These life-changing connections with other people are what enable us to live The 8th Habit.
Out of 155 entrants in the long-course, I finished 50th, with 2 hrs 22 min 8 sec.
I struggled to decide which of the following two ways to sum up this whole experience. So, in my ambivalence I offer both.
“Swim: 1100 yards. Ride: 20 miles. Run: 7 miles. Bragging rights: Priceless! ”
…or, perhaps a more humble quip,
“Great accomplishments aren’t so much about the limits you and your critics believe you are bound by, but rather much more about the person you and your allies are about to define and discover. ”
***Credits (My Allies)***
- Mom and Dad, for making my life’s experiment possible
- Jana, my wife, for your tireless support and patience
- Conner, my son 1, for our morning “Bike-Jogs”
- Dawson, my son 2, for our morning “Bike-Jogs”
- Jayci, my daughter, for understanding why you can’t go on our morning “Bike-Jogs”
- Bridger, my son 3, for your constant smiles and inspiration
- John, my training partner, for keeping me accountable
- Bob, my Tri mentor, for getting me hooked
- Chris, for keeping me running for the past 18 months
- Tyler, my brother, for agreeing to be tortured alongside me for Tri #2
- Courtney, my blog administrator, for forgiving me for being so verbose on this entry