FranklinCovey Consultant Blogs | Todd Wangsgard | Nazi Death Camp
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