leadership incorporated blog

May 3, 2010

Inspired to Succeed: Disheartened? Here’s how to stay in the game.

Have you ever heard of the Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race? It’s the longest footrace in the world, from the Ascot Speedway in Los Angeles and finishing at Madison Square Garden in New York.

The athletes have to work harder than they have ever worked before. Most days it seems like the race will never end. They are dealing with challenges they’ve never faced. More is being asked of them than they know if they have resources for. It makes a marathon feel like a stroll around the block. At times they aren’t sure if they will survive the test.

Does this sound at all like you’re feeling right about now?

If so, you’re not alone — whether you are the CEO of an organization trying to thrive in this economy or in transition trying to find work in this economy or anywhere in between.

All week I’ve had conversations about how spent everyone feels.

Here’s a game-changing reframe.

Work is a sport. You are the athlete.

What is sport? A person or team attempting to meet a particular challenge successfully and competitively.

Sound like what you do everyday?

And why would we want to see our work in this way?

Reframing our challenges in this context can give us new approaches, tools, and perspectives that can transform not only our outcome but the process itself.

So, what can we learn from an athlete’s approach that might help us?

1. Athletes play to win. Athletes know why they’re doing what they’re doing. They are aware they’re in the game by choice. They have a drive to win. There’s something they want to be able to do or feel they’ve accomplished. They may want to prove something to themselves. Regardless, it’s always a positive, not a negative. They’re playing to win rather than playing not to lose.

2. Athletes work the mind game. They know belief in yourself is critical. They know the power of positive and negative thought and so are intentional in their thinking. (Ask me about a life-changing tool for developing this ability.)

3. Athletes know their body is their primary instrument of success. They understand it and take care of it, making sure to get appropriate rest, nutrition, stretching, and whatever else their body needs to perform at its peak. This is every bit as true in business as in sport. No matter what we’re doing: pitching new business, leading a meeting, writing a proposal, putting together a budget, composing email — we can?t do it without our bodies. Particularly when we are pushing ourselves beyond our prior capacity, we need our body’s support. Treat it like the athlete it is. It makes a difference in your focus, your stamina, and your end result.

4. Athletes learn and adapt. They listen to their bodies, their coaches, their trainers, the weather. We, too, have a constant flow of valuable information which can affect our performance available to us. Listen to the people around you. Especially those you tend to tune out. Also, listen to your body and intuition. That knot in your stomach. The tightness in your chest. The energy when things are cranking and you’re in the zone. It will tell you when you’re being lied to. When you’re wasting your time. When you’re heading in the right direction. When you’ve made a wrong turn.

5. Athletes set their own best pace. No one else can do this for you. Setting your pace requires holding an awareness of both the entirety of the challenge ahead and the present moment simultaneously. It means having a plan that you stick to with consistency, even when unexpected challenges arise.

6. Athletes enjoy the process. To go the distance you must find a way to enjoy even the most difficult parts of the process.

7. The greatest athletes don’t focus on winning. They focus instead on making each step count. John Wooden, legendary coach for the UCLA Bruins never once told his players to win a game. Yet they were the winningest team in the history of college basketball. Wooden focused them on the details, practicing and perfecting each move. If you do this, make the components of what you do count, make sure they are meaningful and purposeful, make each step the best it can be, all those steps put together can’t help but lead you to the excellence and success that you have in mind.

welcome to the team,



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