At the beginning of this year, in my role as the Chief Human Resources Officer at Speakap, I set the ambitious goal of doubling the size of our organization within six months. And for reasons I’m still completely not sure about (perhaps I’m a masochist?), I decided to combine this with two physical goals; finishing a marathon and a triathlon.
Well, the last part isn’t completely true, as I know exactly why I decided to tackle these goals together. The combination made me both mentally stronger and able to achieve the results I was hoping for - in both disciplines. And therefore, I’m a huge advocate of combining professional goals with physical goals.
There were a lot of people who warned me; “This is too much!” A new job, demanding organization, being responsible for all things HR, constantly evolving, working a lot of hours - all while spending a lot of time doing sports. The funny thing is that none of the people who warned me were working at a rapidly expanding scale-up, or doing any endurance sports.
But I have news for you; it’s the best combination. It made me realize that challenging yourself as an endurance athlete actually makes you mentally stronger, which helped me tackle all of my professional challenges.
So how can you reach your full potential as an athlete and a professional?
The true challenge of completing a triathlon or marathon is the competition between YOU and the course, YOU and the clock, and most importantly, between YOU and YOUR MIND.
And the same goes for challenges in your professional life; you can do anything and be anyone you want to be. Golda Meir, one of the founders of the State of Israel and an Israeli politician once said: “To be or not to be is not a question of compromise. Either you be or you don’t be!” Either you decide to be a triathlete and a CHRO, or you don’t... and you will never be.
Perhaps one of the first mental demands you must address in your athletic and work life has to do with motivation. Do you have the inner drive to do what's necessary to achieve success? Do you have a meaningful goal that keeps you focused and moving forward through the brutal and sometimes monotonous grind of daily training and sitting at your desk all day? Without a big enough why or a personally compelling goal, your motivation will simply stall out. You have to be able to ask yourself on a daily basis: "Is what I want in the future important enough for me to sacrifice and hurt right now?" Far too many people trade what they want the most, for what they want 'right now' and, as a result, never reach their goals.
In the book This Is Your Brain On Sports, by Alan Goldberg success in endurance sports is defined as being all about your mental ability to handle the pain and fatigue of oxygen debt and your ability to master the limits you think you have. The endurance sport athlete's most formidable opponent can be found in the mirror. YOU are both the problem and the solution! This applies not only for endurance sports, but also for working in a rapidly growing and changing organization. Everyday is a new day, with new challenges, where you need to find solutions to different problems.
So if you decided who you want to be, defined your goal and feel motivated; stay focussed on YOU! There will always be more people who are faster than you or better at creating the perfect excel sheet (hint: it's not my greatest strength). Siri Lindley, an American triathlon coach and former professional triathlete, mentions ‘yourself’ as your biggest competitor; “If you’re in the pool and you’re the slowest in your lane, don’t hone in on that. Focus on the fact you’re 5 seconds faster than before.” If you’re in a meeting and someone gives an answer faster than you, don't focus on the fact that you were too slow; focus on the fact that you were thinking in the same direction. Your goal should be about being better than you were yesterday, rather than being better than someone else.
I know Speakap will be a better organization in 2019 and I will be faster at the marathon and triathlon. I’m able to realize this because I’ve decided who I want to be and what I want to do. And I have a big enough 'why' to drive success in both of these goals. I know that I’m part of the (potential) problem and also the solution. So I’m dedicated to staying focussed on myself in order to achieve my goals.
YOU can be your biggest threat, or your biggest supporter. YOU decide!