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You Won't be First

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Before the start gun goes off to begin a triathlon where the racers swim, then bike, then run, imagine the racing thoughts that might go through an athlete’s mind.
I was going through my pre-race mental checks: visualizing the transitions, the exits and entries, the removal of my wetsuit, putting on a bike jersey with helmet and sun glasses, the changing of wet feet into cycling shoes all followed by their removal and putting on of running shoes, followed by shifting race bib from back to chest.  The planning of the details of triathlon are what drew me to the sport. 
While warming up, I spoke nervously with the Australian triathlete assigned next to me, asking about the turnaround points of the course.  He must have sensed that I was tense because he gave me a response that I carry with me still today:

Fellow racer:  “What is your swim time mate?”
Me:  “I should be out of the water in just over 17 minutes.”
Fellow racer:  “Then don’t worry about the course map, you won’t be first.”

The seasoned athlete taught me a valuable lesson: focus on what you can control.  My fretting about how far the bike turns were and which side streets to take along the run was a complete waste of mental energy.  If I was not in the lead then I could simply follow the pack.  The pressure off and my nerves calmed. 

There are moments in business and in life where our mates are off course.  They worry about the details that they cannot influence. In the end, the wave of challenge concludes with or without them having worried about it.  In these moments, leaders are laser-focused on placing energy on what then can directly influence.  Whether it is the threat of a prominent staff member rumored to resign, the government allegedly announcing cuts within our industry or the statistics of new positive cases during a pandemic, great leaders focus on what is in front of them that they can grab.

In a world that allows us to be more connected, it is easy to be swept up in the events that seem to not directly affect us.  In these times, we lean on leaders to remind us when we won’t be first.

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