Direction is more Important than Speed
Let me tell you a story,
Almost 10 years ago I did the Ironman. At the time I decided to do the race, I had already been a great short-distance triathlete. I routinely placed in the top 3 in the local races. However, I had NEVER run a marathon, ridden my bike for 100 miles or swam more than a half mile. Fortunately for me, I had no idea how painful getting there would be. Fast forward through 6+ months of training, very early mornings, lots of weight loss, sobriety, caffeine-briety (the hardest) and not enough sleep and the race was only a few weeks away. I was ready for the bike and run, but living in Tucson I had not had the opportunity to swim that far in open water - which I was going to have to do in the race.
When I started asking veteran ironman athletes for guidance I heard lots of these types of stories: “watch out for the punching”, “don’t get kicked,” “practice putting your goggles back on in the water, because you will be hit in the face.” Well, that is a ton of fun to think about. Finally, I met someone with a greater tendency to pragmatism. He had not only been in ironman races but had also volunteered in the kayaks that follow the swimmers in case something goes wrong. He said, “you know, I see so many people burn so much energy trying to be fast rather than going straight. Worry more about your direction than your speed.” Yes, got it!
I was very lucky in that my race did not have thousands of participants like some of the Ironman races do now. At best, mine had 500 people. Race morning came - as did the nerves - but I kept to the edge of the pack and did just what my friend advised. I would spend more time making sure I was going straight by sighting the buoys every 2 strokes rather than every 4 or 5 strokes. You see, pulling your head out of the water to sight the buoys slows you down because of the drag your head creates in the water. Thus, I was going to be less efficient with my stroke but more accurate in direction. When all was said and done, I never got kicked, punched, or attacked by underwater mystery creatures. I actually finished in exactly the time frame I expected - no faster, no slower.
He was right… my direction was more important than my speed.
I wish I could say I have been able to take that lesson and apply it to the rest of my life. The reality is that I am ALWAYS more concerned with speed. So much so, that my mental life-scoreboard has a countdown timer on it that resets with almost everything I do. Life tip: when you leave your job to start your own company you should take a rock and knock out that part of the scoreboard. Then beat it to a pulp when it falls to the ground just in case.
Starting this business is all about the direction and has so little to do with speed. Granted, I wish I had made my first Billion by now. In fact, I wish I would have made a global empire, sold it, then retired to the South of France by now. Yet, in the four months since we started that has not happened in the slightest (maybe next month?). Everyday I ask myself if we are doing something that will contribute more to the world than we are taking out of it. If so, our direction is true. If not, I need to reevaluate my agenda.
Even having that question as my North Star (BTW - did you know the North Star changes… crazy!) I still struggle with the timing of the actions we take and products we make. Even though I know that direction is more important than speed, I still worry about speed.
You know what my Dad always said, “The world looks a lot different when you are starving for oxygen.” Thankfully, he was right. I good bike ride/run/weights and I can re-center my mind back to direction and tackle the day.
Yesterday, I was freaking out almost all day about speed. This morning, after a great workout with my wife, I spent an hour with the boys in the hot tub. Direction is good.
Here is to great stories,