I believe that there are two types of people in this world, the ones who are competitive and the ones who aren’t. It’s either in you or its not, simples. However, the competitive nature can sometimes have an ugly connotation in our society; ambition confused with greed, passion confused with aggression, whatever your stance, I feel that competition is the one thing that drives us all forward and inspires creativity and change.
I have a confession to make, in case you didn’t know I am deeply competitive. My competitive streak never shuts off and it’s with me every hour of the day. It’s there when I wake up, it’s there when I go to bed, and its there for everything that I do in-between. For as long as I remember I have competed in some type of sport, GAA, Running, Soccer, Triathlon. Always competing to not necessarily be the best, but to be the best that I can be. Let’s get this straight from the start, I am not an elite athlete, I never profess to be an elite athlete, I am just someone who makes changes and sacrifices in life to achieve challenging goals.
In 2011 I travelled to Austria and completed my first ever full Ironman race. A full distance Ironman race for those that don’t already know consists of the following: Swim 3.8km, Bike 180km and Run a 42 km marathon. To put this into perspective that is swimming the Liffey from Huston Station to Dublin Bay, then getting on your bike and cycling to Athenry in Galway and then running a marathon. In 2011 I crossed the finish line with a time of 11 hours 17 minutes.
As a result of being physically fit I got mentally fit, and as a result of being mentally fit I start to get more ambitious and set myself more challenging goals. In 2013 I returned to Austria to compete again as I felt I had some unfinished business there. My goal was to better my time by one hour. I completed my second full Ironman race in a time of 10 hours and 12 mins, job done. This year 2015 I am currently in training for my third Ironman which will be in Vichy, France at the end of August.
When asked to contribute to the INM blog I wanted to share what I believe are my five main strategies that I draw on to compete in Ironman events but what I also use everyday in business and the work that I do.
Building the endurance required for an Ironman means putting in the hours every day, however this does not necessarily mean that the more hours you do the better you are. This year is the first year I am training for an Ironman as a father and so my time to train has been lessoned greatly due to family time. So I needed to strategise my training differently. This year I have been training smarter rather than longer. The time I have in the pool, on the bike or out for a run I need to make sure that I am being smart with how I spend it. Many of these same principles apply to improving performance at the office. In today’s society hours spent at the desk are often associated with great performance, when in fact efficiency, true business impact and achieving your goals are the things that actually propel individuals, teams and companies to a greater performance.
2. Team spirit
A lot of people view triathlons as an individual event. That is certainly true on race day, when although there is encouragement from family, friends and fellow racers, it all comes down to you and how much and the kind of preparation you’ve put in. But every moment leading up to the race is a combination of individual and team effort. The current 360’ approach that we are able to offer brands and agencies in INM is only possible because of the team that surrounds us and the resources that we have available to make it a truly holistic approach.
3. Stretch yourself (not just physically)
The definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.
In my training if I only concentrate on speed work then I will never gain the endurance that it takes to go the distance. The best outcomes usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something challenging and worthwhile. In business we are the creators of our own success and without stretching yourself every once in a while it’s difficult to find your true potential. Upskilling, training, or working out of your comfort zone are all examples of stretching.
When competing in Ironman in 2011 I followed an off-the-shelf training plan which I found on the internet. It certainly worked for me but in order for me to improve on my time in 2013 I needed to work differently and so I enlisted the help of a coach. He built a training plan for me that was bespoke and focused on the areas that I needed focusing on. In business having the access to a training and development strategy means that you can really focus on areas that need a little extra help. Bespoke coaching will result in learning new skills which will contribute to the business and build ones self-esteem. All of this positive up-skilling means people will feel motivated and fresh.
5. The power of belief
When taking on what’s labelled as the world’s toughest one-day challenge there are lots of questions and uncertainties that go through my mind, however throughout the entire process it’s the belief that on race day I will perform to the best of my ability and achieve my goal. The same power of belief can be easily attributed to the products & services that we sell on a daily basis because without the belief in what you are doing then you will never do it to the best of your ability.
Every organisation will be better when the people in it believe in what the business is doing. When they believe, they work harder, they give more and they put a level of energy and passion into play that’s essential to creating anything great.
So to conclude, the above strategies I use in training I find also better my business performance. The same techniques can help a non-athlete become more successful in business and life. For example, there are countless studies documenting the performance improvement that comes from spending 5-10 minutes a day visualising an upcoming competition. So, my question to you is: How often do you visualise important meetings or events in advance? My guess is not very often. Think about the performance improvements that could occur. It could make the difference between you and your competitors. So if you want to get an edge on your competition, utilise some of the same techniques athletes do.