Accepting Guidance

In a previous blog, I mentioned how inspirational I found Julie Moss’s “Crawl of Fame” at the 1984 Ironman World Championships at Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Years later, I had the opportunity to compete in the same race. I can honestly say that the year leading up to the event was one of the single greatest impacts on my life. It shaped who I was to become as a person and where I would go in life.

Before I go on, for those of you who do not know what the Ironman Triathlon is, it is an individual race consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112-mile bike, followed by a marathon (26.2 miles). Although the event takes place in a single day, it takes months or years to prepare. The best triathletes in the world are now finishing the event in less than eight hours. I wish I was that fast.  

When I learned that I had made the race, I was ecstatic. What I didn’t know then was what was truly before me. I had competed in many shorter triathlons, run marathons, ridden 100+ miles a few times, and even swam laps equating to 2+ miles. ‘I’ll just do more’ was my thought. ‘I’m the king! I got this’. After a month of trying to get more miles, I realized that I was in trouble. Every day I would swim at dawn, run at lunch, and bike after work- seven days per week. I was always exhausted and had no time for anything or anyone else.

And here’s the lesson. I didn’t really know what I was doing.

I talked with a workout partner from the pool who advised me to cut down and do less. Less?? I need more! A kinesiology professor advised me “Yes, you need the miles, but the key ingredient is rest”. The owner of my local bike shop advised me to skip the longer rides during the week and focus on one main long training day in each event during the week.  

Bottom line, I really had no idea what I was doing and it took several people putting me under their wing and providing guidance. Each of them would say “there is no one, single way to do this. But these are the things that worked for me.” And they were right. As I took their advice, I learned the very valuable lesson that no matter how smart or good or hard-working we are, we need to stop and listen. Seek advice. As an extremely arrogant twenty-something kid, I had never learned that lesson. That lesson was burned into the retina of my mind’s eye to this day.

Decades later, I remain humbled by that day in Kailua-Kona, but more so by the people who educated me along the way. Now, when I see my coworkers and staff struggling with a task, I can coach them and say “there is no one, single way to do this. But these are the things that worked for me”. I am proud when they come back and tell me of their successes.

I ask this question in closing: who coached you today? Take a minute tomorrow and say to someone “can you show me how to (fill in the gap)”- then see where it takes you.  

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