I realized a few days ago that every business problem/solution has a cycling analogy. For a guy who rides the line between the business world and the cycling world on a daily basis, that’s the sort of thing that can come in pretty handy. (And since the Tour De France is on right now, the whole concept is very a propos.)
If at first you don’t follow the whole cycling thing, hang on for a few paragraphs. There’s a point to this and it actually has nothing to do with the world of riding bikes.
Okay, so about bout a year ago, I finally snatched a little cycling goal that had been nagging at me for a while: After months of flirting with 50mph (48.5, 49, 49.5, 48, 49.5, 49, etc.), I finally hit that magic 50mph mark coming down Paris Mountain. (Paris Mountain is a popular little mountain near Greenville, SC with steep roads and plenty of treacherous switchbacks that keeps cyclists entertained but makes it hard to actually hit high speeds without launching off the side of the mountain like Evel Knievel.)
Anyway, as it turns out, to hit 50mph on that steep and twisty little stretch of road, you kind of have to commit. Especially if you only weight 165 odd pounds: My bike and I aren’t heavy enough to let gravity and momentum do the work. You have to tuck in, pedal fast, and carve your way in and out of each turn with razor-like precision. You have to be fully committed to this, or it won’t happen.
You have to make sure you don’t eat dirt by doing something stupid, like taking your eyes off the road for a second, or glancing down at your watch, or hitting a pothole. Those things would all be bad.
You have to be focused. Relaxed. Confident. You have to be in the moment, not 90%, not 98%, not even 99.9%, but 100%.
So anyway, about a year ago, on that fateful day when I finally broke 50 miles per hour, something happened: Moments before taking the plunge down the final and steepest section of the mountain for my personal land speed record, I almost bit it. Hard. I hit my brakes a little too late and a little too hard going into a tricky turn. I got distracted: I was too busy adjusting my sunglasses to truly commit to the turn and got myself into trouble. At 40mph, I squeezed my front brake a bit too hard, and felt my rear wheel come off the ground. I started to go over the handlebars.
In cycling terms, this is the start of what is called an endo. (endo: end over.)
The endo is part one of what some folks affectionately call a “superman.”
A Superman is simply a rider flying through the air head first… like Superman. Minus the cape and the unbreakable bones.
The part that usually follows a Superman is the landing. The crash landing. This is the part you want to avoid at all cost. This is the part that hurts a lot. It usually comes with serious injuries, like broken bones and road rash. If you’re lucky.
Making my rear wheel go airborne into a narrow 180 degree switchback turn at 40mph on an 16lb bicycle with 23mm wide tires, that is what you call an “oh shit” moment. Yes it is.
Fortunately, I haven’t used up my nine lives yet: I made a smooth and miraculous recovery. I rode my front wheel like a circus monkey long enough to shift my weight back, managed to keep my bike steady, got my rear wheel smoothly back on the pavement, and made the turn without even crossing over the double yellow line.
I committed to the recovery. I didn’t allow myself to think of anything else. I threw every bit of skill, balance, dexterity, calmness and agility into not crashing, and it worked. Had I made the error to dwell on the thought of a crash, had I wasted even 0.1% of my brain power on bracing myself for impact, I probably would have crashed.
Several minutes later during my acceleration down the steep portion of the mountain, had I wasted any brain power thinking about anything but hitting 50mph, I wouldn’t have broken 49.5mph.
Why am I telling you all of this? (Other than wanting to share my joy of being alive with everyone?) Because although cycling is fairly irrelevant to the topics covered in this blog, the concept of committing to something, of giving something your all is very relevant.
So my little bit of advice for this fine Monday is this: Commit. Your project. Your job. Your relationship. Your race. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well… and if it’s worth doing well, it’s worth doing exceptionally well.
Yeah, it might hurt and it might require a certain measure of sacrifice. Time. Pride. Fun. Sweat. Sleep. But that’s a choice you make.
The choice is to either commit, or… not. And I don’t mean just commit yourself to the effort. I also mean commit 100% to the outcome: If you give yourself the option to fail, if you give yourself odds of succeeding, you are already finding excuses or reasons to fail. Don’t. Commit to the only possible outcome: Success. If you don’t, you open up the door to alternatives, and they are never good.
If you aren’t willing and ready to commit, you might as well save yourself and your client the trouble and… stay home. Be honest with yourself and those around you. If your heart isn’t really in it, if you aren’t willing to hit the ball or turn the cranks like the pro you are, then maybe you ought to sit this one out.
Committing to something isn’t just about hard work, but also smarts, guts, and willpower. It’s about throwing yourself into the game body, mind, sould and all. Even if it’s for two hours a day, or five minutes every hour, that’s what it takes to do something exceptionally well. If you aren’t motivated to give it your all, then do yourself a favor and work on something else. Seriously. Turn it down. Delegate. Wait until your head gets clear and you can put your heart into it.
If you can’t turn it down, if your boss or client forces you to work on something you would rather not spend any time on, then take a breather. Go clear your head. Find that one thing in the project or task that you know you can throw yourself at wholeheartedly, and focus on that.
Don’t ever, ever, ever do anything half-assed. Ever.
Unless you like looking back on a completed project or campaign or achievement and wishing you had given it a little bit more effort. A little bit more heart. A little bit more juice.
Commitment is fun and painful and hard all at the same time… And that’s the way it should be.
Nothing worthwhile is ever easy to come by.
So make every word count. Every stroke of the mouse. Every release of the shutter. Every turn of the crank. Every interaction with a customer. Every design feature. Every promotional coupon. Every TV spot. Every meeting. Every element of your web page design. Every media purchase. Every tweet. Every conversation or handshake with a customer. Every minute. Every second. Every breath.
It all adds up in the end.
It all pays off.
As long as you give it your all.
Just get it done.
Have a great Monday, everyone.