Tag Archives: cycling

Yes, It Can Hurt Worse

Just ask Roger Clemens – indicted for lying to Congress.  Ouch, now that is some pain.  A few months back we pointed to the world of sports and performance enhancing drugs as an example of why admitting mistakes is a far better course of action than unfounded denial.  Thank you again Floyd Landis for the lesson.  And in the event anyone needed additional reinforcement, Mr. Clemens bubbles up in the news today.

Own It…Even When It Hurts seems to be almost naive at this point; folksy in a way.  It is bad enough when your reputation is in tatters and your legacy is tainted.  However couple that with a federal indictment and you have real pain.  As if anyone needed to have the lesson driven home; there is no way around the truth – admit, apologize and move on.  Alex Rodriquez came clean (relatively) once he was caught.  He is fine and his career continues – all is forgiven.  Roger Clemens painted himself into a corner and kept up the charade – he is in a real mess.  Liars pay in the end.  The form of payment might change, but the pain is always real.

Truth be told I fear for what might be coming in the world of sports and high-profile athletes.  There are some very damming accusations and innuendo being bantered about.  I just hope that if there is a truth to be told, the lesson of Roger Clemens is heeded.  It is obvious the Federal Government has taken an interest.  Unfortunately, it should not take the threat of jail to get to the truth, but that is the world in which we live.  Maybe these high-profile “falls from grace” will help bring back that folksy idea of owning it even when it hurts…maybe.

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Own It…Even When It Hurts

Once again, hats off to the world of sports for providing yet additional support to an age-old adage. Ownership of your decisions and a bit of contrition will go much farther, much faster, than denial. Denial in the face of facts is never a winning strategy – never. It simply delays the inevitable.

The latest example involves Floyd Landis and the world of cycling.  Shocking as it might be to learn of doping in sports, Floyd now acknowledges he was doping…after 4 years of denials.  Of course he denied the test results (both of them) and fought his 2 year ban from the sport and accused everyone and every institution remotely tied to the process as being tainted and aligned against him.   4 years, a book, a legal defense fund, countless interviews pleading his innocence and several million dollars later he admits it.  He looks like a complete fool.  His reputation and legacy totally trashed.

To reinforce the lesson, consider a few quick case studies of other epic sports dopers:

Barry Bonds – Denies It – Publicly hated – the face of the steroid era.

Alex Rodriquez – Owns it – Totally forgotten in a matter of weeks.

Roger Clemens – Denies It – The sordid details keep on seeping out – his reputation and legacy in tatters.

Marion Jones – Denies It – Convicted of Perjury and spent 6 months in prison.

The NFL – Ignore it – Maybe you will be lucky and no one will call you on it…maybe.

Mark McGuire – Ignore it then own it – The stain lingers, but will never disappear.

So what is the lesson?  Simple really, just own it.  Good or bad, easy or hard, clean or dirty, just own what you do, the decisions you make and the path you choose.  No one is expected to be perfect.  If there is anything that sports has shown us it is that people will forgive and forget if you just own the mistake.  Admit it, show contrition, learn from it and move forward.  The human capacity for empathy is almost without limit.  Honesty is a powerful thing – everyone gets it.

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An Even, Steady Strain

The excitement of the crowd – the very large and animated crowd – was infectious.  There were bands, people in costume, casual fans and zealots.  There was even the classic “devil” running along the course, complete with cape and pitch fork.  The riders were quite literally caked in mud, riding over hills, running up stairs, leaping over barricades, jumping over curbs, slipping, sliding and wrecking along a wet, icy and technical course.  They were generally putting themselves and their machines through every sort of physical stress possible with reckless abandon and unbridled passion.  It was a sight to behold, and one full of lessons in leadership, business, life and relationships.  It was the Cyclocross National Championships in Bend Oregon.

It became clear as we watched multiple races throughout the weekend – chains would break and components would fail.  Make no mistake, these bikes and components are built to withstand an incredible amount of pressure and force.  They literally can go for tens of thousands of miles under the most demanding situations and never fail.  However, when the chain and components are placed under excessive AND abrupt strain, there were failures.  Dramatic, entertaining, and glorious failures with riders and bikes strewn about the course.

It is easy to spot the person with a broken chain – they are running along the course with their bike hanging over their shoulder.  Riders zipping past and one person running along looking less than happy.  It seemed to always happen at points where the course became very technical and physically demanding, but was preceded by a section where the rider had been able to relax, for the chain to go slack.  A point where maximum force was harshly applied to the drive train.  If things were not aligned properly and slack not taken out of the chain evenly, the system would quite often fail.

Abrupt, harsh, excessive strain will quite often overload the best system.  Teams, people, software, processes, relationships or the drive train on a cyclocross bike – too much demand applied too quickly is never good.  Sometimes the system can take it, but called on too often to perform in extremis, failure often results.  Steady strain on the chain is clearly a key to success in bike racing.  Those who won the races never had mechanical failures.  They raced the course in an aggressive and focused manner, always mindful of their equipment.  Always aware that a well-maintained and prepared machine can withstand a steady strain, but too harsh of a demand can result in catastrophic failures.

And so it is with teams and processes, leadership and relationships.  Ask for too much too quickly without thinking about the consequences, and even the best system can and will fail.  Allowing the system or team, relationship or process to build up too much slack is never wise.  Maintenance and nurturing, focusing and thinking ahead – it avoids putting yourself and others in extremis.  Cyclocross racing and broken chains – a lesson in the value of an even, steady strain.  Besides, who wants to run several miles with their bike, though the fans clearly appreciate the effort.  Especially the guy in the devil costume.

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Living in the Moment – How I Spent My Saturday

A perfect fall day, great people doing something they love; for the sheer joy of it. No expectations, no timeline, no phones, no emails, no talk of work, no worrying about the kid’s soccer games, the office, house hold chores, the schedule or even time.  None of the myriad of issues we allow to dictate and dominate our lives. There just are not many better ways to be reminded of the timeless lessons in life – live in the moment.  Unload the baggage just for a few hours – you will be better for it.

Joe's-Fall-Dalles-Ride-062

No one spoke of stressful issues.  Nothing about work, what anyone does for a living, politics, religion, kid’s sports, the economy (well a couple typical jokes), or even training or races.  It was all fun banter – chatting about bikes, about trips on bikes, about family and mutual friends.  It was 80 miles of time spent with others enjoying the moment, enjoying the day, enjoying the ride, and sprinting for a few signs and racing up a few climbs.  It was not about a destination, it was about a journey.  So simple really, enjoying the journey and actually appreciating where we are, who we are with, and what we are doing.

So we chose to ride bikes. It is not the bike that made the day, it was the time spent with others doing what you love – doing something you have loved since youth. And for one special fall day we were reminded yet again why youth is wasted on the young. As adults and professionals, parents and spouses, these sorts of opportunities to “live in the moment” do not come along too often – you better be ready to embrace them.

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There is Another Option…

Sports offers so many examples and lessons – training, practice, commitment, focus, teamwork, and on and on that it has almost become impossible to find anything new.  To find a fresh idea that is actually of value.  In the spirit of redundancy, we can start with the age old “sometimes growth and future success requires sacrifice”.  Ah, what a boring old classic.

And now we will leave behind the predictable path.  Sometimes growth and success requires sacrifice; it requires one to willingly walk away from the safe situation that is at hand and move in an entirely new and unproven direction.   No, this is not another “practice makes perfect” diatribe.

I was recently reminded of a very powerful passage written by Johan Bruyneel, the team director for the US Postal and Discovery Channel cycling teams – the man behind Lance Armstrong and his 7 Tour de France victories.  His book “We Might as Well Win” is obviously based around cycling, but has many valuable leadership, business and life lessons.  It was the below passage that struck a cord (italics added for emphasis):

“In the end, of course, that impulsive move to quit was what left me free to take up Lance’s offer to run his team. Following my heart in a direction away from the guaranteed money of my contract changed my life. Gave me a chance to make my dreams come true. Gave me enough money to retire whenever I want. Gave me my friend, Lance Armstrong.”

– Johan Bruyneel in “We Might as Well Win”

Dare I say we have all had the debate – the “sure thing” versus the “what might be”, the known versus the unknown.  It is never easy, and the age old advice is to always follow your head, to think it through, to never make a rash decision.  But the pull of the heart is never far away.

Eventually that someday just might come when the heart is right, that logic and reason need to be put aside.  Sure it is a tough decision to answer a calling, pursue a passion, to follow your heart.  Some might call it irresponsible or reckless.  The friction in following the heart only increases as we get older – family, mortgages, responsibilities and financial obligations are all very real sources of friction.  However, are they really a reason for ignoring the heart?  Or are they a convenient excuse to not take that one special chance, to really and truly follow your heart?

Maybe we will not end up in business with a once in a lifetime global talent.  Maybe we will not rise to the absolute pinnacle of our profession.  Odds are we will not become independently wealthy.  But maybe, just maybe it will work out.  Maybe we will win.  One never knows until they try.

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Sometimes…it’s just not going to be easy

Being a fan of a fringe sport requires a certain level of odd commitment, both as a participant and as a spectator.  We cyclists seem to have a shared reserve of “odd commitment” on which to draw.  Yes, I am one of those guys you see on the road in the cold, rain, sun and heat racking up the miles and loving every odd minute of it.

The Amgen Tour of California is a true world class event bringing together many of the very best cyclists in the world – a truly impressive field.  The unique thing about professional cycling is the very close contact the fans have with the athletes – literally you can walk in and among them both pre and post race.  It is as if NASCAR allowed fans into the pits or baseball allowed open access to the dugouts and locker rooms.  Truly an amazing thing to see, world-class athletes going about their sport/job – for good or ill it is all there for you to see up-close.

This year’s tour just ended Sunday after 8 days of racing.  It started with 3 straight days in Northern California in absolutely horrible weather conditions.  Make no mistake; riding 100 miles day after day in the rain and cold is not just uncomfortable, cold, wet and exhausting, it is flat dangerous.  Multiple riders left the race this last week with broken ribs, collarbones, hands and arms, not to mention countless cases of road rash, bruises and general fatigue and illness.

However, in spite of it all, they were there, day after day, and as the race wore on and the miles racked up, the weather started to improve, the roads dried and the sun shone.  The fans went from a few thousand die-hards along the course to hundreds of thousands lining the roads.  In the course of a week I saw the riders power through the tough days, racing for the love of the sport, and because it is their job.   But there was also the knowledge that there would be an end to each day, and that maybe the next day would be a little better. 

It was quite the lesson in life.  Rain or shine, warm or cold, good day or bad, as a professional you have to go out and do the job day in and day out.  Sometimes we look at others with envy thinking that to do their job and live their life, it must all be gravy, even when it is “tough”.  However, life seems to have an ability to deal everyone tough periods on the road of life’s journey – literally and figuratively.

Often we have to go through periods at work, in our training, and frankly our life that are less than pleasant.  It is easy to bag it when it is tough – just mail it in for the day, week, or longer.  However, remembering why we are there, the commitments, the ultimate goals, will carry us through those periods of struggle.  In the end, it is just part of life’s journey – there are simply stretches that are just gonna suck.  We are the only ones that control how we handle those periods.  We can surrender and lose, or we can lean into it and win.  It is our choice – always has been – always will be.

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