My kids are competitive like their dad and in the before times when we would head to a park they liked to race ninja warrior style against each other on the park play structure. Often times challenges arise. Another kid gets in their way, they fall, they accuse each other of cheating, and ultimately stop racing because they assume due to the impediment the other kids will win.
A few years ago on one such instance I pulled the kids together and shared with them one of my core principles: Always finish the race! I don’t care if you fall, if someone gets in your way, or if someone cheats, you always finish the race, then we can talk about it. Because even if you lose, finishing the race is helping you get better for the next race. Quitting robs you of the practice needed to improve. and equally importantly determination is a habit, you don’t want to develop a habit of quitting or excuse making.
Fast forward 5 years. Yesterday we were doing some swim races. And after beating me a few times in a row, sometimes handily, my oldest turns to me and says: Dad, good job always finishing the race.
A few takeaways from this experience that apply to leadership in life and work
1. Always Finish the Race: The race of life is long and there are a lot of obstacles along the way. But much like racing we can’t get better if we don’t work our way through the challenges and obstacles we invariably face. And our biggest life achievements be they academic, professional, or personal will involve pushing through obstacles. In fact that’s what makes achievement so rewarding, it’s overcoming the challenges along the way.
2. What You Say Matters: It’s incredible to me that this one lesson stuck with my kids from so many years ago. There are similar examples of things I’ve said to colleagues throughout my career that have stuck with them and helped them years later. We forget how impactful we can be on our family, friends, and colleagues and it’s a great reminder to use that super power for good.
3. Preach What You Practice : Words alone aren’t enough. Following through and demonstrating the behavior is key to effective leadership. If your behavior is inconsistent with your words, impact and followership will be hard to attain. Leadership is most effective when you’re preaching what you believe and practice. Being mindful of that is a key to having a meaningful impact.
I once asked a friend how she manages to run marathons and she replied with the old adage, “ I don’t stop when I’m tired, I stop when you’re done!” So set a good example, share your wisdom, and always, always finish the race!