Some of the best business lessons I have learned have come about during times when I was doing something that had nothing to do with business at all. Below are five of my favorites. Expect another batch sometime down the road.
- I was taking horseback riding lessons when I lived and worked in Cincinnati. There was a time when I wanted the horse to go to the right of the post and he wanted to go left. I was told to “hold my position until the horse yielded”. Apparently, I didn’t get it quite right the first time as the horse gently clonked his head into the post. But I’ve never forgotten those words. Sometimes in business you have to take a position and stay strong until others come around to your way of thinking.
- While in Philadelphia, I started training in karate. In the beginning, I could not execute a front block correctly. Sensei Michael Mastromatto stepped up behind me and moved my arms for me. I was more than a little embarrassed which he must have sensed. He quietly said, “Don’t be embarrassed, someone did this for me when I was starting out.” I was never sure if that was really true or if he just said it to make me feel better. Either way, it taught me a lesson about empathy when teaching/coaching which I have tried to apply when helping others.
- Also, in Cincinnati, I learned to scuba dive. I had tried it at a resort and as much as I wanted to, I just could not do it. The dive shop near me was run by a husband and wife. She knew I had unsuccessfully tried on vacation and let me in the class with no deposit and loaner gear. After the first day, I told her husband I wasn’t coming back. Since the shop had its own pool, he offered to work with me one on one any day that week. Last week my son and I did a boat dive (his first after getting his Junior Open Water card and my first in 20 years) off of Sarasota FL (water temp only 66 degrees). Just because you don’t get something right away, doesn’t mean you won’t. Keep trying. I remember trying to figure out the plethora of foreign exchange spreadsheets in my first job. I didn’t think I would get there at first, but I kept trying until I did.
- I love doing hill sprints at the 6 AM Shark Fitness boot camp and reaching the top before guys less than half my age who are clearly in better shape. I can do this until they get called out and embarrassed for being beaten by me. Suddenly, they find another gear and I wind up somewhere in the middle of the pack. I can only outrun these guys if I’m giving 100% and they’re not. Always, give 100% otherwise you might find yourself behind a competitor who has no business beating you.
- In my early days at Unisys, Blue Bell, there was a small group of us who would run 5k and 10k races together (although not very often). One day, we were running a five mile race (2 ½ out and 2 ½ straight back). I decided that my strategy was to put as much distance as possible between myself and one of the other guys, Bill MacKenzie. Bill was a former rugby player and still in great shape, but I was younger so thought I could beat him. I only looked back at the turn, and it was then I realized that Bill was only a few strides behind me. That took the wind out of my sails and he soon passed me by. While it’s important to look forward, it’s also important to look in the rear view mirror every once in a while, especially when you’re in the lead. Otherwise, how do you know where your competitors are?
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