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Leadership Thought #398 – You Need To Run The Race To Win It

August 20, 2012

Free Woman in Gray Crew Neck Shirt Running on Brown Soil during Daytime Stock Photo

You can’t win a race if you don’t enter it.

One of the things I admire most about Olympic athletes is that they commit to being the best in the world at something. They don’t just talk about it,  they put in the hard work necessary to make it happen.  They choose to run the race because they know you cannot win it if you do not run.  Most of us, however, prefer to stay on the sidelines and watch others excel and rationalize away our own inability to do the same thing.  Too many people dream big but act small.

To win a race you must be in it.  It makes no sense to criticize the performance of others when we ourselves don’t have the courage to put ourselves on the line in a similar fashion.  This doesn’t mean we have to swim against Michael Phelps, but it does mean we need to find something of similar value to us and then go for it.  Everyone has the capacity to be great at something.  We are all blessed with unique skills and abilities that make us special.  I don’t know what that is for you, but I do know it exists.  Half the battle is being willing to “throw your hat in the ring” in the first place.  At a minimum, we can be the best at something or at least give it our all trying.  Life tends to reward bravery and punish cowardice.

I remember reading an interview with Ronnie Wood from the Rolling Stones where they asked him about his predecessor in the band Mick Taylor.  He admitted that Mick was technically a superior player to him and highly creative but lacked the self-confidence to play large venues and accept superstar status.  As Mick’s career was about to take off, he gave it all up because he couldn’t handle the pressure of increased expectations. Ronnie jumped at the opportunity and the rest is history.  People get ahead of you in life not because they are necessarily better than you at something, but because they are willing to take the chances and handle the scrutiny of putting themselves out there.  They believe in themselves, put in the requisite work, and roll the dice to see what happens.

I know that not everyone likes sports or war metaphors, but they are used for a reason.  To a large degree, life is about competition. Each of us will face our own metaphorical battles.  How we respond when this happens ends up defining the person we become.  We can wither and recoil at the prospect of stepping up and meeting the challenge or seize the moment and do the best we can to be our authentic selves.  To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, “there is no reason to live a life of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in you…” Put yourself out there and see what happens. Start singing now!