Today, I want to emphasize the importance of coming out of the blocks strong, maintaining the momentum and playing with the lead.
I’ll start with a story.
In 2003, I decided to take up a new sport: triathlon. I had no experience. I had never swam, biked or run competitively. I was a wrestler, and – with the exception of running – triathloning was foreign to me. Still, after a friend of mine challenged me to take up the new sport, I was determined to succeed at something new and different. I accepted the challenge and dove in head first.
I vividly remember my first triathlon, in New Hampshire in 2003. When the gun went off, the shock of starting in a group of people treading water in a lake together made me feel like I was in a washing machine of people. Heck, people were even swimming right over the top of me. That swim seemed to take forever. It was terrifying. I sat there for a few minutes until almost everyone swam away, and then I backstroked much of the swim. By the time I had gotten out of the water, I felt like I had survived some kind of epic struggle, and I still had the 28-mile bike ride and 6.2-mile run to go.
More than three hours later, I finished my first triathlon as they were disassembling the finish line. I was one of the very last finishers. This may sound like a negative experience, but after it was all done, I looked back and realized I had enjoyed it.
I stayed with triathlon, joined a club and hired a coach. Slowly but surely, I got better and better, to the point where I was regularly finishing in the top three in my age group. But the swim portion of the race was still my weakness, and because of this, I was always playing catch up to the faster athletes. Triathlons start with the swim, and I was always coming out of the water a couple of minutes behind. No matter how fast I was on the bike, or how fast I could run, I was struggling to close the gap all the way. It was frustrating.
I realized I had to master swimming if I wanted to be more competitive at triathlons. In 2008, I spent the year working hard at swimming technique and speed. By the summer of 2009, I was leading races out of the water and winning my age group. I even made the U.S. Amateur National Team – all because I was no longer playing catch up.
When you get off to a strong start, you can take that momentum and parlay it into great success if you keep up with the same habits and routines that gave you that strong start.
2020 was a uniquely challenging year for all of us. The world was taken by surprise with COVID. The pandemic put everyone into a reactive state. However, once we adapted to the new normal, we realized what we needed to do to speed up again.
We Are All Creators.
We create the outcomes we desire. And, as creators, we can set ourselves to come out of the starting blocks strong this year.
Everyone experiences struggles in life, and we must consider these struggles to be gifts. Every challenge and every difficult situation is an opportunity to grow, and that opportunity is a gift.
The swim in my first triathlon terrified me, causing me to lean in. By leaning in, I was able to overcome my fears and doubts, and in doing that I gained confidence and strength. That confidence and strength helped me realize I can do things that I previously thought I could not. This was true both within triathlon and in all other areas of my life.
We are as strong as we believe we are, and we create the outcomes we imagine.