Creating High Performance Culture in Yourself
It was 1971 and the start of cross country running season. It was a big day for a couple of 13 year old buddies who loved to run. Whether together or separately, we ran pretty much everywhere – to the gym, the grocery store, the theater and even to the school bus. So it wasn’t surprising that we laced up our runners one evening for our first “official”, non-official run of the season.
My friend Greg and I met up with Mike, our morale boosting buddy, and headed toward our local ¼ mile track. It once occupied what was known as the “Apple Bowl”, but was relocated to a huge field beside our old elementary school.
Mike took up his position near the starting line sitting on the grass and watched with a bit of indifference. Two others showed up for their own run – Jack, who was a couple of years older than us, along with his dad who was probably in his mid-30’s…both quite athletic. It wasn’t a competitive run, but at the same time, since runners are part of a high performance culture it’s always a competitive run.
I’m not sure which duo bolted out of the gate first, but Greg and I lined up, assumed the runner’s position and took off. Shoulder to shoulder, pacing each other, pushing each other with the knowledge that we had three miles in total to cross the finish line – 12 times around the track. This epic run would qualify each of us (at least in our own thinking) to try out and run for our school cross country team.
The first four laps were uneventful as expected. The usual pain, lack of oxygen flowing freely, burning lungs, a bit of difficulty in breathing deeply, but, we pressed on lapping the other guys. The next few laps we hit and held a stronger pace – stride by stride. Breathing regulated itself and all was silent except for the rushing sound of the evening breeze and in-sync Adidas hitting the ground below. We were fully committed to the 3 miles and were over half way to the finish line – no turning back, no stopping.
Upon hitting the two mile mark, my legs felt weightless, breathing was slow and steady, and our pace quickened with seeming ease. We continued extending one leg in front of the other, shoulder to shoulder, keeping pace and pushing each other to the not-so-distant goal.
At two-and-a-half miles, we had lapped our co-runners several times and were “in-flight” mode. With one lap to go, the sprint was on. We were like two dogs who would only slow or stop running if their faculties gave way and they expired on the spot.
Arms went up in the “V” for Victory, as they always do, when you successfully cross the line.
Give Yourself a Deadline
Forty-five years later, my buddy Greg and I have given ourselves a three month window to qualify for a different type of run and successfully cross the finish line in the allotted time. Greg has been involved in leadership training and e-learning for the last 30+ years. I have been involved in training, mentoring, and coaching for most of my adult life.
Our current qualifying race is combining passion, experience, skill-sets and grit to offer:
- Results-Based Leadership – Creating leadership that optimizes business results
- High Performance Culture – Redefining organizational culture and owning your world
- Consultative Coaching – Become the best you…fully charged, tuned-in, more satisfied and successful
Today, we “lace up”, take our respective places on the track with our eyes and thoughts clearly on the finish line that is a short, but daunting, three months away. We will run shoulder to shoulder, pace each other and push each other until the goal is realized.
There will be pain, discomfort, (a competitive edge) but also the anticipated “in-flight” moment where the world is a blur and one only hears the sound of the rushing breeze and footsteps touching, lifting off and retouching the earth.
This is an epic adventure of two buddies (and yes, the rest of the amazing Team) at the starting line of a new season. Our intent is to go from cross-country running to international leadership and organizational high performance culture, training, and coaching. I’m at the starting line now – got to go!
Practical Lessons Going Into the Race
- Live your dreams – they have a way of opening up life and possibilities
- Align and partner with one or more people with similar values and vision – great collaboration
- Go big or stay home – enough said
- Never give up – the finish line gets closer every step
- Set and run after measurable goals – achievement is just around the bend
- Change your culture – own your world
- Laugh a lot – take your endeavors seriously, but yourself, much more lightly
- Communicate effectively – clarity lights the track
- Hold yourself personally accountable for all outcomes – keeps one engaged and focused
“It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” ― Babe Ruth
If you have any of your own lessons learned to add to my short list, please do – I would love to hear your story!