There are a myriad of powerful, practical, and universal lessons to be gleaned from the science and art of racing. For me, two of these became apparent in elementary school when I was competing in the Junior Olympic's 200 Meter race. After assuming a strong lead, and despite the fact that my coach at the time had repeatedly warned me that losing focus of the finish line would cost me the race, I allowed the sound of impending footsteps from behind to distract me to the point that I turned my head, stumbled slightly, lost the lead, and worst of all, got completely taken out of my game. I vowed that day to grow from my mistake and forever carry these nuggets of wisdom with me (which have since become cornerstones of my success):
Avoid Looking in Your Peripheral View
Don't confuse this as meaning that you should be unaware. I was very aware of what was happening in my race as the footsteps and heavy breath of the girl behind me made her presence and position abundantly clear. What I didn't need to do was look back at her and give-in to my curiosity of who this person was who dare try and pass me.
Too often I see people, personally and professionally, consumed with what other people around them are doing, rather than focusing on themselves; their goals, personal bests and action steps to achieve them. When you concentrate your energy (mental, physical, or emotional) on anything other than "your race" you are in essence hindering your chances to win. If you constantly see others around you as nothing but your competition and become more consumed with what they are doing than with what you need to do, chances are you will not only lose but be miserable too.
Stay Focused on the Positive and Productive
This plays hand-in-hand with lesson #1. It's much easier to block out the noise of "the competition" and stay within yourself when you keep your eye on the prize and your thoughts centered on positive outcomes. In the case of my story, counter-productive emotions won out. I let my fear of being passed up on the track overtake my desire to experience the thrill of winning/running a great race.
Unfortunately, in entrepreneurs eager to launch an idea, I often see this tendency to succumb to fear when it's time to share their idea with others; worrying that it will be stolen if they talk about it. When it comes to these concerns I like to challenge myself and other entrepreneurs to adopt a defiantly positive mindset and think more along the lines of "Go ahead, steal my idea if you want. I'll just come up with another and another and another -- and each one will be better than the last!" Now, I'm certainly not suggesting that you actually say that or that it's not imperative to protect your intellectual property, but you can see how an attitude that's centered on inner-strength and belief creates a confident, resilient aura and keeps unproductive emotions from paralyzing your efforts. It takes an incredible amount of energy to see a concept through to market and positivity is an entrepreneur's lightning rod. Be sure to treat it as the invaluable currency that it is.
There's a very poignant, and now famous, quote from a faux college commencement speech by Mary Schmich that goes, "Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long, and in the end, it's only with yourself." So true. So stay focused on the prize of your own race. And don't worry about who's in front, behind, or beside you -- there will be more than enough drama in your own journey to keep the story interesting.
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