An absolutely winning article!
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Stop Whining and Start Winning
Redefining the Competitive Advantage
1. Focus on your long-term potential instead of your short-term results. Short-term results will vary but if you keep your eye on the prize, you will win.
2. Find the person who is tops in your field and learn from them. Most often, jealousy blocks us from leveraging the proven tactics of industry leaders. Instead, redefine competition as an edge that can catapult you into the lead.
Once I made it into the trees and out of sight, I took the ski pole that was in my right hand and broke it over the snowy trunk of the aspen pine that was four feet in front of me. With snow falling from the branches and most of the pole still intact, I took another step closer to that tree.
Winding up for another healthy baseball swing, I split what remained of my pole in two. In my hand was less than a third of my once intact pole; this third was just long enough to break over my knee. I proceeded to do just that.
I was still breathing the hard, short breaths of intense anger. Somehow, breaking one pole just wasn’t enough to dispense with my frustration. I grabbed the other that lay innocently beside me in the snow and repeated the entire procedure with it. With ski pole shrapnel scattered around me, I looked next toward my skis.
By now though, my sadness had started to surpass my frustration. Falling to my knees, I began sobbing into my gloves.
You see, I had already spent more than half my life and a great deal of my parents’ cash on the dream of being a world-class downhill skier. Up to that point, I had felt that my energy and parents’ investment were well spent; but the results on the scoreboard that day told a different story.
I had just finished a Canadian Alpine Series ski race on Silver Star Mountain in Vernon, British Columbia. My race was average, at best. I was disappointed with my result, but I was able to console myself with knowing that there were many experienced racers competing that day, some even as old as twenty-five. Fifteen was the youngest age of any racer allowed in the race and I was only sixteen.
After my run, I hung around the finish line watching the balance of the skiers post their results. Most of the racers that remained were younger than me and posed little threat to my positioning. The scoreboard showed me in seventeenth place; although seventeenth was a bad result I figured the race would finish this way.
You might be asking yourself “Cary, was seventeenth place what sent you into a pole breaking rage ending in tears?”
No, what caused me to question my dream of being a world-class skier was watching fifteen year old Edi Podivinsky come down the slope and finish third. At sixteen, the gap in our age felt huge – he seemed like a child. That day, however, third place put him on the podium with the big boys.
What was worse was that Edi had finished a full three and a half seconds ahead of me. In ski racing, a one-second difference in finish times is like a full lap in a foot race around an Olympic sized track. Young Edi had virtually lapped me three and a half times.
First, came the shock of it all and then came the pole busting rage. Having my clock cleaned so definitively by someone junior to me caused me to question my dreams at such a core level, my guts started to tighten to the point that I thought I was going to puke.
For the first time in my ski career, I was seriously considering calling it quits. I thought to myself “Who was I kidding (other than my parents and myself) that I could be the best in the world when I was being lapped by this boy wonder. Edi’s results confirmed the message of the one skeptical voice within me that told me that all my efforts were pointless.
If you’ve ever experienced giving something everything you’ve got and losing – horrifically – you’ll understand my devastation. As I looked at Edi, I now knew what a future world champion looked like.
There was no question that he was a world champion in the making, and if I continued to ski, I would have front row tickets to watch how the whole thing would unfold. What could be worse?
Then a thought hit me, “Hmm, do I watch Edi win the world cup on television or do I learn from him and perhaps someday stand on the podium with him? What if Edi is a gift, a gift that no coach, cash or training camp could replicate?”
As amazing as this may sound, in less than five minutes, I went from wallowing in the snow over Edi’s exceptional ability to beat me, to recognizing that having his talent so close to me could be the single greatest tool for my development.
Even though Edi and I continued to compete against each other, over the years, we were able to help each other get better and better by sharing best practices. Edi did end up becoming the best training tool I could have asked for as a ski racer.
Several years later, it happened: both Edi and I stood side by each on the podium at a World Cup Race. We achieved the monumental milestone of placing first and second for our nation: it had only been accomplished once before.
I credit Edi with much of my success: without his fantastic abilities I am confident that I wouldn’t have made it to the top of the world. So, you can imagine my shock when at the press conference announcing my retirement from professional sport, Edi shared with the reporters that “Everything that I have ever learned in this sport and everything that I have ever achieved in this sport is because I was chasing Cary Mullen”. I always thought that I had been chasing him, not the other way around!
Looking back, I realize what a profound lesson fifteen-year-old Edi had taught me. You see, in that very first race with Edi I had made a fatal but very human mistake: I was using that one race to define my ability and potential.
My lack of belief in my ability to reach my dream was quickly projected onto Edi. His superior results made me feel as if he was the one that would crush my dreams. What I didn’t immediately realize was that he could actually help me win. I was a big fish in a small puddle, and competing with Edi would give me the momentum to become the biggest fish in the ocean.
What if those that we believe are standing between us and everything we’ve ever wanted are not in our lives to prevent us from triumph, but instead to catapult us to our goals? I now believe that success in life is more about being involved in a grand game of leapfrog, where I leap over you towards my goals and you leap over me towards yours. At the end of the game, we both win.
I wonder if you have ever (or currently) blamed your lack of belief on someone close to you. How could you start to see this person as a gift? Is this person someone that you could play leapfrog with? What could that game of leapfrog do for your results?
Until the next edition of Winning Insights, I wish you EVEN Greater Success.
Conquer Doubts, Lunge through Fears and Find Focus,
Olympian, World Cup Downhill Champion, Author & Oceanfront Resort Developer, Cary Mullen was recently recognized by Successful Meetings Magazine as one of the hottest speakers of the year.
Cary promotes healthy living, chasing your greatest dreams, and training your mind and your instincts to Lunge Forward & achieve your next level of success.
For more info. from Cary Mullen visit: www.CaryMullen.com.