Life and business lessons show up in some of the most unusual ways. A new one recently emerged for me after watching the 24 hours of Le Mans, the perennial auto race in France.
What unfolded in the closing minutes of the 2016 Le Mans 24 was not only remarkable, but now serves as a principle, useful for life and business. Days later, I applied the lesson while clad in running shoes, feeling exhausted, dripping with sweat.
As in sports, entrepreneurship requires mental toughness and agility. Business owners regularly face problems related to competition, management, government regulations and so on. It never stops. Because capital is always an issue, you can’t solve all your problems by throwing money at them.
It’s been said that the most important business and marketing tool is the one between your ears. You have to keep your vision fresh and silence the negative chatter in your brain. I, for one, am happy when an unexpected source of inspiration presents itself. I found mine in the finish of that race.
With a substantial lead and only two laps to go, Toyota was virtually certain to win. It was impossible for the second place Porsche driver to close the gap. We can only imagine the chatter in his mind after a long, grueling contest. “You’ll never win. Just ease off a little. Second place is good.” Fortunately for him, he stayed tough.
Things suddenly changed when the Toyota slowed due to motor trouble. The Porsche driver couldn’t see what was happening and wasn’t given any details. Only these words came from the pits. “Keep pushing.” A few minutes later, Porsche took the checkered flag in a dramatic, surprising win.
A few days later, those words, “Keep pushing,” began to resonate with me in my daily routine. After years of early morning walks I recently started running. A new route with more hills is now a frequent friend and occasional nemesis.
One particular June morning found me seeking a faster pace and new personal best. The struggle became a mental dialog between the voice of my body and a new, more determined self. It went something like this:
“What if I injure my knee again?”
“Keep pushing. What if you don’t?”
“This hill is tough. I’m running out of breath.”
“Keep pushing. Your breath will return.”
“Sweat is burning my eyes. I can’t see.”
“That’s OK. You know the way. Keep pushing.”
“Man, I don’t know if I can beat my best today.”
“Keep pushing. Don’t give up.”
That run was indeed very tough. But the reward was amazing. And, yes, I did establish a new personal best. More importantly, I got a fresh perspective about life, winning and the mental game. Applying the principle will be a lifelong endeavor.
Wins sometimes come in unexpected ways.
Maybe you’re working your business plan and not everything is working as expected. That’s a common experience. But things sometimes fall your way that weren’t part of the plan. A large customer leaves a competitor after many years. A new product line is more profitable than anticipated. A new regulation inspires a new stream of business. If you stay in the game, giving it your best, you’ll be in position to take the checkered flag.
The winning is in the push.
Sometimes winning isn’t tied to the end result. The win is in the personal satisfaction of having stuck with it, even when it was hard. It has to do with the condition of your soul. Pushing through pain and difficulty, both in life and I business, makes us better, stronger and more capable.
“There is no failure except in no longer trying.”
― Elbert Hubbard