Great businesses aren’t afraid of big scary goals. At Qrious we achieve ours through clear strategies and genuine vision. In the last couple of years I’ve used similar techniques to challenge my comfort zone and realise my dream of becoming an Ironman.
Even the biggest dreams have to start somewhere
It may have taken me awhile to do it, but on 4th March, 2017 I ticked off one of my big scary audacious life goals. I ran the Lake Taupo Ironman.
I actually committed to that goal early. As an eleven year old I watched an Ironman on TV for the first time, probably the legendary Hawaiian Ironman, and I was mesmerised. I couldn’t believe people could actually do this… swim 3.8 kilometres, then spend 180 kilometres on a bike, followed by the relatively serene 42.195 kilometres that makes up a marathon. Really? And… all on the same day?? Having been thoroughly inspired, I set my ambitious goal to one day complete an Ironman.
When I arrived at Qrious almost two years ago, it felt like coming home. It’s a place that’s on a journey, full of smart, driven people, committed to the achievement of the company goals. But the reason I love it is bigger than that. Qrious is a place where big scary audacious goals don’t seem so extraordinary. Here they’re part of our everyday. We are a software business committed to the dream of taking on the world – and we revel in the challenge that brings. For someone who’s never lost that eleven year old’s drive, that feels pretty good. But it’s also a place where you need to contribute. To deliver on Qrious’ big goals means there is a plan, and you in turn are expected to have a plan of your own. And if there’s one thing I know a little bit about, it’s the importance of a good plan.
When we moved to New Zealand over a decade ago I knew I would never have a better opportunity to run an ironman. Soon after landing my planning began. And then life got in the way. I got sick. Proper sick. The sort of sick where I couldn’t walk up hills, get on a bike, swim, or do any sort of fitness activity – let alone train for an ironman. It lasted a year.
My illness was the sort of unexpected challenge big ideas encounter all the time. Corporate strategies rarely survive engagement with the real world without some change. That’s why they are built with a degree of flexibility. I adjusted my thinking and realigned my expectations. Concentrating on getting well, I promised myself as soon as I could train again, I’d complete my first marathon, and maybe a half Ironman. Just not on the same day… at least, not this time.
With the help of my family I eventually nailed four half-Ironmans and four Auckland marathons. But the funny thing about goals is the big ones never really go away – especially if you’ve had to settle for second best. And that’s how I saw the marathons and half-Ironman comps. The Ironman was still there, looming over me and reminding me of my promise to my eleven year old self.
Making a plan
As part of the Senior Leadership Team at Qrious we’ve done a lot of work on creating our vision for the future, setting big goals, and determining our strategies to get there. Not surprisingly, this was very similar to how I planned to achieve my big personal goal.
To complete my Ironman, I first worked out my strategy. With a scarce resource (time), and competing demands on that resource (my family and the limits of my body), I had to be smart. Setting milestones was key, as was celebrating when they were achieved.
The more I went on, the more the parallels came through.
Total clarity in my goals was vital to success
Celebrating the little wins and the reaching of milestones provided the impetus for the next push. The goal was so large I broke it down to component parts. To reach the big goal would mean taking the small steps ferociously.
And although a strategy was key, I also had to accept that things changed. My strategy needed to be flexible enough to encompass changes in the environment.
There were a few other examples as well – visualisation is a good one. Visualisation is a form of recognising your goal and intensely imagining what it will feel like – whether that’s walking down the finishing chute at Taupo, or delivering a significant and game changing piece of work for a client.
Realising small setbacks for what they are, and not letting them distract from the bigger goal was another. Training for something like an Ironman involves a lot of hurt. You’re going to get knocked back, you’re going to go through a lot of pain, but the payoff at the end makes it worthwhile.
Qrious is equally clear in setting out end goals, either with our clients or as a business. And of course the journey to achieving these can be difficult as conditions change. But by focusing clearly on the end goal, the small distractions are seen for what they are, and as a business we are able to capably deliver on our goals and promise.
There was one final thing that helped me survive the big day. I’ve always sought mentors, both to learn from and to look up to. On the day before Taupo there was an informal gathering of the competitors. Some people used it to catch up with old mates, some whiled the time away discussing training, and some used it as the start of their race build-up. I wanted to keep learning – so I found three competitors I knew had completed at least five Ironman races. I introduced myself and tried to learn as much as I could to help me execute my final race strategy. The advice and help from these athletes was invaluable and helped me survive the toughest parts of the race day.
Getting to the finish line
I won’t bore you with race details. Suffice to say my preparation paid off and I finished the race in thirteen and a half hours. And like any great business, I’m almost ready to revisit my three year plan and start striding to the next goal. I hear Hawaii is lovely in October…
Taking lessons from my personal goals
Below are my top seven lessons from completing my first Ironman, that I really believe can be applied in the business setting to achieve big company goals.
Clearly identify success and don’t be afraid to celebrate it
Visualise from the moment you set your challenge
Have a strategy, but be prepared to be flexible
Listen and learn from colleagues and mentors
Be prepared to suffer to deliver excellence
Break out of your box. Do not accept predetermined expectations of your own limitations. Instead challenge your world and break new boundaries for yourself.
Remember, achieving a monumental challenge is an experience that will enhance your life and the lives of those around you.
In life, having a clear strategy to win and work towards achieving your goals is paramount. Business goals are no different. Be clear from the beginning on what your actual goal is, take my learnings above, and you’ll be well on your way.