Tag Archives: riding

In For the Long Haul. Leadership Lessons from the Tour De France.


Photo by Tom Curtis

I love July.  It starts off with the birthday of the greatest nation on earth, and kicks into three of my favorite weeks of the year.  That’s right, it’s Tour De France time.  I love the race because despite all of it’s issues behind the scenes, it’s a magnificent spectacle to watch.  It’s got all the elements for a good story.  It’s got surprise, intrigue, suspense, action, drama, and beauty.  What more could you want?  This is the time of year that my DVR is very busy.

So what does all of this have to do with anything?  Well, we can draw some career parallels from Le Tour.

  1. We are in it for the long haul.  This years tour will cover over 2,200 miles in 23 days with two rest days and a 10ish mile opening day.  Effectively, 2,250 miles over the course of essentially 20 days.  That’s 110 miles of racing per day!  You’ve got to be committed to running the whole thing before you start.  Similarly, you can expect to start your career around age 20 and you will most likely be at it until at least age 65.  That’s 45 years!  Once you start, you are into this thing for the long haul.  Plan appropriately.
  2. You’ve got to budget your energy. During almost every stage except for the time trials, some riders decide they are going to leave the main group (the peloton) and go it alone or in a small group to try and win the day.  But, due to the aerodynamics of the peloton, the breakaway riders don’t stand a chance IF the peloton wants to chase them down.  But, even if they succeed in staying away and winning the day, they are toast the next day.  You simply can’t keep up that kind of effort day in and day out and succeed over the long haul.  Similarly, if you bury yourself in your work, you’ll burn out well before the race is over.  You have to find a pace that you can keep up.
  3. Keep your energy reserves high. Competitive cyclists are constantly drinking because the rate of dehydration is very high on the bike.  Similarly, each race has designated “feed zones” where team officials hand out bags of food to the racers.  Without this, they would simply use all of the fuel in their bodies and ‘bonk’.  The bonk is a condition where they are completely out of food stores in the body.  You can’t finish the race if you bonk.  To avoid bonking in your career, you must regularly head through the mental feed zone and recharge your batteries.  Take vacations, turn off the cell phone, keep away from the inbox.  Get away from work and do it regularly.  Schedule it if you have to.
  4. Know when to attack. The race champions know when to make their move.  They don’t just run off the front recklessly.  They are calculating.  They know their strengths and their weaknesses as well as their opponents strengths and weaknesses.  They come into the race with a plan that’s been developed months ahead of time.  You need to have a plan for your career as well.  Know where you want to go.  Don’t make a move until you are ready.  Jumping jobs without real purpose doesn’t lead to gain.  Make sure that when you do make a move, it strategically moves you forward.
  5. Be ready to shift on the fly. This point is the balance to point  four above.  The race doesn’t always unfold the ways the riders had planned.  You have to be able to change your plans on the run.  Things happen.  Family members get sick, job cuts come, plans get disrupted.  These may derail your plans, so you’ve got to be able to step back and look at things objectively, then adjust as necessary.  The one thing that you have to do however, is NEVER make changes to your plans in response to emotion.  Take the time necessary to be objective and consult with a trusted adviser if at all possible.  Everyone should have a mentor they can go to.  If you don’t have one, get one.

There are many, many more dynamics of racing that dovetail nicely into real life.  However, those are for another time.  Today’s stage is over, and I’m inspired to ride my own bike.

Until next time…………

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