The morning was chilly and cloudy as my seven-year old son and I set out on an adventure. We were off to a father-son event out in the forest. And for me, it was time to take my leadership and mentoring a notch higher.
At the staging area, there were trampolines, slides, obstacle races, and great music. But our attraction was to ride our mountain bikes into the forest. My son had made it very clear that it had to be done.
I had been to this particular forest many times before. We had walked the trails with family and friends. In my mind, our bike ride was going to be a walk in the park. And the first leg was exactly that.
We accompanied our under-12’s on a four-kilometer ride. When we got back to the staging area, I was in for a big surprise. The adults were to race on a real mountain bike trail!
In our briefing, we were warned to ride carefully. There were twists, turns, and some rough sections. This wasn’t what I had signed up for! I just wanted to hang out with my son for some easy Saturday morning fun.
Over the last few posts, I have focused on the importance of owning our time. I found that this is one area that many of us struggle in. It seems like everything and everyone has conspired for a bigger share of our time. Taking care of and nourishing time is part of your leadership.
We end up starving our most important goals and relationships of the time they need. What I found out is that time is not the number of hours I have. It is what I do with those hours that makes the time worthwhile.
As I got onto my bike saddle, the only thought I had was what was I going to do with the time ahead of me. Off we went! One kilometer into the race, my chain jammed. I had to stop, unjam it and try to catch up with the race leaders. And this is when some leadership lessons began to flash by.
1. You don’t need validation from anyone
The longest distance I had ridden one-way before was six kilometers (about 2.5 miles). Here I was on a 20-kilometer trail that I had no clue of its layout. As we had some professional riders with us, I was tempted to ask if there were any shortcuts.
In reality, what I wanted was to be told that I was going to make it. To be validated. I also wanted to get an escape route just in case I felt like it was too much for me. There was a major battle going on between my ears.
The only validation that mattered was mine. I chose to get going. What won the day was my mindset. When you are in leadership, the biggest battle you have to fight is between your ears. Never forget that.
2. Falling isn’t the end
I was cruising along. My muscles were burning and my lungs felt like they’d explode. Suddenly, I heard a shout from behind me… “Overtaking!” This kid whizzed by me, but not for long. He cut into my lane and slowed down having ran out of steam.
This was the last thing I needed. Only by applying my brakes and veering off the track did I save us from a nasty accident. But the manoeuvre sent me crushing hands-first onto the track. I had had it with this race!
I was tired, battered and frustrated. At that moment, I could have looked for the shortest route back to the finishing line. Fortunately, I didn’t.
3. Starve the doubts
As I got up from the mud, I remembered something Michael Hyatt’s THIS IS YOUR LIFE™ PODCAST: “We walk off the field before the whistle blows because it’s easier than getting back in the race.”
That statement was fiercely competing with another that was screaming in my mind: “Who lied to me that I can even finish this race!” I am glad that Michael’s won the day. Slowly, I got my hurting muscles and bruised ego back on the bike.
It is what I do with my time that makes it worthwhile. As a leader, there are many situations that will try to break your resolve. A leadership mindset is to also seek strength from other sources; from prayer and knowledge gained from diligent study, to motivation from other people.
4. Accept the right help
As I battled my way back into a rhythm, someone appeared beside me. “You can make it!” he said. “You can even make it to third place… even second,” he encouraged me on. It was one of the professional riders who were acting as the route marshals.
Unbeknown to me, I had slowly climbed up the ranks since my first mishap with the bike chain. This fired me up. My legs pumped harder. This incident reminded me that a leader never walks alone.
You and I need to have a circle of support to keep us on the right track. These include accountability partners, deliberate goals and a clear vision. That’s leadership!
5. Win with others
I finally dragged myself to the finishing line. If it weren’t for my son, I would have collapsed right at the line. But this was my opportunity to make him proud. For him to see his father overcome a tough exercise and come out stronger.
This win was his as much as it was mine. It was exhilarating! I had overcome both physical and mental pain. I was presented with a medal for my third place. I deserved it.
But I chose to award the medal to my son instead. We were a team. The accolades were his as well. You see, mentorship is not so much about the mentor. Leadership works because someone else chooses to follow you, to be mentored.
Mentoring someone is not creating them in your image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” ~Steven Spielberg
As we drove home, I asked my son, “What did you learn from our time together?” Without hesitation, he said, “Don’t give up until the whistle blows. My legs were burning, but I told myself to keep at it.”
Then he drifted off to sleep. I smiled and thought to myself, “I should play more of these podcasts for our kids. They are learning as I listen…” Leadership can be challenging, but the impact is for life.
Q: Have you ran off the field before the whistle blew? What did you learn? Have your say by clicking here.