Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Important Thing is Moving (What I Learned From an Endurance Athlete)

What can the greatest endurance athlete of our time tell us about leading? We will be more effective in solving problems by appreciating the process than we will from realizing the product (i.e. solution to the problem). "The important thing is moving" says Kilian Jornet Burgada in a New York Times article. "What matters in life is the pursuit, and everything we learn along the way" (New York Times, March 24, 2013).

I used to single-mindedly focus on solutions to problems without respecting the way the problem was supposed to be solved. I recall an instance when, as an inexperienced assistant principal, I fixated on how the outcome to a challenging situation with a parent who didn't like the way I handled a discipline case was going to affect me. Would the parent try to run me out of town? Would my superintendent put a negative letter in my personnel file because he didn't like the way everything turned out? I kept my eye on the end-game without tackling the nuts and bolts needed to resolve the issue at hand. The result was a botched resolution (one that fortunately didn't cost me my job).

Now, my approach to dealing with challenging situations is to take them slowly and carefully (isn't there a saying that "slow and steady wins the race?"). I try to look at problem-solving like I do my endurance races (I am a novice triathlete) and focus more on the "pursuit" rather than the "finish."

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