Winter biathletes as role models

It may sound a bit nutty, but winter biathletes are my role models.  

Why?  These remarkable athletes cross-country ski with a 7.7-pound .22-caliber rifle. Their heart rates get above 200 beats per minute.  Then they stop and, using incredible control, quickly lower their heart rate enough to squeeze off several rounds at a tiny target 50 meters away.  Rinse and repeat, five attempts in each of four rounds.

Here's the kicker: every time you miss, you need to ski a penalty loop of 150m.  I was lucky enough to attend the Sochi 2014 Olympics.  This Loop of Shame must be the toughest mental space in all of athletics.  Every meter, every second counts.  If you don't slow down just enough to nail that target, this unforgiving sport dishes up even more punishment - under the eyes of thousands of spectators.

The Loop of Shame

The Loop of Shame

Doesn't that sound a lot like our lives?  Sometimes my failures are awfully visible.  Just recently I pushed a new product idea with excessive enthusiasm.  That cost time.  Later, when my team pushed back, I had to agree and take my "lap of shame" with gratitude.  And every day is frantic.  Just yesterday when I finally got back to my desk, my mind was eager to tick off the long list of work I'd left undone during the previous stream of meetings.  Within five minutes, three of my colleagues asked for my attention.  Usually I manage to put off my task list, because the truth is those emails can wait better than somebody standing next to me.  Whenever one of my daughters asks for help with homework, the answer needs to be yes, it's a good time.  Take a breath, slow my heartbeat, and focus.  Or risk another lap of shame.

Biathletes give every stride 100%, then give 100% on the present moment. Multi-tasking (aka "multi-slacking") produces an illusion of productivity sometimes.  The great leaders I've admired most blew me away by their ability to laser in on me, when the moment demanded it.  

Are you present?

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Matthew Bencke

Matt Bencke is an entrepreneur, leader and change agent who drives new business and product strategies based on deep analysis, inspired leadership and focused execution. He has strong successes across technology, strategy, business development, design, e-commerce, marketing and manufacturing. His passion is attracting great talent, fostering a meaningful team culture, and taking performance to new levels. During his tenures at Microsoft, Getty Images and Boeing he has created, advised, led and grown businesses ranging from several millions to billions in size.