Presidential Inspiration

Posted Mar 28, 2016 by: David FossPresidential Inspiration

In this election season, I believe there is something really Presidential in New England. Of course I’m thinking of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Hiking Mt. Washington during the summer is a respectable accomplishment. Mt. Washington in winter is awe inspiring. I recently saw an article about Tim Johnson and his winter bicycle ascent of Mt. Washington (link below), and “Wow!” was the only reasonable jaw-dropping response.

When I turn my attention away from the “business world,” I find my inspiration among endurance athletes. I admire the women and men who complete Ironman triathlons, race up Mt. Washington, trek across the arctic, and run ultramarathons. In each of these sports, there may be a few dozen people who compete at the highest level and receive enough sponsorship and endorsement support to be professional athletes (i.e. not needing to work a day job). But 99.9% of the competitors are regular people like you and me. They have families and full-time jobs. They have commitments and priorities that take up 100% of their time. They are busy people who one might think would be stretched thin. But busy people with goals and good time management skills still find a way to train. They set aside time and resources to make sure they have time on the bike or out on the road. They find time to balance family obligations with a biking weekend, or perhaps they rise before dawn to complete a training run before getting the family ready for school.

Each time I’ve attended a cyclocross races or trail marathon I have been amazed by the number of competitors; hundreds of athletes (sometimes thousands) who have trained for many months. They have prepared to face the elements. It often seems that rain and mud are race requirements. These athletes are ready to put themselves to the test, and to put everything on the line to compete. Their goal is to test themselves, to see if they can slay the dragon, or set a personal best for time or distance. Most of the competitors are not striving for the podium. As much as I respect the talent of the athletes that finish on the podium or become the first to ascent Mt. Washington in winter, to an even greater extent I admire the perseverance, dedication, and effort of the “99%”.

Turning my focus back to the business world, these same attributes are what I want to see in a colleague, manager, client and collaborator. When I assemble a project team, I want to know that each person is going to work to their full potential, dedicate their time, marshal the project resources, and find a way to make the project a priority. When we sit at our desks and start sifting through the day’s email, do we treat our time and the project resources with the same focus and attitude as an endurance athlete? We should. A key to project success is recognizing that we are working with limited resources. We all need to focus and make the most of those resources to achieve the project objective.

Brownfields redevelopment projects are not a sprint - - ten seconds in a straight line down the track. Although that sounds like a nice story, it does not correlate to a typical environmental remediation or construction project. There is a stronger parallel when we consider the planning, training, and dedication necessary to run 200-mile multi-stage team relay. It takes a long time to plan and prepare. Much of the work is done out of the limelight. Limited resources (time, water, fuel) must be prudently managed. Unforeseen obstacles will arise and problems must be solved. And success can only be achieved when there is a strong team all working toward the same objective.

The link (below) directs you to the story about Tim Johnson and his winter ascent of Mt. Washington. I hope you find it as inspiring as I did.