My 7 yo son had a swim meet today. When his father signed him up earlier this month, I didn't fully realize the commitment. Practice is every morning or every evening for an hour, M-F. This is our first time on a fully organized team, mind you.
His first meet was last week. He was scheduled to do 2 events, just two! 25m freestyle stroke, and 25m backstroke. I was a bit nervous, and he, well, wasn't. I had to look for him during those several hours, and he was usually running around (think outdoor pool, grassy areas and playground).
Fast forward to his first event, the FREESTYLE. So we talked about it the night before, we talked about that morning, and the coach told him as well. Get ready, set, buzz! Go Gavin! Go Gavin! Wait, he's not doing freestyle... Maybe I don't know what freestyle is, I thought. Why did I have that thought? He was doing the butterfly stroke, instead of freestyle!
So quick stroke lesson, freestyle is usually everyone's fastest event, and the one for which they post great times. The butterfly, in contrast, is a significantly slower event for most of the same kids. Including my son. When he finished, I was puzzled. What happened? He wasn't focused, and thought he heard the coach instruct him to do the butterfly. Whoops!
His backstroke event was better, in that he did the correct stroke. Once his father and I got over a little embarrassment, we hugged and kissed him for trying his best.
The following week, I made sure he focused at practice. I kept calling his name to listen to the coach and follow his exercises. He had a much better week of practices. For the following meet, which was today, he was placed in the same 2 events. Okay. This time, he's going to get it right. And sure enough, he did. I don't know what his time was for his freestyle, but his form was an improvement over last week!
About 2 hours passed between his first event and his backstroke. His father and I upped the ante for him to do well. We both have a sales background, and subscribe to incentives. He committed to giving him a $50 shopping spree to the toy outlet of his choice; I added $25 to the pot. What did he have to do? He had to place: 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in the backstroke. He made us repeat what he had to do several times. We knew he got it, and he was going to go for it.
So the perfect fairy tale end would be he placed, right? There are no fairy tales, remember? He didn't place overall, but he did place 1st or 2nd in his heat. Which meant he was probably 4th or 5th overall. Of course he was disappointed, he had his best time ever. He kicked his legs like we told him to, he paced himself, and definitely tried his hardest. Yet it wasn't enough to get his name called, nor the $75 worth of toys.
What does this have to do with greatness redefined, with leadership, with coaching? Plenty! My son showed me what good looks like, and then he showed what great looks like, on him. You don't always win. But he will. You will. You just have to redefine what 1st place is! Perhaps it's breaking even this month with your business, or turning a profit after several months' worth of losses. Perhaps you're becoming healthier and stronger and more "fit" in your business and your life. Your business plan is more lean, and your training methods are working better than before. You gained a new client, or twenty.
Point is, you always need someone to show what good to great looks like, and to sometimes redefine it from what you've known. What made you successful before may not work this time around. You may have to take a detour. And there will be another race. But most never win, without a lot of coaching, practice, and heart. I have no doubt he's got that goal in the back of his mind, and every practice from here on out is going to be trying to get there. Tenacity and consistency are common traits of profitable businesses. Make it happen.