5 steps to conquer your career mountain

In 2015 while I was nursing a running injury, my wonderful sister persuaded me to buy a bike. ‘You’ll love it Ka’ was the promise. I can ride a bike, how difficult can cycling be?  So, with all the gear and no idea I quickly found out that cycling is a physically and mentally tough sport and I was on a huge learning curve.  Yet coupled with the support and adventure of many fellow cyclists this sport has become a wonderful rewarding part of my life.

Looking back, I wonder if I knew what I now know, would I have invested in my first bike?  I also wonder whether this "needing to know stuff that hasn’t happened yet" stops us from being ambitious with what we really want to do.  In 2017 I set myself an ambitious cycling goal: to take part in a UCI Gran-Fondo road race and attempt to qualify in my category for the amateur world championships.  I was gutted to have missed out by just 5 minutes (when seconds count that might as well have been 5 hours!). However, regardless of this outcome, I learnt loads through the experience and fast-forward a year, I decided to have another crack at it.

As a business consultant and coach, I get the privilege to work with many teams and individuals as they look to change and grow by doing something different.  I notice how people can get so caught up in their thinking and having to know the answers that it can stop creativity, ambition and learning in its tracks.  The challenge is how to get people to see something new, to be curious about not knowing and to become explorers in a land of unfamiliar.  Here’s a simple GPS for a journey into the unknown:

1

Enter events that scare you:

Be bold, not arrogant, and set goals that are a little bit scary as you’re not quite sure whether you can do that, but overarching this provides a level of excitement and energy at the thought of having a go. You may have no real idea at this point whether you can actually achieve it or get there, but don’t let that stop you being ambitious and get OK with not knowing; you’ll learn this along the way. My cycling coach once said to me ‘no comfort zones kidda’, and in my career and personal life I’ve found this to be so true: nothing really different has been achieved in a comfort zone.

2

Appoint a support team:

Get a team involved and invested in the goal so it becomes a shared goal and all involved have a stake hold in the journey ahead. They are energised by the possibility and will also learn and get a huge sense of satisfaction and achievement when done. Surround yourself with a team who are better than you, will bring different insights, experience and skills. Encourage a team of critical friends, friends who are loyal and brave. A team of critical friends will understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses whilst not being afraid to call these out for the sake of conscious outcomes.

3

Cycle up and down some mountains:

To coin a cycling term, the ‘dark times’ are the moments on the road towards achieving a goal where it’ll get tough, maybe really tough. There will be mountains to get over and all the wonderful elements chucked your way and undoubtedly you and the team may start to wonder whether you’ll ever get this done and was this such a brilliant idea in the first place? This is why point 2 above is incredibly key: hang-on in there, share your thoughts and feelings with the team, be honest and play to each other’s strengths. You’ll all be going through different challenges at difference times, that’s ok and this is what healthy teamwork is all about.

4

Find energy you didn’t know you had:

‘Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right’, a brilliant quote by Henry Ford. This may seem like crunch time, the deciding point, the moment of truth, where all your hard work is about to unfold, the moment you hit the ‘go’ button, show time. Keep your wits about you, remind yourself of what you and your team have set out to do. Breathe, free your mind, tune-in to your wisdom, sense it; it’s instinctive, know this and let it flow to deliver. No matter what the outcome at this point it is where great experience is formed and gripping stories are made.

5

Wear the yellow jersey:

‘It’s the in-between bit, the bit between setting an ambitious goal and executing it, where enriched experience, informed learning and brilliant relationships happen. That’s the real outcome of any goal. Of course there is an end result… or is there? It’s the ‘end’ bit I’m pointing to here, because it never really ends, it morphs into something new, worthwhile, rewarding, exciting, and so on, and to be continued…

On reflection, I’ve personally never achieved anything new, different or rewarding through ‘knowing stuff’ but I’ve certainly learnt lots through the points above. Although this seems to conflict with our intellectual humanness, sometimes our intellect really does leave us operating in a land of familiar where nothing much gets done or changes and learning is stifled.

Entering my land of unfamiliar once again with a great deal of uncertainty but a commitment to an ambitious personal goal nonetheless, I’m proud to say that this year I did qualify for the amateur world championships using the previous year’s experience and pushing personal boundaries into unchartered waters. Next up, the opportunity to compete in this event and cycle for GB in Italy! This is an overwhelming and daunting prospect, and so my ambitious goal will be ‘to avoid the broom wagon!’.

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