Matt Chapman, Co-Founder of The Chapman Consulting Group and endurance athlete, spoke to legendary triathlete, former world IronMan champion, and top sports coach, Scott Molina who features in Alison Eyring’s new book Pacing For Growth: Why Intelligent Restraint Drives Long-Term Success. Scott shared his insights about what business leaders can learn from endurance athletes.
Matt: What is the greatest lesson business leaders can learn from endurance sports?
Scott: Excellence, in any endeavour worth excelling in, involves a lot of work, focus, and patience. These are the three main characteristics of a successful endurance athlete. Any good business leader needs those traits in spades.
Matt: What are the biggest challenge the athletes you work with face when training for a very long and difficult race?
Scott: There are two things you must accept, yet everyone still looks for an "easier" way:
1) Accepting the work, difficulty, and discomfort that accompanies any super-challenging event doesn't come easy. No matter how many endurance challenges we’ve done, we tend to minimise the difficulties in our heads before we start preparing for the next one.
2) True focus means cutting back on other activities during the really critical period. There's only so much time and energy available and increasing training for long, hard events requires re-organizing your life for a while leading into an event.
Matt: As a professional endurance athlete and coach, how have you applied the concept of Intelligent Restraint?
Scott: Most successful people have tremendous capacity for work. Alison’s book does a great job of spelling out how and when to delegate responsibilities to others when a leader has reached their own maximum capacity. Knowing one's own limits before a meltdown occurs isn't easy.
Matt: One of the rules of Intelligent Restraint from Alison's book is, "focus overrules vision." Does this apply to endurance sports?
Scott: It certainly does! We need to get down to the nitty-gritty of what actually needs to be done to bring an idea to fruition. Even with the most beautiful blueprint drawn by a great architect it’s how you put the nuts and bolts together that holds the house up.
Matt: What's your view on "routines beat strengths," the second rule of Intelligent Restraint?
Scott: In my experience as an athlete and coach, it’s very clear to me that those who make a habit of addressing and prioritising work on areas of weakness have the most success in the long run. That doesn't mean it takes an inordinate amount of time or energy to address those areas, just that it gets done on a very regular basis. I read a great book called The Power of Habit by Charles DuHigg that explores more about the power of routines.
Matt: Managing energy is a big theme of the book Pacing For Growth. How have you learned to manage your own energy—both physically and mentally as an elite endurance athlete?
Scott: Managing energy has always been a real struggle for me as an athlete and even more so as I get older and my work, family, and social lives continue to expand. For many of my early years I tended to keep cranking along until I got injured or over-trained. Patience and maturity are not common traits in young athletes! That's why coaches and mentors are so important. I should have listened more closely to the good advice and guidance I received as a young athlete. These days I try very hard to listen to the advice I give others as well as continue to educate myself on how to maintain optimal physical and mental health.
Matt: What did you most enjoy about reading Pacing for Growth?
Scott: I most enjoyed Alison’s practical tips. In my own work I am responsible for giving the details of specific, daily workouts. The book does a great job of spelling out the specific steps of lasting the distance in business.