Sunday, April 20, 2008


I was in a sales interview the other day and the VP of Sales asked me what is one of my weakness. This is one of those unnerving questions cause no one usually likes to talk about one's weakness. But I've learned that awareness of your shortcomings is definitely what helps you grow. My answer was simple. I think my weakness is that I want to Win everything I put my mind into - seriously.

Why is this a negative, right? In sales, it sometimes leads to win loss situations where the deal is no longer proftiable. In real estate, you end up paying too much for a property. Like today, Jenna and I were shopping for another investment property in SF. I was pretty luke warm on a property that my wife really likes. Then when I went back to see the property the 2nd time around, I saw all the potential that Jenna saw in the property. When this happened, a trip wire went off in my head, and I made up my mind that I wanted to Win this house. In SF, buying a house is cut throat competition and you have to overbid significantly to win a deal. When I overheard one other couple saying that they really like the house, I got all fired up. It just added fuel to my desire to win the house. I thought of telling them, "Sorry, you're going to lose, and I'm winning this house, whatever the price." Obviously, it's not advisable to invest this way. You need to find your walk away position. Otherwise, you'll lose your shirt.

In cycling this Winning attitude can easily become a negative for a number of reasons. First of, it's impossible to win all the races. In fact winning is a very difficult thing in cycling and wins are usually distributed to a select few. Moreover, I think there are times to burn the matches and when not to. I only have a limited number of bullets and when I use one up for a training race, then that's a wasted bullet. I did this before the LA world cup and dug a little too much at an early bird crit, where I tried to close a 30 sec. gap to a strong break of 8. I almost caught the break, but I dug myself a hole and was flat in LA. Finally, winning as an absolute thing like who crossed the line first, is the wrong way to look at bike racing. I've learned that it will leave you feeling empty and demoralized since as discussed above, the winning moments are few and far between. Better than absolute is to define your win. I was talking to Roman about this. As a pro for Healthnet, he defines his win in terms of how well he is progressing towards being a great team domestique and personally, if he's continuing to improve as viewed objectively by his coach and training data. How you define your wins can help you enjoy racing better.

This reframing and redefinition of what it means to win is a lesson I have to continually remind myself when I get on a bike. Believe me, everytime I get on a track bike I want to kick everyone's butt - right Warren? My chilled out demeanor belies an internal rage. I hate losing even if it's a training race and I'm grossly out of shape. I don't care about the excuses. So it's especially hard for me. But then, I'm reminded of my friend, Craig's story. Craig finished the Wildflower triathalon long course close to the bottom of his age group. On paper, he was 2+ hours down on the guy who crossed the line first. But to his friends and family, who knew that 5 months before Wildflower, he had undergone chemotherapy and radiation to batttle an aggresive lymphoma cancer, Craig was the Winner. But, if you only measure winning in absolute terms, then the guy who crossed the line first, won. However, if you defined winning as living and courage against the face of death, then my buddy Craig is a Winner.

In terms of the Headwind Award, look for each riders' silent evidence - the non obvious, the next time you want to observe a winner. Everyone has a story and I encourage you find it and share it to the track community.
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile


Jenny Oh said...

Steve - thanks for writing this post. It is difficult to extinguish the competitive drive at times, and as a new racer, I do feel demoralized at times if I am not winning any races. But with the help of my friends and teammates, I realize that winning is defined by seeing improvements in one's individual progress, which is not necessarily always measured by the outcome against others. If I am faster than I was the previous week, that makes it worthwhile!

WarrenG said...

Real good stuff Steve.

I think it is about being the best, and being your best-at your full potential. Both together are the ultimate prize, but if it's only one or the other, being your best is a good source of deep satisfaction.

Part of being your best includes brutal, but realistic honesty about your efforts to prepare for competition, your obstacles and limitations, and your efforts during competition.

d3cycling said...

That reminds me of a scene from "The Office" ...

Michael: [knocks on door] Hello, hello!
David: Michael, good to see you!
Michael: Good to see you. Here are the post-merger performance stats that you asked for.
David: Oh, great. I've been meaning to thank you by the way. You didn't lose a single customer during the merger, and you still managed to trim the budget? That is nice work. [Michael smiles] So, let me ask you a question right off the bat. What do you think are your greatest strengths as a manager?
Michael: Why don't I tell you what my greatest weaknesses are? I work too hard. I care too much. And sometimes I can be too invested in my job.
David: Okay. And your strengths?
Michael: Well, my weaknesses are actually... strengths.
David: Oh. Yes. Very good.
Michael: Thank you.
David: Very good.

On the serious side there was a report on Brains of Liars on NPR. The most interesting part to me was the part of the program on "Lying to Ourselves" in which one of the common groups of "liars" were elite swimmers. The theory was the "decpetion" they told themselves protected them from self doubt etc. Very relevant when you relate it back to the Tiger Woods Interview Full study here -

rybenn1 said...

I like this Steve, so true. Let's face it, if I win a P12 race this year I would shock myself, so I've got to set realistic goals like: top quartile in RR's; top 5 cat 2 placers; supporting a team mate to podium; and - maybe most importantly - putting on a good attitude with my team, showing strong work ethic, and being there for my boys (and expecting the same). Cool post, I just came across your blog, look forward to reading more. - Ryan Bennett