Exercise has always cleared my mind. Any good ideas and mental organization that occurs often happens during the 30-90 minutes of exercise I squeeze in most mornings before the world awakens.
This mental nourishment once came solely from a heaping plate of distance running. But after years of fidelity to pounding pavement, my body rebelled. I was forced to embrace the “Runner’s Wheelchair” – more commonly known as the bicycle – for part of my exercise diet.
Cycling in turn has offered freedom and the ability to travel much further – and to the chagrin of my wife – to be gone much longer.
Riding is different than running. A key difference is the temptation to keep your head down. Focus on the white line just ahead, take a glance at the tiny odometer and watch the miles spin away. Grind, push, get it done, and hammer home. Good workout. Mission accomplished.
First of all, the joy in riding is often the scenery. Rolling hills, fog-shrouded forests, and moving water. Cattle waking up and roosters crowing. Anticipating and climbing the hill, and enjoying an easy descent.
Secondly, looking down is plain dangerous. Focusing on the white line prevents you from seeing the dead armadillo, the stalking Doberman, or the sleepy driver that can put a bloody end to a once-glorious ride.
The same temptations loom in business. Make the list, get it done, and do it well. The opportunity sits in front of most productive people each day. Many would argue that finishing your list and doing each task well is a good day’s work. But the problems are the same.
First, you miss the scenery: the pride in an intern the first time he or she works a press event, the first front page hit for a promising colleague, the progress of a mentee against challenging goals, the evolving esprit de corps of a team who grow together to accomplish more as a group than they can individually.
Danger also looms for leaders and professional communicators who focus too tightly on the white line. Leaders must have their eye on the outside world for their clients and their organizations. We must look further ahead than others, projecting around the curve, over the hill, or into the next day’s ride. We must focus on a balanced training program that yields success in terms of people, profit, and philanthropy.
So the next time you work through your list (or the next time you’re exercising), take a deep breath. Look around. Examine the road ahead. Anticipate the curves, the hills, and the years of training to come. Focus on the environment in your office and in your community. Are you considering the true race before your organization?