From Suit to Skates: What business can learn from amateur athlete

From Suit to Skates: What business can learn from amateur athlete

Last year I had the opportunity to meet Kevin Jagger of Long Track Long Shot as a result of my friendship with his brother, Stephen Jagger.  Since this meeting I have taken every opportunity to support Kevin's journey on long track long shot, which included a great weekend in Vancouver, several twitter conversations, and numerous blog interactions.  After our first encounter, Kevin wrote a blog entitled "What an athlete can learn from a farmer." It was insightful, funny and written almost prior to my leaving his dorm room at U of C that morning (that’s another story).  I was impressed with the speed and efficiency by which he could collect his thoughts and put them into words and realized this is part of why following his journey would be so interesting.  Since this time I have been waiting to write a response; however, I realized I needed to learn more about Kevin before posting.  Almost a year later, I think I have learned enough to put my thoughts down in writing.

We all tend to get wrapped up in our own little worlds of busyness and sometimes lose focus of what is really important in our lives, that being personal relationships.  Over the past three years I have been focused on creating a healthy body, sound business and, most importantly, sound relationships with positive people.  A large part of those relationships is pausing my daily routine long enough to hear people’s stories. Last week I did something I had promised myself I would do for a long time: live (even if it was only a couple hours) on the speed skates of Kevin Jagger. 

For those of you who are reading this and do not know Kevin or his story, he is a speed skater who trains at the Olympic Oval in Calgary.  Seems pretty common until you follow his blog, Long Track Long Shot. You see, Kevin is a former investment banker who quit his job to pursue speed skating dreams having never done it before!  The 2010 Olympics lit a passion within this already accomplished man. Like most of you, this is the part of the story captured my immediate attention, for so many reasons, that I have taken several opportunities now to support Kevin and learn a little more about him as a person. And every time I am left completely enlightened. Now, Kevin has not only embarked on a very interesting journey, but he is also sharing this journey with anyone who is interested in joining him on it with him via his blog. This in itself is really what I feel blogging is in its purest form: it is an insight to one person’s life journey, thoughts, successes, and failures for anyone to take a few minutes out of their day to read, watch and experience.  

There are three general life lessons that Kevin displays daily that I feel in business are often overlooked or maybe we just lose sight of them in the everyday grind.

1. Never stop learning.

2. Take Chances.

3. Follow Passion.  

These appear to be pretty simple concepts; however, I really feel that all too often we get wrapped up in our busy worlds chasing the dollar and forget to step back to see if all three of these are in line with our daily actions.  

Never Stop Learning

Really – who quits their job to pursue something they have never done?  Someone who is not afraid to learn, that’s who. All too often, both in our business and personal worlds, we get into a comfort zone that requires very little learning and fails to challenge us mentally. We often hear about and experience the feeling of being stuck in a rut; however, we make the choice to stay there as it is easier than taking the time to learn whatever would be required to get out of it. Kevin, in my opinion, has taken a journey that forces him out of his comfort zone daily and requires him to learn something new physically, mentally, and professionally every day.  Physically, he is training and retraining motor skills to become as efficient as possible; mentally, he is focused on the imagery and discipline it takes to become an elite athlete; and professionally, he is learning how to provide value to his sponsors supporting his dream.   

Taking Chances

I know that we hear this all the time, in both our lives and in business: "don't be afraid to take chances." But how often do we really take huge chances that push our abilities to the limit?  I guess as a competitive athlete at heart I have had the same thoughts as Kevin – "if only I could quit this job and focus all my attention on training, I wonder how much potential I really could unlock?”  Well, that is exactly what Kevin did and why I needed to spend time around him and his story.  I know that I will probably never take that leap of faith toward an athletic endeavor (as much as I would love to), but that doesn’t mean that this lesson should not be applied to my everyday business life.  Success in business is all about taking chances and pushing our minds and bodies to their limits. 

Follow Passion

Everyday we talk to friends, family, even coworkers who are unsatisfied with their life either at work, home or both. Yet every day, they wake up just to repeat the same unhappy routine.  What the hell is wrong with the world?  If we all just followed passion, we would all find different roads to success and niches in which to fit, not to mention we would be a very happy society. I blame the workplace structure that often rewards loyalty to companies by giving graduated pay scales for longevity.  The result is putting in time long beyond when staff has any passion for the given occupation.  This is not to say that I don't have bad days or down days. I do, however, take a step back from my life to evaluate if what I am doing daily is what I am passionate about.  I guess I should consider myself lucky as I have several passions that light a fire under my every day, and each is very unique.  Farming, real estate, technology, social media, and cycling/fitness – if one is getting a little stale, I just focus on another till the fire reignites under the other.  What I enjoyed most about meeting with Kevin is his passion toward this journey he is on.  Not only do we, as humans, always want to cheer for the underdog; we want to support the passionate underdog.  Kevin took the time to tour me around the facilities, the team areas, introduce me to athletes and genuinely placed me into his world. His passion for his goals is completely transparent and contagious. Our short ice session and following dinner left me trying to think of ways to help him and realizing that this really is the goal for relationships with my clients; when they see the passion in doing my job so well, they are left thinking of ways to help me grow. Thanks again for the skate, Kevin – I look forward to our next one!