Lessons From the Finish Line: What I Learned From Completing My First Ironman

Well, my first Ironman has come and gone. Nine months of discipline and training for 10 hours, 50 minutes, and 43 seconds of pure execution. People keep asking me what it felt like to cross that finish line. Did I feel relief? Or euphoria? Or pride? Or a sense of accomplishment? Or joy? I guess I felt a little of all of those things. I was honored to be able to run into the oval and see my coach, John Spinney, my beautiful wife, Sarah, my parents, my brother, and my friends. But as I stepped over the finish line, and before I even clicked STOP on my watch, I mostly felt like I needed to sign up for another Ironman. I feel like I have more to do, more to accomplish. I’m not done with Ironmans, yet. And yes, I’ve already registered for the Lake Placid 2018 Ironman.

So, let me take you on a little journey through Ironman #1 and what I learned along the way.

PRE-RACE PREP —> All around me people were crazy nervous getting ready to plunge into Mirror Lake. Right before the swim, I sat down to stretch my feet and the kid next to me was shaking. Nervous energy comes out in weird ways for people and was pouring off the people around me. I stayed calm. I actually slept really well both nights prior to the race and was just grateful to be there, to be racing with all these incredible athletes, to just be physically able and ready to compete. I credit a lot of my calm state to my mediation practice. I’ve been practicing TM for several years now and it not only helps clear your mind and calm your body before you put your face in the water to swim 2.4 miles, but it helps in any business or life situation. Meditation helps you stay calm, which enables you to gain clarity and solve problems faster. We all know that when life hits, it’s about how you overcome those obstacles – either on the race course or in the board room, it doesn’t matter. Ironman training has given me a unique structure to push me to the next level of my emotional fitness, which ultimately just makes me a better father, husband, leader, person.

SWIM —> My swim time sucked and I’m committed to improving it for Ironman #2. I got caught in the middle lane and got slapped around a bit, but generally it wasn’t too bad except for when my goggles got kicked off on my second lap and I had to stop. Don’t ever stop in the swim lane! I learned that real quick. It was hard for me to get back into a rhythm on my second lap, but I just kept grinding and pushing through. Because that’s just want you do. I was very excited to get back on land where humans belong.

BIKE —> The first transition is long, but a great little run to get your legs ready for the bike. The bike ride was amazing – not much wind, perfect conditions, and closed to traffic. I felt super strong on both laps of the course and the time flew by. I had 3 or 4 bad patches during the hour and 20 minute swim, and only one bad patch during the five hour and 20 minutes of biking. Not bad! I was anticipating these bad patches – I knew they would show up and I knew they would go away, so I was able to keep working until I hit a good patch again. That’s such a great analogy for business and life. Rough patches show up and it’s about how we overcome them – do we show up, handle them, and push through or do we retreat and give up? Some days the wind is blowing in our favor and sometimes it’s a shit storm. Are you working constantly on your mental and emotional fitness so that these bad patches don’t derail your business or your relationships? I know I am.

RUN —> I was fired up and feeling strong after the bike and the first 5k of the run is mostly down hill so I was flying. One of the QT2 coaches basically stopped me and told me to slow the f*!k down. I looked down at my watch and I was at a sub 6-mile pace. So, yeah, I had to put on the brakes and back down to around 8 which is what my coach had set for my opening mile pace. Control my speed and maintain. Running a marathon after already swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112 miles can be daunting to think about, so I broke it down into manageable tasks. In my mind – 26 miles just became 26 sets of one mile runs (thank you to Tim Snow for that little piece of advice!). I’m not going to lie, the run hurt. But I just focused on what I had practiced in training and just executed. The training, the practice, and the emotional fitness is what makes a top business leader. It is what makes an Ironman.

Overall, the Ironman was a day of celebration. My mantra throughout the day was, “My fitness will carry me through.” I was saying that a hell of a lot, especially on the second lap of the run when shit got real tough. I wasn’t nervous because I had practiced my emotional fitness, meditated, and put in the time. I knew I wouldn’t give up. It wasn’t even an option. The cool thing with Ironmans is that there isn’t any magic here. You’re not going to show up the day of the race and all of a sudden be a different person or be 10 times better than you were in training. Instead, you create who shows up on race day based on the level of intensity and disruption you create during your training days, weeks, and months. Actually, the biggest mistake people can have at Ironman is trying to be someone they are not on race day – going out too hard, thinking you can go harder than you can, instead of focusing on the execution of each activity. Being able to access your preparation and potential on race day is critical and that happens from mental control and emotional fitness. If you get too hyped up on the big day and put too much external pressure on yourself (like hitting a specific time) you can get paralyzed. It’s about the emotional fitness and the execution.

The emotional fitness and the mental challenge during nine months of intense training is much harder than it ever is on race day. Race day, the adrenaline is flowing, you’re excited, you have your family and 18,000 random people cheering you on, and you are about to compete. This is what it’s all about! The race is the easy part! It’s the six 100+ mile bike rides, the 20 mile runs, the 5000 yard swims week after week that suck. You’re all by yourself. No one is cheering you on. No one is motivating you. Embrace it. It’s a freaking grind and requires extreme amounts of focus, discipline, sacrifice, and time. But that is where athletes are made. They are not made at the finish line. They are made long before that, during the hours of training. Testing your limits, getting outside your comfort zone, experiencing the next level of you is what life is all about.

And by the way, this is what business is all about. It’s the day in and day out of how you show up. The number on your tax return or your next promotion are purely a result of the daily activities that you do. This is the grind, the hustle, the ability to be fearless and relentless, not for a short period of time, but every. damn. day. If you focus on your execution, you’ll be able to access the drive and clarity that you need. You’re not as good as you think you are on your best day and you don’t suck as much as you think you do on your worst day. You are who you are (physically, mentally, emotionally) in that moment based on the person you created through daily habits. You shape and control who you become. It’s easy to see it in the physical world, such as sports, but we sometimes lack clarity or vision to see it show up in our social, financial, spiritual, and professional self. This is why the daily activities, the daily habits are so important. Daily habits are who you are!

Want to know the secret to success in the Ironman, in life, or in business? Focus on the daily habits and activities that you can control. Commit to them and practice them over and over again over a long period of time. And when it’s time to step into the arena – draw upon all of your training and execute.

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5 Tips to Keep New Hires Engaged Before Their Start Date

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Finding talent is hard (which is why I attend and teach a course several times a year designed to teach me how to recruit and hire). Keeping them excited and engaged when you’ve got them on the bench for five years is even harder (and the topic for another post). But, what I want to talk about today is what to do once you’ve made a hire, but there is a delay in their start date (for example, if they are moving across the country, need to give 30 days notice at their current job, or are waiting for a major bonus before making the move).

In the past three years alone, Adam Hergenrother Companies has attracted talent from Utah, Florida, Maine, Texas, Colorado, Alaska, New York, Massachusetts, North Carolina, North Dakota, Minnesota, Connecticut, as well as all across Vermont. The majority of these top candidates did not accept our offer on a Friday and start two Mondays later. Nope. Some of these candidates accepted an opportunity at our company and then joined us 30 days, 60 days, or even several months later.

The potential is pretty high for an employee to back out of an offer when they delay their start date more than a couple of weeks. But there are several things you can do to mitigate that risk. You’ve invested a lot of time and resources finding the right hire (or at least you should have!), it’s not going to hurt to put in a little extra time and effort to keep them engaged, excited, and ready to hit the ground running on their first day.

Here are 5 ways to keep your new hire engaged before their first day:

  1. ASSIGN A POINT OF CONTACT —> This can be the hiring manager, your HR coordinator, the employee’s new supervisor, or a team member who’s been working at your company for a while. It doesn’t really matter who it is, as long as the new employee has one point person who can answer all of their questions. These are probably not going to be compensation or job specific question. More often than not the new employee is going to want to know how long it will really take to get to the office in morning traffic? Do people bring their lunches or go out? Who should I email for XYZ? Are ties really optional? Having someone to answer these questions and someone they know will be a friendly face on the first day will work wonders in keeping the new employee connected even though they won’t be starting for 1-3 months. It is also the responsibility of the point person to check in once or twice a week via email, phone, or text to see how they are doing wrapping up their old job/packing up their house, make sure they have given their notice in the time frame they had originally indicated, make sure they are still excited and their mindset is right, as well as communicating any relevant information from the company.
  2. INCLUDE THEM ON TEAM COMMUNICATION —> Once your new hire is made, let the team know that they will be joining and when. In the meantime, start CCing them on everything relevant (and non-proprietary). I think this is a great way to get them feeling included immediately. Not only are you giving a new hire a glimpse into the assignments and projects that they will be working on, but on how the team communicates. Giving the new hire insight into the work load and work flow, gets them thinking about the company as theirs. It may even spark a brilliant idea that they can bring to the company and implement on day one. It also teaches them some of the language and culture of your company. Make sure you let them know that they aren’t required to participate, it’s just a way to get their feet wet as they make the transition.
  3. GET THEM INTO THE COMPANY RHYTHM —> Whenever possible, get your new hires on any calls or meetings that they can be on. One of our companies has a morning power-up and a weekly CEO call. Perfect. Have them dial in and listen. If there are monthly company meetings, either invite them if they are local or have them Skype in. Get as many daily, weekly, or monthly calls/meetings on their calendar as possible and have them jump in whenever they can. They have accepted the offer and want to be a part of the team – so get them connected and experiencing the rhythm of meetings, check-ins, etc. as quickly as possible.
  4. INVITE THEM TO TRAINING —> Whether it’s a live training, a webinar that someone from your team is hosting, or a national conference – get your new hire there. Again, it’s simply another touch point, a way for them to feel a part of the team, to start getting a feel for the work, and to understand the culture. Even better, they will get a jump on some of the company training before their first day. That’s a win-win for both of you.
  5. TAKE THEM TO LUNCH —> Lunch, dinner, cocktails, coffee… it doesn’t matter. Get your hiring manager or the new hire’s supervisor and the new employee together in an informal setting and let the conversation flow. This should be the same person as the point of contact in point 1 (and maybe even bring along a couple of other key team members). If this is a new hire that is relocating, instead of lunch, you could schedule an evening Zoom call when everyone’s relaxed and not distracted by the minutia of the work day. This is the opportunity for the new employee and the supervisor to bond early on and help the new hire prepare for their first day.

Okay, I know… this definitely seems like a lot, but you don’t have to do everything and in fact, your staff will do most of it! Pick one or two things that will work for you and that fit into your company culture. It’s worth the time to nurture your new hire and bring them into the fold, especially when they won’t be starting right away.

Now that you’re armed with these tips, don’t ever let the timing of a new hire stop you from bringing the very best of the best into your world. Top talent will be ready when the right opportunity comes their way. Top employers will wait a few weeks longer for top talent if they have to.

3 Ways To Be Relentless in Pursuit of Your Goals

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I finished Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim S. Grover last week and I can’t stop thinking about the book. So much of what Tim talks about resonated with me – the hunger, the drive, the desire to accomplish more, better, faster.

This quote really stuck out to me: “Being the best means engineering your life so you never stop until you get what you want, and then you keep going until you get what’s next. And then you go for even more.” That’s being relentless.

Some people hear the word relentless and it sparks a fire in their belly and lights them up! Others, hear relentless and immediately conjure up images of destruction and mayhem and ruthless Spartan warlords. Good or bad, being relentless is a core part of my being. And it’s a double-edge sword. Or maybe, it’s just one coin with two sides… Relentless means never giving up until you get what you want, but it also means you may disregard the consequences and hurt some people along the way. Results first. Always.

The author of the book, Grover, worked with professional athletes – mostly NBA players like Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. Those guys were relentless. They showed up and did the work and listened. Those were Grover’s only requirements. And that’s exactly what Kobe and Jordan did over and over again. They were not satisfied with one practice a day, they hit the gym three times. They were not content with one championship ring, but kept pushing until their hand was covered with them. Hours after hours of practice at one thing. They did not slack off. They did not back down when it got too hard. They put in the time, withstood the grind, and became unstoppable.

Being relentless means getting results and not settling for good or great, instead spending the time on mastering your craft and becoming the best – becoming unstoppable. The really cool thing is that anyone can be relentless, but very few people ultimately have what it takes to get there. Because it takes time! It’s about who can stay in the game long enough – who can finish the job. Anyone can start something when it’s new and shiny and exciting, but very few can stomach the grind and keep going in order to finish.

Do you have what it takes to be unstoppable? Here are 3 ways you can become relentless in pursuit of your goals:

  1. DO THE WORK —> You don’t have to love the work, you’ve just got to do it and love the results. Believe me, I don’t love getting up at zero dark thirty to train for four hours, but I do it because I love being able to beat my last race time (okay, I also love landing in the top spots in my age group). It sounds so simple, right? Do the work. Put in the time and effort. You’ll get there. Sometimes, you’ve just got to do shit you don’t want to do in order to get what you ultimately want. But it’s the hardest thing to do. The real challenge is being able to combat your voice that tells you to go for the short term reward, instead of pushing through, doing the tough stuff, and going for the long term win. It’s not about winning one championship or building one business. That’s great. Being relentless means doing that six more times. And that requires a hell of a lot of work.
  2. BE OBSESSIVE —> I think the question is, “What are you willing to be the best at and give your all to?” You can’t give your all or be extraordinary at everything. What are you choosing to be the best at? Do you want to be the best father, the best golfer, the best leader, the best guitarist, the best dog rescuer? In brief moments you can be the best at more than one thing – like when you’re speaking to an audience or riding a bike with your kids. But to truly master something, to be the very BEST, you have to get obsessive. One area in your life, one skill, is going to overshadow all the others because that is where you are going to be spending the most time – practicing, studying, analyzing those that have come before you and modeling after them. You will become addicted to learning about that one thing, you become obsessed, and that’s how you become the best.
  3. GET COMFORTABLE BEING ALONE —>  You know that old saying, it’s lonely at the top? Yup. When you’re relentless, you don’t make a whole lot of friends. You’ll have a small inner circle of people you trust and that’s it. You won’t go to office parties and after work drinks with the team or even linger too long in the break room. And you won’t hang out for too long at kid’s birthday parties or family gatherings. You have shit to do. You want to be the best and that takes deliberate time and attention. People are going to thing you’re an asshole or that you think you’re too good for them. It’s not the case. You just have your eye on the prize and you’re not going to let anyone get in the way. You’re running your race – fast – and if people want in, they’ve got to get in the race with you and run along side you. There will be very few people at the finish line with you. And that’s okay.

So are you relentless? Do you want to be? If the answer is yes, then all you have to do is put in the time and do the work, get obsessive about the one thing you want to be the best at, and get comfortable being alone. Everyone has the potential to be relentless, but only a few will actually get to the level of being unstoppable.

What Really Goes on Behind the Scenes in Business

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Over the long holiday weekend, we broke out the classic Wizard of Oz for a family movie night. What a completely different perspective you have watching that movie as an adult. The Wizard was nothing but an illusion and Dorothy had the power within her all along to go home, she just had to believe in herself (and go through a musical self-discovery along the way). One quote really stuck out to me: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Pretty similar to how we think about business owners and entrepreneurs. It’s all pretty and shiny on the outside, like tech apps that are being valued for billions of dollars, but produce no revenue, or the celebrity culture of all beauty and no substance. Nobody wants to talk about what is going on behind the curtain, behind the scenes.

But, let me tell you, as a business owner and entrepreneur, behind the curtain of a new office building, top national rankings, and a dynamic brand, it’s one hot mess. And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Appearances can be freaking deceiving. When I’m up on stage receiving an award for our company’s success or asked to teach a class on business building, I often feel like a fraud. Sure, I’ve had some success and I’m incredibly proud of my team and how far we’ve come, but it is a shit-show behind the scenes. When I’m speaking about living a life without limits I make it a point to pull back the curtain and share the failures and struggles we have had. We are no different than anyone else. I am not smarter, faster, better looking, more innovative, or more business savvy than anyone else. There is no secret sauce to success. It’s work. Hard work. And hustle, and grind, and late nights, and a whole lot of messes, and lawsuits, and more work. What does give me an edge, though, is my refusal to give up and my ability to keep pushing through the mess and make it work. That, anyone can do.

The Wizard put on a good show. And don’t get me wrong, things are supposed to look good on the outside – it’s how businesses continue to attract talent, make sales, increase the bottom line, and basically have a business. But you’ve got to remember that behind the scenes shit gets messy. No one who has accomplished anything of significance has it easy. But it’s a hell of a lot easier to just believe that successful people were handed things, because really, who wants to hear that it requires a lot of work over a lot of years? It’s the hard work and the mess that no one really wants to talk about… but it’s actually the mess that means the most.

Let me give you a couple of examples:

  • The mess might be employees leaving – but that just means the ones who stay are loyal and can handle helping you build a massive business.
  • The mess might be customer complaints – but that just means that you need to double-down on your systems and streamline your customer intake process. In the end, better for your team, and better for your customers.
  • The mess might be restructuring your organization for the 11th (or 53rd) time – but each iteration is getting you one step closer to the model that will give you the geometric growth that you are looking for.

Take the time to grind through the mess and refine NOW, and in 3 years you’ll have a well-oiled machine cranking for you. That is what no one wants to see or talk about. Success takes time!

But you can’t be afraid to pull back the curtain on other businesses and most importantly your own. I say, you should pay a whole lot of attention to the man behind the curtain; that’s where the biggest lessons for success (by learning from failures) can be found. You should want to see and hear the truth. Maybe you decide it’s not for you after all and that’s okay. But maybe, just maybe, seeing the truth of what needs to be done to build a business and life you will be proud of gives you the clarity and inspiration you need to keep grinding.

You are not the only one who feels like a fraud. You are not the only one who keeps failing. You are not the only one who has been at it for four years (or ten). You are not alone. There is a whole lot of mess that goes on behind the scenes, but if you can get right with that and keep on pushing, you will win. You will win because you never gave up.