Stop Pressing & Get Back to Winning

Like many people, I have surprisingly found myself absorbed with the Olympics (basketball, swimming and track are of course awesome, but I’ve also found myself spellbound by crazy events like table tennis and the trampoline), even though the coverage choices of NBC have been a little questionable to say the least (endless, sappy human interest stories vs. the compelling action you paid $1.1B for the rights to show?).

Nevertheless, one enjoyable part of the non-sports coverage was the Bob Costas interview with Michael Phelps following his last gold-medal race. Among other things, Bob asked Michael about his slow start the Olympics, to which he replied essentially that he was “pressing” at the beginning of the games, when others won the golds we’ve come to expect from Phelps. As the games progressed, Phelps had a meeting with himself, decided to relax, and was able to complete the Olympics on a roll, finishing with four gold medals to push his career total to a ridiculous eighteen.

Pressing seems to be a by-product of working very hard towards a stretch goal which is tantalizingly within sight. Like Olympic athletes, your objective could be years in the making, requiring multiple iterations of strategies, tactical shifts, personnel changes and good, old-fashioned, trial & error. As incremental successes and failures pile up, the innate frustration attendant to goal seeking mounts, leading to a mental condition – pressing – which ironically impedes performance. Almost invariably, athletes that are interviewed on the subject note that, like Phelps, after they find a way to relax and focus, they are able to deliver results commensurate with their training and talents.

Since developing the YellowPark Garden brand concept in early 2012, we’ve been awfully busy building the necessary infrastructure to enable our work –  cultivating strategic progress in economic and philanthropic endeavors – and developing “business” in each category. All of this activity reached a zenith in June. For some months, we had been developing the next iteration of our Global Collaborative Workspace, which would enable the effective merger of our project work and digital media presence; now our July launch date was looming. In the meantime, we simultaneously launched strategic projects for a large state government agency, a national NGO and an international technology company.

Almost overnight, travel was the order of the day, complexity became the rule rather than the exception, and the pressures of deliveries mounted.  Nevertheless, fueled by the excitement of goals that were now within sight – more jobs and better skilled-based education in Georgia, strategic expansion and better capital structures for for-profit and non-profits, pubic-private partnerships leveraging the power of capitalism to address fundamental building blocks of abundance (water, education, equality), etc. – we “pressed on.”

Folks that have worked with me in the past have heard me talk over and over again about my “SDP” Core Values – Strength (technical proficiency), Discipline (consistency), and Perseverance (dogged determination). These values are best expressed and lived in an equilateral triangle – each side supporting and moderating the other to achieve the balance that enables success. Of these, Perseverance is the glue –  nothing gets done without it. However, Perseverance can become dangerously dominant, especially for entrepreneurs and, I suspect, world-class athletes. When you’re clawing for a goal, raw perseverance kicks in, to the detriment of technical accuracy and consistency. In my case, reaching for the brass ring enabled short-term deviations from good and important disciplines (blogging, diet, sleep, robust conversations about topics other than business, couch time, frivolous fun, etc.) and the vicious cycle of impatience (hard work leads to unrealistic expectations which leads to frustration which leads to . . . <Repeat Cycle> . . . . ) In a word, PRESSING.

The good news is that Pressing is a short-term condition that is easily cured – just take a break. In my case, a week off in Hawaii did the trick (ignore the e-mail, sleep in, exercise, eat & drink well, laugh, do nothing for hours). I got well and, in the meantime, the projects continued (especially the GWI), the collaborative portal got launched, and the social media world lived on without me (can’t believe it!).

I’m no Michael Phelps but I can do what I love, make a decent living, and help some folks along the way. Those are my goals so, from here, we’ll keep pressing forward of course, but just with a healthy dose of . . . health.

So, hey, if you’re running hard, up against a wall, making trade-offs, frustrated (or, worse yet, angry), maybe it’s time to ease up? Stop pressing, start living and then (ironically?) the success will come after all.

Thanks as always for reading, commenting, forwarding and tweeting. Take care.

About Denis

Business Leader, Consultant & Social Entrepreneur. Proven senior executive leader with deep experience guiding companies throughout various lifecycle phases including start-up, rapid growth and maturity. Principal of YellowPark Garden, providing executive leadership expertise and assistance in economic and societal development initiatives.
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