The Art of Practice – Lessons from a 550 Mile Ride

The Art of Practice - Lessons from a 550 Mile Ride

I recently returned from a seven-day bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I chose this particular ride, not solely for the importance of its cause (raising money for AIDS research), but because I knew it would stretch me way out of my comfort zone – that zone of discomfort is where all the growth happens. The lessons I learned along the way equate to a kind of blueprint for exceptional leadership. I will be sharing some thoughts over the next few pulses.

Exceptional leaders practice their art daily. It’s not a bunch of good ideas in a book I once read. It’s taking those ideas into real life, and moving from knowledge to wisdom.  It begins with Maintaining Calm.

  • Maintaining Calm: Incredible leaders know how to maintain an authentic sense of calm in the most chaotic environments. Like 2500 riders pedaling 550 miles through some daunting pathways. In single file. It’s these people in your life you trust (note the word trust) because you know they will maintain their calm – not passive, not apathetic, not dissociated – they are still fully engaged and can have real and powerful impact because they don’t loose their sense of presence in chaos. You can see it in their body, their eyes, the way the move through the world. It’s a muscle that must be developed through practice. Staying Composed, focused, and effective under pressure are all about ones mentality. People who successfully manage crises are able to channel their emotions into producing the behavior that they want and turn their anxiety into energy and excitement.
  • Balance: This is about Emotional Energy. Calm leads to balance and balance is the ability to really see, respond-to and deal with reality – to engage with the most challenging reality and access the wisdom needed to make equitable, innovative, and partnership-building decisions. Balance let’s you hear all voices in the mix and not get thrown off by biases and politicking. Exceptional leaders engage balance through ongoing practice – self reflection, seeking feedback, engaging their EQ (which as it turns out is the key indicator of leadership success, more than IQ). “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” Nelson Mandela
  • Presence: Being in the Right Now. When you are riding that distance over 7 long days, and safety for yourself and others is paramount, success requires dropping right into the moment and BEING in each one. You can choose to be reading emails, looking at your text, Twitter, or Facebook feed while on the ride, and no one would know. That is not presence. That is not focus. Focus is presence. Presence is knowing that at the end of each day, in full integrity, we show up. This does not just happen, it’s a practice