Sunday, April 08, 2012

Learn To Expect The Unexpected

As I watched the Oxford vs. Cambridge Boat Race, I was instantly transported back to when I was a high school student going to school in Wimbledon. At the school, the Race was a highlight of the school year, and I vividly describe to my husband how as students we were divided up into two teams, each cheering for either Oxford or Cambridge. 

To honour the occasion, we would wear a daffodil and a twig of pussywillow tied by a pale blue or navy ribbon to represent the team we were supporting. Now that was close to 50 years ago, but I remember it like yesterday.

But watching the Race this year spoke to the need for all of us to be prepared for the unexpected.  The race was half way done, and Oxford was just slightly in the lead, when a protestor swims in between the two rowing boats, bringing the race to a dramatic halt.

It was cold, and suddenly the teams had to rethink their strategy, get refocused on winning and keep their muscles moving so they didn’t seize up while they waited for instructions.  It wasn’t just their bodies that had to adjust, so did their mindset.  A true test of the athletes participating, which included men and women. Progress indeed as the Race used to be men only.

Under starter’s orders, both teams were poised and ready to bolt off, anxious to capture the lead.  In their enthusiasm, Oxford got too close to the Cambridge team, and lost an oar, which the umpire blamed on the Oxford team and so the race continued.  This basically meant game over and the Cambridge team rowed into victory.  Now the Oxford team could have chosen to stop then and there, but they didn’t, they rowed on to the finish line.

Much I am sure will be written about this race, and my hope is that the police throw the book at the protestor for spoiling such a traditional event in the UK, and which also resulted in one of the athletes being taken to hospital, exhausted by the race.

Just like the athletes, so too do business owners have to be prepared for the curveballs that may come their way.  You may be on a winning streak when suddenly out of the blue something beyond your control negatively impacts your business.  Like the rowers, you need to limber up, stay moving and if necessary, change tactics. 
Like the Oxford team, sometimes an aggressive move may not pay off and you have to be prepared to let go of the prize (for this year) and chalk it down to lessons learned, albeit the hard way. At least the team stayed in the race, heads held high and no doubt, having learned from the experience.  Just watch, they will be even more determined next year.

And that’s what you have to do too.  Persistence, passion and patience are all key ingredients in the business recipe for success.

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