He was a small Iranian, his bike started out as the sort people buy when they imagine themselves riding to the coffee shop, sun shining, to read the Sunday papers. The front panniers were a couple of vinyl shoulder bags. A make shift bottle holder of string and a towel was slung between the seat and the handle bars. On top of the rear bags were strapped a couple of loaves of bread. The tyres were bald. The bike was so overloaded, the frame flexed with the weight of his chattels. As we learnt more about his trip, we realized how little he knew about cycling before he set off. His poor choice of bike, lack of gears and absence of standard sized common parts had meant his trip was harder than it needed to be, but he’d still done it. It was, quite simply, an amazing achievement. We stood next to him, waiting to ride our bikes onto the ferry aboard our expensive, aluminium, titanium and carbon fibre machines. We’d ridden to Paris. He’d ridden 16,000kms across Europe, Africa and the deserts of the Middle East to Iran and back to Britain. In the blink of an eye, our epic family ride to Paris became a mere bagatelle.
That’s the joy of such people. They help us re-frame what we do and what we can do. They create a seismic shift in our thinking that turns what we thought of as impossible into not only possible, but really rather easy. If you run regularly, you will know that a marathon is a long way….until you meet an ultra-distance runner. For them, the marathon is a warm up.
It’s the same in business. We think we are doing ok, working hard, delivering good work. Then someone comes along who is seemingly able to do extraordinary things or has an amazing grasp of the detail. We are left to rethink what we do and revalue our efforts. We have a choice of responses. We can either write such individuals off as ‘freaks’ or ‘exceptions to the norm’ and carry on doing what we are doing. Or, we can be inspired by the experience and redefine what we thought as good as poor and set about working out what the new good looks like.
There is a third way of responding, and that’s to become the person that creates the experience by which others reframe their performance. What these people seem to be great at doing is instead of asking whether they can do something, they ask what does it take to do it? That subtle shift from whether it’s possible to deciding what you have to do to achieve the goal. Sometimes, it’s simply not possible to work out whether you can achieve the impossible at the start. Instead, you make the commitment to achieving the goal with no real idea of how it will be done, but the determination to do whatever it takes.
One such example is Lieutenant Rowan’s mission to take a letter to Garcia. Here’s your challenge – find out about the letter…the very act of finding out about the letter and reading the account will illustrate what I mean. Those of you who complete this simple task…..perhaps you have what it takes to reframe performance for others.
What’s clear is that reframing other people’s performance starts by setting an outrageous goal. Next you need to maintain belief you can achieve that goal. The goal has to be worthwhile and motivating. Tell everybody you’re going to achieve this amazing goal. Now start working towards it, step by step. It will be hard work – but then these things always are. If it was easy, everybody would do it. But persevere. You’ll be surprised what you achieve.
Dominic Irvine © Epiphanies LLP 2012 All rights asserted
If you are interested in setting a goal to change the way you think read this. You may also be interested to read how Dom applied this to the End to End Tandem Record breaking ride. Read about one of our approaches to improving performance here.