This is my boss, Nigel Morgan, DDS, my co-worker Annette Lane, RDH, and me after finishing a mini-triathlon as a relay team. Dr. Morgan did the 1/2 mile swim, I did the 6 mile mountain bike and Annette did the 6 mile run. We all survived; I had no doubt Dr. Morgan would as he has done multiple Ironman triathlons, but Annette and I are newcomers to the sport. I will say this; I'm proud of us, it was the hardest physical thing I'd ever done, and I've had 3 kids. Well, maybe childbirth was a little harder, but not much.
You may be wondering how I'm ever going to relate this to managing a dental practice, right? Well, I learned three things participating in this event that will stick with me and come to mind during the work day. There are three components to a triathlon, obviously and each one taught me something.
First is the swim which Dr. Morgan completed in 15 minutes. This event was minor compared to what he puts into Ironman Kona, but he put his all into it. He had to start 4 minutes later than the others, but swam so hard he came out of the water second. When I tell him how amazed I am he acts like it was nothing. I asked him later if he would have liked to have done the whole race and he said he would have. So the first lesson is humility. He could have done better on his own, he probably would have won, but he worked as hard as he could knowing we'd probably come in toward the end, which we did. He took a place as part of our team without having to be the star, he brushed off the compliments he deserved and heaped praise on Annette and I, thanking us repeatedly for participating with him. It wasn't phony or condescending, he was proud of us. He's the same at work; he's proud of what we do as a team and we know it. He thanks us every day for what we do. He's humble about himself and happy to be there.
Second is the bike, which took me about 90 minutes. To my horror, my chain jammed on the first hill causing me to get off the bike and turn it upside down and put the chain back on. It happened 2 more times before I finally got going, but now I was starting in the middle of the hill. By the time I got to the top, the panic and adrenaline had done a number on me. I felt exhausted already. It ended up being a very difficult course with steep uphills and trecherously technical descents. At one point I seriously felt like throwing the bike off the mountain. As other riders passed me, I began to feel like I was the only one left on the mountain and as if I'd never finish. The urge to quit was strong, but I knew that Annette was waiting to begin her run. We had trained together and she'd trained alone too, so I knew how much she'd put into it and I wasn't going to let her down. I pushed aside the discouragement I was feeling, put my big girl pants on and kept going. At one point I crashed and scraped up my knee. When the trail helper pointed out the fact that I was bleeding, I was thrilled because when I came down last, at least I'd look tough. Seeing Annette standing there waiting for me, and Dr. Morgan and his family cheering me on made me glad I'd persevered. I was filthy, bleeding, and sweaty, but I did it. So, the lesson is perseverance. You may think you could never do something, but you'll never know unless you try. Sometimes things are hard, but you just might be tougher than you think you are.
The last component is the run and Annette finished in 75 minutes. I think that's incredible for someone who started running a month before. Once Annette committed to competing with us, she put everything into training. Annette's been through huge challenges this summer, but she is determined to be strong and optimistic. Seeing her come around the last corner to approach the finish line with a huge smile on her face was thrilling and inspiring. Her amazing attitude shows us that you choose your responses and behaviors. When things get tough, you can choose to allow yourself to give up and no one would blame you. On the other hand, you can choose to keep going, with a smile, and you can inspire others and grow in your own character.
Humility, committment, perseverance, toughness, determination, and a great attitude all translate into success. Those elements of character can get you through a race and they can get you through a rough day at work, a difficult situation with a staff member, a challenging patient, or a bad economy. If you want to become stronger and better, challenge yourself. Find something that will not be easy to do and try it. Do the same with your team. Nothing increases the strength of a team like coming through a challenge. Find something to do with your team that will require them to work together to achieve success. It doesn't have to be a triathlon, but try to do something that will cause everyone to stretch past their comfort zone. Some will learn that they contribute by encouraging, others will be strong where some are weak, everyone will find their niche. In the end, they will see that by working together and encouraging each other they will grow closer and do better. That's what gives a team it's heart.