Rusch Job: Winning

In: COLUMNISTS, In Print, OPINION By: Dirt Rag Contributor On: May 17, 2016

"I started to realize that all the things I wanted to talk about regarding winning had nothing to do with standing on a podium."

Words: Rebecca Rusch
Photo: Pat R. Notaro for Red Bull Media House
Originally published in Issue #190

What is winning to you?

Is it KOM/QOM victories that you celebrate alone in front of your computer? Is it a medal or trophy that you take home to show your family? Is it proudly wearing the race T-shirt you earned by suffering through a 50-mile slog?

Recently I gave a speech to Boa Technology’s international annual meeting to talk about how to win. There were employees from Asia, Europe and the U.S. I was asked to speak to them because I’ve won a bunch of races. As I prepared for my speech, I started to realize that all the things I wanted to talk to these people about regarding winning had nothing to do with standing on a podium.

The things I treasure as my personal trophies are teammates, the epic adventures (including epic failures) and the stamps in my passport. Being asked to prepare a speech on winning made me realize that my definition of winning wasn’t traditional at all.

Rebecca Rusch poses for a portait after finishing the ride to Horombo Mawenzi Sadle, on an aclimatization day during her attempt to ascend Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania on 22 February, 2016. © Red Bull Media House

Rebecca Rusch poses for a portait after finishing the ride to Horombo Mawenzi Sadle, on an aclimatization day during her attempt to ascend Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania on 22 February, 2016. © Red Bull Media House

Here’s Merriam-Webster’s definition of winning: 1: someone who wins a contest or prize to gain in a battle or contest: the victor; 2: a very good or successful person, one who is praiseworthy; 3: one who captures a territory in conquest

Boa Technology definitely wants to capture a territory in conquest. They want to win as a company. So, the first thing I did at the speech was to ask all 140 people to write down their personal definition of winning on the top part of a note card. Then I shared with the group my definition and what I’m most proud of.

The big wins in my career are:

  • Longevity: 25 years as a pro athlete
  • Being healthy and injury free
  • Giving back by sharing what I have or what I know
  • Owning a garage
  • I did it my way (I even played a little Frank Sinatra to hit that last point home)

Podiums are fun and are a very public recognition of the hard work and sacrifice that folks make to go fast. But podiums or QOMs don’t fit in my definition. My nontraditional definition instead focuses on things that are experiential—health and quality of life related.

No matter what your definition is, there is a simple path to get you there. To save you the effort of having to come hear me speak about what it takes to win, here are the main points I talked about—free of charge, except for your subscription price to this honorable publication (What? You’re not subscribed? Get on it!):

  • Fail often
  • Surround yourself with a stellar team that’s better than you are
  • Settle in for the long haul
  • Fuel performance with passion

That’s really all you need to know to get where you want to be. It really is that simple. The last thing I did before leaving the stage and heading to happy hour with the staff was ask everyone in the room to pull out their note card and write a new definition of winning. Maybe it was a little remedial asking all of these executives, engineers and professionals to jot down ideas on a card, but self-reflection never goes out of style.

Some of the people in the room shared their definitions with me after the meeting. Like my own definition, the best part of giving that speech was not the applause or the paycheck. The reward for me was the personal interaction that happened and the stories they told me once I stepped off the stage.


Read more from Rebecca Rusch.

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