What Road America Teaches Humans About Leadership
I’m glad you’ve taken the chance to click on this article. I, for one, have become more reluctant on clicking articles because they lack depth and ingenuity—and stink of click-bait. I can assure you this article does not fall into this space and is a must-read for leaders, managers, employees, and all stakeholders. I will keep this short yet significant.
Nature has always been a great teacher of life—I learn from seasonal changes (adaptability), a ripple in the water (legacy), and even trees (core values). Similarly, competitive sports has always been a great teacher—the ups and downs of a season (resiliency), the roles and responsibilities of players (teamwork), and the crucial element of leadership and coaching (servant leadership). I’d like to share with you an observation in this space.
Elkhart Lake’s Road America, located in Wisconsin's scenic Kettle Moraine only a few miles from my home, is one of the world's fastest permanent road racing tracks—known as “America’s National Park of Speed.” Road racing being that race car drivers take both left and right turns while racing—not a traditional circle. It’s a fun, energizing experience to watch that I highly recommend. The turns and racing style are paramount to this leadership article, wellness, and work-life balance.
The cars reach well over 100 miles per hour on the straightaways before the turns—the curves (below image of the track and turns, #4 stretch being one max acceleration). The race cars dramatically decelerate at each turn to avoid crashing into the wall—significantly slowing down. Then, as you can imagine, they dramatically accelerate to reach a pinnacle of speed before having to slow down at the next turn. This cycle repeats.
My friends, we need to slow down to speed up in life or we are going to crash into the walls. Burnout. Anxiety. Poor performance. Emptiness. Running on fumes. They are all part of crashing into the wall. We can’t go full-tilt nonstop to win the race. The NFL regular season, comprised of superior athletes in the world, only plays sixteen Sundays and still has a BYE built into the schedule to rest and renew!
We are not all racing the same race. Some work projects are more intense than others and have more turns. We need to slow down and pour inward to accelerate again. We need to allow our people to breathe and renew to accelerate forward. Work-life balance is different for everyone—we all aren’t always in the same life season. We all don’t experience the same turns in a year—the same racetrack. Some people are experiencing more turns with divorce, health issues, financial troubles, tragedy, and crisis. Leadership is encouraging people to slow down and empowering them to win their race. Leadership is knowing that you can still achieve greatness with slowing down and taking a people-first approach. Leadership is having the Emotional Intelligence to imagine and respond to different people's racetracks—one size fits one.
In 2021, let’s be mindful of slowing down and think of work-life balance as a racetrack. If you don't consistently slow down—you will crash. The organization will crash. You can’t pour from an empty cup—you will crash. Servant leaders slow down and fill their cup first so they can pour into others. Slowing down is actually gaining ground—not losing it. Work-life balance starts with YOU and ME. Modeling this behavior frees others to do the same. Everything will improve. Let’s slow down to appreciate and celebrate small wins in the fast stretches of life. Let’s slow down and give ourselves permission to breathe and acknowledge that the real race is won with purposefully practicing work-life balance—a balance that accelerates all our wildest dreams and goals personally and professionally. Slow down to speed up.
Be well and Happy New Year,