On September 15th and 16th, I participated in the 17th Annual Dragon Boat Racing Championship on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. It was a totally exhilarating experience. There were about 50 members of my team, the Oakland Renegades, there for the weekend. We practice three times a week on Lake Merritt. I learned more from this team experience about myself, about teaming, and about playing, than I have in a long time.
Lesson #1: Losing can still be winning.
I did four races this past weekend, and our boat came in last every race. We got off the boat so pleased with our survival! We worked really hard. We “left it all on the water” and gave it everything we had. Our fantastic coach, Mike O'Meara, said, “We’re a new team. We’re just getting started. You did really well. You did your best. These other teams probably race five, six times a week. Don’t worry; we’re going to keep getting better.” Not only did he not make us feel bad about being last, he actually made us feel good about working harder. We are now going to incorporate a boot camp into our training.
In business, we can’t always win every race either. We need to try new things, and we fail. Mike’s coaching and the team’s spirit can keep the energy up and raise the bar for the next opportunity.
Lesson #2: Nothing feels better than teamwork.
There is no “I” in teamwork. Oh, that’s an old saying, but boy is it true in Dragon Boat Racing. You have got to follow the person that you can see diagonally, the “Stroker” in the front seat of the boat on the opposite side. The boat needs everyone paddling at the same time. Whether it’s an “upstroke,” which is fast, or the full Dragon paddle, which is a bit slower and deeper, all must do it in sync.
Learning to not look at your own paddle, but someone else’s paddle is such a great lesson for business. It’s not about you; it’s about the rest of the people on the boat. And while paddling in a race, you can’t decide you are too tired to play. How does this show up in your work and your business? Can you keep your energy up to be a team player?
Lesson #3: Expand your view of your own strengths.
I paddle because I want to physically be active. I love the “culture” of the Oakland Renegades and my teammates. It makes me feel like a “Renegade.” It’s hard. I have never been on this type of team. The experience has shifted some of my perceptions about myself. Now, I want to push harder. I want to be stronger. I want to constantly improve my stroke.
“What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” Stepping outside of our comfort zone, in business and in life can be an awakening to what’s really possible. I have learned not to play it safe, and I have brought my Renegade spirit into my work.
What business lessons are you learning from stepping outside of your comfort zone? What teammate experiences are now giving you new possibilities? How can losing be winning for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts, Renegade.