I love sports because of what they teach us about life. As an athlete, fan, and spectator I’ve learned some of life’s biggest lessons through training and competition.
As I watch the Tour de France this year I’ve been thinking about all the lessons that unfold from this 21 day competition. Here are some of the best success lessons from the world’s most epic race.
1. Winning takes a team
No doubt Lance Armstrong is one of the greatest cyclists of all time, but he didn’t do it alone. One thing the winners of the Tour de France have in common is a strong team. Your team protects you. They pull you up mountains and across the flats. They make sure you’re ready to pour it on when the time is right.
Surround yourself with a strong team that can help you perform at your best.
2. Consistency is critical
When I first started watching the Tour de France I was confused about how someone could win the tour, but not win a single stage. The most important part of being great is being good every single day. One big win followed by two days recovery won’t get you to the podium.
Don’t burn out on your goals. Chip away consistently every single day.
3. You can’t win in the peloton
The largest group of riders in a cycling race is called the peloton. It’s the easiest and safest place to ride. If you want to win though you can’t spend every day in the peloton. You’ve got to take some risks and break free from the other guys.
If you want to be extraordinary then you’ve got to do things that ordinary people won’t. Don’t settle for finishing in the peloton.
4. Finishing is what counts
Every so often an inspired rider will break free from the peloton on his own and chase victory. I’ve seen a single man race nearly 100 miles off the front all alone towards a coveted stage win. Despite his heroic performance he was caught and passed by the charging peloton within sight of the finish line. Tragic! The other racers didn’t care that he was about to complete a nearly impossible task. They didn’t care that he’d dug deeper than anyone else that day. It’s all about finishing.
In business and in life you’ve got to go the extra mile if you want to be a champion. Don’t coast to the finish on your goals or you might turn extraordinary into ordinary.
5. Plan for each day
The best teams in the Tour de France have a unique plan for every single stage. They know the strengths and weaknesses of the other riders and teams. The strategize about how to position themselves to make the most of the day. They work together to accomplish their objective.
Plan your day, week, and month ahead of time to make sure you achieve your goals.
6. Adjust on the fly
Despite having a plan things often don’t work out the way they had hoped. Crashes catch people out of position, other teams counter with their own plans, and bikes malfunction. Through it all the teams adapt, adjust, and recalibrate their strategy to reach their objective.
Just because something doesn’t go right doesn’t mean all is lost. Adjust your plan, tweak your strategy, and get moving again.
7. A strong “Why” will get you there
One of my favorite things to watch is “the break.” These brave riders sprint off the front of the peloton hoping to stay away and get a stage win. As the peloton tries to pull them back mile after mile their faces become etched with a mixture of determination and self inflicted pain. It’s the kind of pain you could only endure with a very powerful Why.
Always have a powerful “Why” behind your goals. If your why is big enough you’ll find the how.
8. Previous success is not a free pass
Just because you’re the defending tour champion doesn’t mean you get a free pass. This year Alberto Contador (two time defending champion) has been caught in numerous crashes and lost precious time. You don’t get a break for having bad luck. You’ve got to get back up and race if you want to win.
One of the hardest things to do in sports and in life is repeat success. Don’t get complacent or think you’re entitled to success. Compete every day.
9. It’s won on the mountains
The Tour de France is won on the mountains, not on the flats. If you want to win the yellow jersey you’ve got to be able to get up the biggest mountains in France.
Just like in life you’ve got to separate yourself from the pack by doing the extraordinary. Big challenges will make you a champion.
What’s your favorite sporting event? What life lessons can you take from it?