Last night I, and a fair chunk of the world’s cycling fans, bit our fingernails down to bloody stumps watching the finals of the men’s Keirin final in Rio.
The race had to restart not once, but twice in a bizarre set of circumstances which should have seen at least two riders disqualified, but in the end, happily everyone was able to start and contest the final.
The final was, as I hoped, won by Jason Kenny, the quiet unflappable Brit who rode an excellent, patient race, holding off until the last moment before charging for the line to pick up a 6th gold Olympic medal.
But what can we mere mortals learn from this?
Whilst the reruns of the finals will show Kenny’s majestic charge over the line, there were starts that didn’t go as expected. No doubt there were many small failures along the way too. Training sessions that didn’t go as well as hoped, nutrition plans that didn’t work, thousands of pounds of experimental equipment discarded as useless.
We move on.
That “sure fire” A/B test winner that lost? Leave it. Humans are just unpredictable. Live with it.
That software that didn’t live up to promises? Find one the does and then ditch it. Nothing is perfect, we have to work with what we have.
All the riders wasted a certain amount of energy in those false starts, but the winners focus on the game ahead, not what has gone wrong in the past. They learn from it but don’t dwell on it.
Kenny and his Malaysian adversary who were almost disqualified in the first false start were certainly not going to make that mistake again, but bizarrely, others did. It just shows how the best in the world are still poor at learning form others mistakes and have to make their own.
Consistency in testing and learning is the key.
Each of the athletes could be seen trying to repeat a part of their mental warm-up routine between starts. Getting back to familiar territory to start again.
Remembering first principles is a great way to get out of a rut or take a new start at a challenge.
If your latest launch hasn’t gone as well as expected. Get back to your research, don’t blame the last tweak you made. The problems are often much deeper and a series of new experiments can take you way off track.
To me this is the biggest lesson. Whilst we might look at Kenny’s charge to the line as a superhuman effort, pulled out of the bag in front of the crowds, in fact it was nothing like that.
He rode a similar race in the semi-final and has probably ridden it a thousand times in training.
Each week he tweaks his position, equipment, nutrition, training and mental game, by tiny fractions.
The “marginal gains” that Team GB are so fond of stack up into a delicious layer cake on the day, but they are built up over years.
“Overnight successes” take an awfully long time to achieve.
It’s probably no coincidence that the two most successful track cyclists of this decade are engaged.
When the person you look across at at breakfast is also hunting Olympic gold it must become like normality, and your expectations are set at a higher level.
That’s what we are looking for inside our Automatic Business Facebook Group – a group of marketing automation experts who can show each other the best in their field and work together to raise our game.
Who’s at your breakfast table this morning?