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Living Life In Balance and Management Lessons Learned from Competing in Triathlons

Living life in-balance is a key driver for success, in my opinion.  I am constantly striving for a balance between my professional career, family and athletic goals. This juggling act has relied heavily on the delicate art of time management, in ultimately a better-balanced lifestyle. I am lucky that this has allowed me to continue to making health and wellness a priority, which has progressed into programs I have implemented at OncoSec –  our Ride to Lunch program and our weekly FitBit™ challenge.

In my personal life, I have had the good fortune of meeting certain people who have helped me reach my goals, whether they are business, athletics or nutrition related.  One important influence in my athletic goals is Felipe Loureiro: my triathlon coach who introduced me to the sport of triathlon, as well as training with his premier multisport team Breakaway Training, based out of San Diego.

Training with Breakaway was an eye-opener. It provided me with an opportunity to train alongside all types of athletes, ranging from the elite level triathletes to those who simply want to finish a triathlon or a marathon.  In fact, the experience of training with a team and competing has been an enlightening experience with very clear parallels to business.  All the functions I apply to training and competing in triathlons and endurance events apply to me as a CEO, in today’s business world. Here are the comparisons and what each requires a CEO to do:

Shifting from a Specialist to a Generalist

As an athlete I used to be a competitive swimmer and, before doing my first Ironman, I had never ridden my bike past 140 km. Leading up to the race, I spent the time to get familiar with distance cycling and running, while also not taking my swimming skills for granted.  In business, CEO’s need to adapt to understanding the mental models, tools, and terms used in different business functions. This needs to lead towards developing a system for evaluating those functions, including being able to ‘repair a flat tire’ and keep going.

The Analyst Becomes the Integrator 

As a CEO, my job is to integrate the collective knowledge of cross-functional teams and make the appropriate trade-offs to solve complex organizational problems.  As an athlete, I meticulously monitor metrics such as heart rate, watts, calories, weight, speed, time, etc. It’s also very important to make adjustments to compensate for different racing and training parameters such as temperature, weather and altitude.

Awakening the Strategist

One of my favorite areas I am constantly trying to improve is becoming a better strategist, either on an intense hill climb or in the board room; being able to shift fluidly between the details and the larger picture.  Competition in a race and in business is inextricably related because we are constantly evaluating important patterns in a complex environment (focusing on internal goals, yet aware of surroundings), as well as anticipating and influencing the reactions of key external players.

From Bricklayer to Architect

It can take over 16 weeks to meticulously train for one’s first marathon; analogous to building a house, brick-by-brick, to eventually seeing the finish product. As a CEO, I believe it is even more difficult a feat in business. I’m constantly challenging myself to understand how to analyze and design organizational systems so that our strategic plan, operating models and skill bases fit together effectively and efficiently. It’s harnessing this understanding that helps to make effective organizational changes.

The Warrior Turned Diplomat

In sports, I am pleased to have matured from being a weekend warrior to making adjustments in my environment. These include making fitness, good nutrition, training and racing a part of our family’s lifestyle.  In business, we apply the same discipline to proactively shape the environment in which business operates. This is accomplished through influencing key external constituents, including the government, NGOs, the media and investors.

Bonus: Wearing Sunblock

This is in addition to the gratification we will get by having a product success for an unmet medical need, in the realm of skin cancer.  By seeing first had the dangers of exposure to UV and spending more time on advocacy for the prevention of skin cancer, this has also rubbed off on me personally. Since I’m spending many hours outdoors, this has really forced me to apply more sunblock!

In my experience, I’ve come across a plethora of similarities between my active lifestyle and my work in business. Drawing out these comparisons is an important part of self-discovery and it has helped me become a better-rounded CEO, as well as a more balanced athlete. In finding and maintaining this balance between business and fitness, I’ve really come better appreciate the universality of our pastimes and work lives.