A 3 step plan: Why quitting your job & doing an endurance race is good for your career
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Before we jump into the ‘Plan’
In the last few weeks I have been asked several times; I love sports/travelling/adventure but with all this corporate experience (Banking, HR, Office Admin etc), how can I possibly move into that area or even take some serious time to do it, without sacrificing my short term career options? Surely I
will be wasting 5-10 years of work experience & all that comes with it – pay, management level, relevant work history? Won’t future employers just think I ignored my career development to chase some sports/adventure dream – its not like I am going to be an Olympic athlete, what happens if I need to find a job back at the desk?
So encouraged by a conversation this morning with an endurance coach that had worked in banking for 17 years/the founders of Athlete Lab/my own curiosity, I thought I would demonstrate how sport & HR are hopelessly connected and give you some confidence to take the leap to ‘Escape the office’ – even if it is just a ‘career break’ or a ‘Get out of Jail’ pass.
This post may even educate your future boss and stir up trouble in offices around the world, so please forward where appropriate. I won’t claim I am expert in this area (my limited experience is racing in the across Europe, solo bike race – Transcontinental Race, which directly resulted in my new role as a cycling coach in New Zealand in a few weeks) but I will draw on the examples of speakers/adventurers out there, who encouraged me, and hopefully will do the same for you in that corporate cell :p.
Of course at this stage I could preach. ‘Do what you love’, ‘You only live once’, ‘Doing what you love means you will never work a day in your life’. I may also describe how retraining as a sport coach can be an extremely rewarding career even if your pay grade comes down (and it is, I know several coaches who ‘transferred’ in their 30s). But I am not going to do that. Neither am I going to give a blueprint on how you get into sports [there are plenty
of websites that talk about that, google it. But FYI follow @gsportsjob & @jumpinsports on twitter]. Instead I want to justify my 10 point plan by firstly
focusing on why business & sport are incredibly interwoven on a skills, attitude level – drastically quitting your job on a Monday morning (hint) is not something your boss should be worried about – and that the consequences of an epic sporting effort could be a fantastic career.
Please if anyone does quit their job after reading this, email me! Alternatively drop a line to the dedicated recruiters – Escape the City. If you start training for an endurance saga, why not sign up to our monthly newsletter? HERE
Endurance Sport & its effect on personality, behavior & leadership
Epic endurance challenges can have a significant positive effect on individual leadership traits. Since the 1970s there has been a growing interest among corporations to improve management/leadership through fitness programs and no doubt this has lead to where we are today, with senior executives using the Ironman triathlon as a status feat. I wanted to touch briefly on how the ‘business world’ recognizes the qualities of candidates from different endurance sport/adventure backgrounds; and obviously stress the point that within these attributes those persons that do badass events demonstrate the top 1% of interviewees.
To investigate the motivations and psychological profiles of graduates, companies can often use psychometric questionnaires (or at least their principles) designed to measure how they perceive the world and make decisions – essentially this is a filtering mechanism at an early stage in the recruitment process. Now I am not trying to claim that all job candidates (particularly those with 5-7 years experience) will undergo these exams post-adventure race, but it is interesting to examine how endurance athletes/adventurers do in these tests to show how they are as well placed to succeed as anyone else. Employers take note.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assesses your personality through four dimensions which each have two options. The dimensions are Extroversion and Introversion (E/I), Sensing and Intuition (S/N), Thinking and Feeling (T/F), and Judgment and Perception (J/P). In a paper – MBTI in Sports: How MBTI types are represented in team and individual sports and which leadership styles work best respectively – illustrated by an empirical example from UC Berkeley’s football team – research indicates that individual sports (and I am going to link this with solo, crazy endurance adventures as well) are particularly prone to attract introverts and especially ISTPs, which is an MBTI type also referred to as ‘mechanics’. Candidates will be adventurous and want to be in control over the choice of next moves to make. Individual sports allows them to “(…) enjoy self-sufficiency and take pride in developing their own solutions to problems (…)” and these persons are extremely vigilant & analytical.
In a leadership/ business environment these unique candidates are very good at giving a team positive leadership, energy & authority.
For those sportsmen & women that take part in team sports – and I link this with the group rally adventures (mentioned next), team treks across the Arctic and other examples of crowd determination – we would expect these candidates to be extraverts. These people are often considered good talkers (*cough* marketing/PR) and ‘recharge’ their energy on interaction. Of I course I don’t want to generalize too much – if you have just climbed Mount Everest in a group, you are probably pretty motivated as an individual, but you can understand the different outlooks.
Now the Plan.
If you are having a bad day, visit the Adventurists website. You will be met with the words:
‘Progress has a down side. Life on Earth has become dull. Bollocks to that.’
This is a good start.
For anyone contemplating a ‘clean break’ or a temporary release from our over-sanitised lives there is nothing better than getting lost in a rally race, and this organization has a several adventures to pick from:
1. Mongol Rally – You drive from London to the Mongolian capital – Ulan Bator – in a vehicle deliberately inappropriate to the task (1200cc or less, or an emergency vehicle). NB – The rally is designed to be an adventure for the participants, and not a traditional rally/race; no crazy driving down the autobahn!
2. Ice Run – Riding an antique Russian sidecar motorcycle along a frozen Siberian river; brief introduction below:
3. Mototaxi Junket – 3,500km rally on off-road tracks over massive mountains in the Peruvian Andes and across the Amazon basin.
Because I can’t possibly write the same excellent copy as the Adventurist PR machine, I will copy/paste my closing argument of applying for these ‘tasks’ before your 3pm tea-break today:
1) Getting to drive the most ridiculous vehicle imaginable along the chaos of the Indian roads. No health and safety protocol, no risk assessment, just seat-of-your-pants mayhem
2) The parties, the test driving and the launch, meeting like minded-fools and sharing the camaraderie of a cacophony of carnage
3) There’s nothing like shitting yourself a bit to remind you that you’re alive. After doing the Rickshaw Run you may well struggle to get excited about any holiday the boring side of your comfort zone
4) The scenery, the food and the locals. Experiencing a bit of India you wont see on a backpacking holiday; going balls deep into a bit of India that isn’t in the guide books
5) Coming home with stories which will knock the smug grin off your mate who trekked to Everest base camp.
2. Do something new
– Dave Cornthwaite (@DaveCorn) quit his job as a ‘really bad graphic designer’ in 2005, and has since developed a successful career based around his passions. At the core, he is a record-breaking adventurer who has travelled over 16,000 miles as part of the groundbreaking Expedition1000 project: 25 journeys of 1000 miles or more, each using a different form of non-motorised transport.
– At the tender age of 25 Dominic Gill (@domgill) embarked on his first documentary film Take A Seat from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, approximately 29,519 kilometres / 18,449 miles down the west coast to Ushuaia, the most southerly city in South America. His mode of transport was a tandem bicycle and he picked up 270 riders along the way to help him. To start off on his big adventure he took a ‘home improvement’ loan.
– ‘Tired of IT‘ – In 2009 Dave Conroy quit his IT job, sold everything he owned, and set off on a round the world cycle from Vancouver, Canada. By his own admission, he wasn’t a cyclist to begin with, just figured it would be a good,
cheap way to travel and meet people. He has since traveled 47, 422km.
And you can probably guess my point is to do that big adventure, that big escape from the office well just do it.Its like the story of Rosie Swale Pope & her ‘Just a Little (5 year) Run Around the World’ the first step out the door is the hardest.
These guys have all been very successful not just in doing what they love but in ‘business’ because they have taken on something challenging & new. People love that and are ready to read their books, or engage with them in business as they are inspiring adventurers. These guys are leaders & demonstrate rare personality traits that the corporate world loves; as described earlier.
3. Talk about your adventure, either going back or setting up a new career
After whatever madness you have undertaken, time may come for you to go back and make some money. Perhaps raise some kids? Well you don’t have to just put those memories in a photo album in the attic and get chained back to the desk full-time. As you saw from the examples above many adventurers form a career from public speaking or books, newspaper columns; and even if you can’t do that – it takes a lot of publicity & promotion to stand out – why not
volunteer your time to inspire the next generation? Organizations like Speakers4schools, adventure film festivals, Expedition community meetups are a great way to not only relive your adventure but answer questions for newbies, inspire the next generation or even find your next calling.
Inevitably of course some volunteer talks may allow for you to get your name out onto the corporate ‘circuit’, become attached to a Motivational Speaker Agency [I have worked in conferences for years and we source alot of our dinner speakers from these companies].
[Video below was made to promote the Specialized AWOL bike after the transcontinental bike race, could you do this?]
If you are trying to demonstrate your new skills – as we went through at the start – to new employers (I am even talking about the tax office) why not write a blog, set up a twitter account so that you can describe what motivates you in your private life. As school kids are demonstrating today in an ever more challenging job market, your CV doesn’t stop when you get home from the office.
Finally, last week I went to a talk entitled ‘An Evening with Deca Ironmen’ (review coming up asap) in which I met Singapore’s only Deca Ironman (thats 10 Ironman triathlons in 10 days) and World Record holder, Wayne Kurtz, who is in a select group of athletes ever to do a Triple Deca (30) Ironmans – definitely getting his book, Stronger than Iron. Both of those men work full-time in ‘normal’ jobs but for any employer that kind of determination will help you on your career path. Take it as an example.
I can think of no better way to sum up this whirlwind post, then to call upon this excellent reference ‘Find your inner silliness‘ by world traveller, Leon Logothetis, in the Huffington Post:
‘I have had enough. I have had enough of people telling me I should stop being spontaneous and silly. That I should grow up and take things more seriously. That I should stop enjoying my life and that I should be more serious.
Umm, Fuck off.
There are way too many people out there who follow the rules. Live by the norms of society and do things that everyone else deems appropriate. I am sorry, but doesn’t that sound rather boring to you? If it doesn’t feel boring to you, it feels inane and that’s the perfect recipe for boredom to me… I would much rather be donning a Darth Vader mask and fighting Chewbacca in the deserts of California. What about having cake fights with your friends in Palm Springs, or maybe a spot of skinny dipping in the Hollywood Hills?
It’s time to break free from your chains. It’s time to leave behind society’s norms and live a little. It’s time to make a run for it.
My friends, it’s time.
I always used to complain life was passing me by. That others were destined to live fully and that I was going to be perpetually sullied with mediocrity, my soul crucified in the search for equilibrium with my fellow man. That way of life destroyed me. It burnt out my spirit. Thankfully I found my way out. I found my inner silliness.’
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