8 Career Lessons from the Tour de France
It’s one of the most difficult fetes of athletic prowess anywhere in the world. For 23 days, 180 riders trek through mountains and valleys of France. Before I became interested in the Tour de France (courtesy of my husband) last year, I thought “so what?” But truly think about the athleticism. Imagine running 20+ marathons one right after another, day after day. Endurance cannot begin to describe the trials these athletes overcome in that time period.
The sheer awe of these athletes and this competition, though, comes in more forms than just endurance. Last year, I first became interested in the Tour de France and wrote this article about the lessons the Tour de France can provide all of us in our lives and careers. This year, I’m expanding on those thoughts and bringing you a few more ways to take these riders lessons into your life and your job. Even if you’ve never watched the tour and don’t know anything about it, tune in to these eight lessons, and think about turning the channel to NBC Sports this week and next to take it all in and learn even more.
- Lesson 1:
There are multiple ways to win.
If you’ve watched even a few minutes of the Tour de France, you’ve likely noticed the multiple colors of jerseys the commentators are tracking. You probably already know that every day, the overall leader and eventual winner, wears the yellow jersey. But the beauty of this race is that the yellow jersey isn’t the only way to win! The green jersey denotes the rider who is the best sprinter, the polka dotted jersey denotes the rider who is the best mountain climber (frequently called “king of the mountains”), and the white jersey (my personal favorite) is given to the most talented young riders (the “rookie of the year” if you will). It’s incredible to know that these 180 riders aren’t all competing to be the single winner, but rather for multiple ways to be successful and to win.
- Lesson 2:
Having a bad day doesn’t mean you’ve failed.
For a football quarterback, a bad day can mean a failed season. Not for Tour de France cyclists. With 21 stages of cycling over 23 days, having one day in the back of the race doesn’t necessarily mean you’re down for the count. You have multiple days to make up time and to catch up to the leader. The same goes for your life and career. Making a single mistake and having a bad day doesn’t mean you can’t bounce back to see incredible victory in the long run. Your career is a long game, not a short one!
- Lesson 3:
Knowing your strengths and being honest about your weakness will make you stronger in general.
If you want to win the Tour de France, but you know your strengths don’t lie in climbing mountains, you’re going to take an easier pace on the mountain days to ensure you have the energy you need to power through the sprint days and make your way to the top of the pack. It’s not just about knowing your strengths. Winning the Tour is about knowing your weaknesses, and being able to navigate your way through them to make your strengths even stronger. Where, in your career, can you ask for help, recognize your weaknesses, and hold back in order to better showcase your strengths?
- Lesson 4:
Wait for your time. It’s coming.
In last year’s Tour de France article, I talked about the public anger surrounding Chris Froome. Froome was one of the top riders in the tour, but was repeatedly asked by team leadership to back off to make way for his teammate and the intended leader, Bradley Wiggins. Wiggins later won the tour, but not without some controversy about Froome having to resign himself to being second best in order to do so. No matter your opinion about this rivalry, it doesn’t matter in 2013. Bradley Wiggins was injured earlier this year, and while cycling fans don’t relish in his injury, many (myself included) are delighted to see Chris Froome finally step into the spotlight. Imagine your coworker getting that promotion because of a project you worked just as hard to accomplish. It would sting, wouldn’t it? But in your career, you have to recognize that hard work and dedication will get you where you want to go. You will get “your time” just like Froome is in 2013.
- Lesson 5:
It may sound cheesy, but life is a team sport.
What baffles me about the Tour de France is that 180 men lined up at the beginning of this month, but not all of them even want to win! While there’s one yellow jersey winner, the Tour de France is a team sport (even when it doesn’t look like it, it is!) Each day, teams create a strategy to get to the finish line, to help their front-man get further ahead, and to eventually take home the yellow jersey for that individual. Life is the same, as cheesy as it sounds. It won’t always be clear who your team consists, of, but they are there, and you can’t succeed without them.
- Lesson 6:
One of the best parts of watching the Tour de France on television are the incredible French countrysides the riders go through. In the mountain phases, however, the vistas themselves can be nail biting. Watching riders fly around switchbacks on top of mountains that would surely eat them alive should they fall is an exercise in holding your breath. But something occurred to me watching one of those such moments – these guys have no fear! Fear will only stop them, slow them, and make them doubtful in their own abilities. That’s when they fall! The same goes for you. If you spend your life scared, you’ll also spend your life falling. Trust yourself, your abilities, and fly around those corners!
- Lesson 7:
One bad apple doesn’t ruin the whole batch.
The world watched as Lance Armstrong finally admitted to doping when he won the Tour de France seven times. Those titles have now been stripped and frankly, the world of cycling (and let’s face it, just the world in general) has a pretty strong disdain for Armstrong’s actions and his lies. But somehow even in a year of immense controversy for the sport, it doesn’t even enter your mind when you’re watching the Tour. It just goes to show that in any career, industry, or company, one bad apple doesn’t ruin the whole batch. There can be triumph after PR disaster. One bad decision in your life doesn’t mean your career is over, either.
- Lesson 8:
You didn’t get here alone!
I spoke earlier about the teams that ride to the finish together, but what you often don’t see are those behind the teams. Hundreds of crew members repairing tires, filling water bottles, food bags, and much more are following these riders working 20 hour days for 23 days straight (not to mention preparation and wind down time). To be a winner of the Tour de France, you must rely on these incredible teammates behind the scenes, and to be a winner in your life and career, you must also recognize that you didn’t get here alone! There are so many behind the scenes players in your life. Thank them. Often.
I hope you’ll all take some time the next couple of weeks to tune in and watch some of this incredible display of athleticism, leadership, and lessons! It will blow your mind, and you might come away with even more lessons to take to your desk every day.