Lessons on Life from the Sydney Harbour Bridge Run
Successfully completing the Harbour Bridge run last Sunday, I was reminded of how much that experience emulated success in life in general.
First up at the starting line, there were the participants. They came in different shapes and sizes, colour and creed, by the thousands. What they shared was a sense of great anticipation. The happiness was palpable. The beautiful spring weather certainly helped. The diversity made the day so much more special.
And then you notice that everyone has a different reason for being there! A few eye the $1000 prize and dream of breaking records, others are there for their PB (“personal best” time), some to lose weight, or just do something special with loved ones, others were motivated by the prospect of having that unique snap of themselves on the Harbour Bridge without having to worry about traffic, yet others were there just for the heck of it and to raise funds for a good cause!
Regardless of background and reason, they shared the common goal of completing the event and having fun in the process. They were also united by the “values” – the “behaviours” or “code of conduct” expected in the pursuit of that goal.
Lesson 1: Life is so much better BECAUSE there’s diversity, not in spite of it.
Lesson 2: Diversity makes your team stronger. Leaders, make one of your goals to recognise it, help your team appreciate that and align your team on two things – shared purpose and values. Turn 1 + 1 into 3! That only happens with a team that includes people with different strengths, perspectives and experiences.
And what about the technology! Because there were so many participants, start times were staggered with three separate groups. Being at the back of Group C, by the time I got past the starting line, I was a good 10 minutes behind those in the first group, and at least a minute behind those at the front of Group C. And I felt pretty impressed by the fact that no matter where you were in the pack, we all had individual “start” and “end” times automatically recorded in the electronic chip attached to our race bin! This chip acted also as our public transport e-ticket for the day! How cool is that????
Lesson 3: Keep the positives in mind when undergoing change! Today, change is happening quicker than ever, hastened by technology that is improving literally at warped speeds! Whilst change can be unnerving, know that there are lots of positive reasons why we WANT change to keep occurring.
The first kilometre or so took effort as I sought to find a rhythm. Navigating that first incline got me wondering how far I’d come and how much more distance I had to cover. And then you get into a channel or zone where it’s just flowing. Feels effortless. And I started looking around me and appreciating the amazing sights of the Opera House with Sydney Harbour and the foreshores of North Sydney as its backdrop and I felt a deep sense of gratitude!
I thought of all the people and sacrifices they had made to make that magic moment possible for me – my parents, both of Chinese heritage who grew up in Malaysia in poverty and yet, through their vision and toil, were able to send four sons for tertiary education in Australia. And what about their forefathers – the first man who left China on a boat and a prayer of a better life – what would have caused him to take on such a huge risk? I said a prayer of thanks for each and every one of them then, because I felt like the luckiest man on the planet!
Lesson 4: The first step towards a worthy goal is always the hardest. Keep at it. It does get a little easier once you’ve found your groove. It’s like learning something new. It takes time, it can feel frustrating in the initial stages but conquer that initial phase by staying focused on the end goal.
Lesson 5: No matter where or who you are, you can CHOOSE to BE happy, to FEEL like the richest, luckiest person on the face of this earth.
“Happiness is not a station you arrive at, it’s a manner of travelling.” - Runbeck
I’m midway through and I’m running in an area where you go around this loop and then head back where you came from and towards the finish line. The initial euphoria has started to wear off. I am starting to really feel my legs working hard now. I feel slightly discouraged because I am not quite halfway there and it’s starting to get tough. And then I see lots of people who have turned the loop and coming back the other way and there’s a spring in their step because they can literally smell the finish line.
I imagine what it feels like to be where they are and THAT creates a spring in my step. I just need to focus on getting where they are! Not on the pain, or the finish line which seems quite distant! But just the next milestone!
Lesson 6: In the pursuit of a worthy ideal, challenges are inevitable. When faced with a challenge, if focusing on the end goal is discouraging because it seems unattainable, focus just on that next milestone. This could be that next lamp-post, or even that next step, but just focus on getting to that! And then the next, and then the next! And before you know it, you’ll get there!
“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!”
Lesson 7: Life is truly full of ups and downs! Realise that after every winter comes the spring. And after every struggle, victory. Have faith and focus on the victory, without failing to savour the beauty of the struggle. We the challenges in life to bring out the very best with us! We need the winters to truly cherish the spring and summers of our lives! So why not just have faith, take it all in and enjoy the winters, the climbs.
I see the finish line and my heart sings. I realise I have spare gas in the tank and give it a final push! I’m home!!!!! It’s a wonderful feeling. I feel a deep sense of satisfaction. A quick look around the tired but mostly beaming faces around me assures me that for most, it has been incredibly satisfying. Although only a select few won a prize that day, everyone looked and felt like winners.
Lesson 8: 90% of winning is simply showing up! The rest comes from knowing you’ve given your very best!
As I reflected on that day, I felt really grateful and proud of the following:
Colleagues and friends who had done such a wonderful job participating and getting others to participate to raise funds for ovarian cancer, and who through their actions, expressed their love for one of their colleagues.
Donors who might not have run but who in their own way showed their love and support for their colleagues who did, by contributing to the cause.
Spending that quality time with my niece, who enjoyed her first experience and is looking forward to more!
The wonderful silent heroes, the volunteers who selflessly cheered everyone on and made the event run like clockwork, helping create for all of us a magic moment to cherish!
Lesson 9: We can either choose to play the game of life or be a spectator! The players tend to have the most fun! Take part! Give it a go! Just do it!
Happiness truly is a journey, not a destination!
To your continued Success & Fulfilment,
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