This week, we were lucky enough to host a webinar alongside the extraordinary David Labouchere, MBE, OBE.
The topic was energy, and how leaders can maximise it to get the best results.
David also wrote our blog this week, sharing another story of how one particular source of energy can lead to extreme high performance and exceptional results...
And includes a simple lesson for us all, world-class athlete or not.
There was an alien in my mouth, pushing to escape through a non-existent gap in my upper teeth.
I could not speak.
Jogging along in a slew of fatigue while your tongue is wringing itself out is uncomfortable, and it gives you a whole new ‘something to think about’.
Cramp is not well understood.
It’s neurological, for sure.
Caused by muscle overuse, holding a position for too long, dehydration, mineral deficiency, inadequate blood supply, or even a trapped nerve.
We all suffer from cramp at some point. It hurts.
On this occasion, I was 25 kilometres into the run leg of Ironman South Africa and had 17 to go. Not ideal.
It next manifested itself in my right hand as I lightly held an imaginary butterfly between thumb and forefinger, a prompt I use to relax my shoulders when running. The butterfly died.
Then an involuntary contraction of my right shin pulled that foot into flexion, and almost simultaneously my left inner thigh rippled as another alien struggled to break out of my skin.
I buckled and went to the ground. The victim of Voldemort's Cruciatus Curse, like a hapless spider under the hot tap, scrunched into a ball. I was also – my tongue paralysed – unable to speak.
The people of Port Elizabeth are probably the best triathlon crowd in the world. Days before the race they stake out key ‘brai’ areas on the course and on the day they start ‘supporting’ early in the morning when the first of the professionals exit the water and head out for 180 kilometres of biking.
It being an all-day BBQ, they drink beer. At shortly before 4pm I was roughly folded into the size of a small suitcase surrounded by spectators brimming with bonhomie. I couldn’t make the words to explain to the well-meaning, wobbly group that their kind offer of Castle lager was not what I needed.
I really wanted to stop. Breathe.
An ambulance arrived. Breathe.
They sat me up. I relaxed.
The cramp subsided.
I thanked the drinkers and medics for their attention and continued.
200 metres later I was down again. A few moments later, I was on my way. Walk, run, cramp, fall, breathe, relax, get up, repeat.
I met new enthusiastic socialites at every stop, and the ambulance, seeing me as their best hope for an interesting afternoon, shadowed my stuttering progress. We settled into a rhythm until the next aid station where I sampled the whole buffet. Copious quantities of flat coke, sports drinks and energy gels had a positive effect and the cramping became less frequent.
Why don’t we stop when it would be so much easier to do so?
Energy comes from four sources: physical (sleep, nutrition and exercise), mental (a clearly defined goal), emotional (the support of our loved ones) and spiritual (doing the right thing). The proportions of each energy source are different for everyone. For me I think they are about 25% each.
Physically spent and without an aim (as my primary goal was the first victim of the cramp) – the subsequent walks put me out of the running (pun intended) for a coveted World Championship qualification – I was now down by 50%.
The spiritual source (the Force) was not strong either, for stopping would not hurt anyone.
It would cost no one. It is a long challenging race and many people do not finish. I could have joined them.
So, of my four ‘engines’ I was now flying on one: 25%.
What kept me moving forward was an endless torrent of emotional energy
It was an energy given by those with whom I had shared the year’s journey up to those last few kilometres. A gift from my wife, children, friends, colleagues and training partners back in Dubai, the UK and elsewhere. They had supported my efforts, had sacrificed time on the altar of my training and race.
They were watching online. That energy was transmitted to the empty man on the floor. Stopping was never an option. The energy flowed and I finished the race.
If we want to keep going, whatever our journey, we must nurture our sources.
They cross boundaries: physical energy aids brain function now and in old age; mental energy supports physical endeavour.
Doing the right thing is kryptonite. We need energy to execute the big meeting, the exam or the courageous conversation. To forgive or forget, to listen or love, for patience or kindness. To swim further, bike harder, run faster and live longer.
Of the sources, emotional energy seems the most inexhaustible. It comes from meaningful relationships.
How can we maximise emotional energy?
Do as we would be done by? No.
We should treat our families, friends, communities and colleagues as they wish to be treated.
A great friend and award-winning business leader makes one call a day; one absolutely discretionary call, to someone, anyone, for no ulterior motive but to service a relationship. What an idea!
Who will you call today?
A retired British senior Army officer who spent 32 years as a soldier, David served all over the world, in every major conflict and most minor ones. He was part of the Iraq liberation in 1990 and served in the Balkans.
After taking part in both Gulf Wars, he led a battle group in Iraq when he returned in 2006 and also served in Afghanistan. David has twice been honoured personally by HM Queen Elizabeth II with an MBE and OBE for his actions while on military operations around world. Over the last six years he has become a world-class endurance athlete, specialising in one of the most gruelling sports in the World; Ironman Triathlon.
As a leadership expert he wrote the doctrine taught at the higher centres of learning for all British Forces, and David continues to deliver leadership training, specialising in teambuilding and goal setting. In his capacity as performance coach for 2b Limitless, David works with AES across a range of dynamic programmes.
“I’m here to help you live a longer, happier, healthier life. That’s my purpose.”