This past Saturday was the perfect day for a 12-mile race-walk. Perfect weather - 37 degrees Fahrenheit. I had spent Friday preparing myself mentally for the 5 am start, visualizing the perfect performance. I had organized all my running gear the night before, including change of clothes for a hair appointment/ massage after the race.
Reality check. I FELL flat on my face, literally, around the 5-mile marker. That magical point in a 12-mile race where you have already vested too much to just turn-around, but the finish is still a long way off.
I would like to report that I was in the front-pack, running a world class time, a few strides ahead of Joan Benoit and Paula Radcliffe. But truth be told, I was in the back of the running pack, but leading the other walkers. I was racing by myself. It was dark out. I stepped on an uneven spot in the road and F-E-L-L, albeit in slow motion. I was lucky though, only bruises, slightly sprained wrist and a broken spectacle (pun intended).
I collected myself and finished the race-walk. It was a Houston-Fit practice race but #1 medals were awarded to all participants. This token medal is worth more than its face value for the lessons I took away.
On my drive back home, I thought about the parallels between my fall and recovery and a "professional career fall'. During any kind of career "fall", usually outside of our control, there is some kind of temporary setback. But a fall doesn't have to have a bad outcome. A fall doesn't have to be the final Chapter in one's career progression.
Everything we do or plan doesn't always go according to plan, but successful people have to be flexible and on the ready to take charge of the things that are within their control. We Pick-up. We Brush-off. We Get-back-in the game.
I fell in slow motion and had a soft landing. Sometimes falls happen at light speed with a hard landing. In my case, I had a sort of an out of body experience; my inner-self kept saying -- it's not happening to you. But the reality was that it was. Either I was falling or the ground was rising. The force of gravity would indicate it was the former. The first step in picking-up is acknowledging that you are falling or have fallen.
Once I acknowledged I was falling, I quickly determined my #1 goal was to determine where I was most vulnerable and protect that area. Brain therefore registered. "I will not hit my head". I extended my ams to brace my fall, and let my face take the blow rather than my head.
As I lay on the ground, someone came to my rescue. And in those moments I used the time to do some damage assessment: no broken bones and most important, no broken teeth.
Acknowledge the fall
Lean on others briefly to recover, even if it's from a bruised ego
Assess your current situation and decide whether you want to stay on the ground, or recover and continue your journey
For a fleeting moment I thought -- I am only 5 miles into this. I can turn back. But before that thought even registered fully with my conscious mind, I had decided I was going to get up and keep going. I had sacrificed many Saturday mornings to get ready. In one's professional life, there could be significant investment in one's firm or industry, or time away from family, or - name your sacrifice -. Sacrifices should not be for naught. The weeks of preparation gave me the confidence to dig deep and find the strength to move on.
Remember how much has been sacrificed to get you where you are
Determine what matters most
I got back up, realigned my one-lens-glasses, and studied my route map. I needed the pause to find my bearing, then turned in the "forward" direction and started moving again. Yes I'd lost my momentum. I was in the perfect running stride before the fall. But I figured if I kept working with the same energy and determination I had used before the fall, I would regain my momentum. I caught up to a group of other runners, who were now walking, and for most of the remainder of the race, I paced myself off of them.
Review game plan and objectives
Make a mid-course correction if you have to
Do things to get back on course (schedule a lunch with someone in your network, update that resume, etc.)
Maybe not in record time. I am a winner. I earned that #1 medal. I finished way ahead of where I would have if I had stayed down. Being down for a short period to re-assess and recharge is ok. Staying down is not ok.
I was prepared for Saturday's race, I thought. I didn't plan for a fall. But stuff happens that we don't have control over. In my own professional life, I have gotten back-up on a consulting/ contracting course. It has been a great experience. My career is on a new trajectory that I had not planned before the fall.
If you're falling or have fallen be prepared to pick-up, brush-off and get-back-in!