I never thought I’d be writing a post that talked about the sport of curling. For those of you outside of Canada you may not be so familiar with the sport but in the winter it approaches a passion in many parts of our country. There is a professional curling tour that, while not rich enough to support most teams full-time, elevates the sport to the national media level.
Last week, I got an email from one of the people I work with that announced: “We Won!” Lisa Eyamie is a long time professional curler who has been on the brink of the elite level in Canada for years. She was the leader of a team for years, and put in the effort you would expect of top-level professional athletes for years trying to make it to the top. She did this while also getting married, starting a family and juggling significant career growth.
Lisa skipped (captained) her own team for years, taking 10+ weekends every winter to play the tour. This was on top of multiple weekly practices and qualification events to try to get to Olympic trials or national finals.
This year it was Lisa’s intent to “hang up her broom” (yes one uses a broom to curl) as it was feeling less like fun and more like a grind. It was time to move on to family and career and put her competitive life behind her.
Then she got a phone call from Olympic bronze medalist Shannon Kleibrink asking her if she wanted to join forces. Shannon and Lisa agreed that they would play an “easy” season, one where they only played 3 tour events instead of 10+, and then see how they could do in getting to the national finals. The “We Won!” signifies that they are one step away from their goal. If they win their provincial championship (and they’ve beaten all the other top teams this year) they are in!
In Lisa’s own words: “the keys to our success: natural team chemistry, no pressure or expectations and a shared passion to play blackjack at the casino in between games”.
What a great story! Try less, have more fun, achieve greater success.
So of course this got me thinking about how I might apply this philosophy to my life and to my work. Here’s three things that came to mind on how this might help us try less hard and yet achieve more:
- Trust your capabilities – this might be the trickiest of these items, as it often we have some inner dialogues telling us not to get too comfortable or that we aren’t as good as we think we are. Shannon and Lisa probably didn’t have a specific conversation around whether they were good enough to win. They just inherently trusted that they belonged at this level and then showed up believing they could succeed. How might that apply for us at work? What might change if we showed up at meetings or in our assignments knowing we were capable and didn’t have to prove it to anybody? Perhaps we would have more energy to apply to the project instead of trying to prove why we deserved to be there.
- Minimize preparation time – I think it is safe to say that the amount of prep required for any given task is dependent on our mastery of that discipline. When we are just starting out in a sport, practice is an essential step on the way to mastery. Shannon and Lisa are at or close to mastery of their skills. What about you? If you are trusting your capabilities as we speak of above, do we really need much practice or prep time? For example, do we need to write a draft report and circulate it for comment so we can make it better? Or do we assume we can just write the final report, ask for feedback if we feel its needed and then get it into circulation? Which takes less effort? I’d go one step further here, where we need to do any preparation – for example building a presentation for a meeting – do it as close to last-minute as possible. Why? Less chance of rework is one … how many times do you see the objective of a meeting change as you get closer to it, which would mean if you prepared your presentation in advance you would have to go back and do it again.
- Know when you’re ready then just enjoy it – I’m wondering if this might not be the most important part of all. There’s only room for one emotion at a time so why not make it joy? If we are experiencing that emotion, there is no room for anxiety, fear or other distressing emotions that might cause us stress and tension. As a result we play (work) loose. The added bonus is we have a lot of fun while succeeding. So the question here is how do we make sure that we are bringing joy into the activities we take on at home and work? Shannon and Lisa took the tack of keeping it light between games and doing things they enjoy. As leaders we can certainly help with that by making sure we know what our team members love to do and give them as much of that as possible. One other thought would be to build a habit of showing up with a smile on. Smiling releases endorphins which make us feel good. Smiling is also socially contagious, meaning when we smile many others around us are compelled to smile, releasing their endorphins as well. Endorphins will also cause us to experience more joy as well!
How might you try less hard at work? What might be the benefits to you?
Please also join me in wishing Lisa best of luck as she competes in the provincial championships starting January 21st!