Building the Team: Why You Don’t Need New Shoes

Think you need to make a change on your team?  Not able to advance because someone is holding you back?  It is easy to catch yourself thinking along these lines.  But the other day I came to an interesting realization when I paused to think about my old running shoes.  Here’s why your “racing” success is not always about the “shoes.”


Building the Team

A Well-Deserved Retirement

It’s just about time for my current running shoes to head into retirement.  These particular shoes have taken me through a lot.  Some things I planned, and others I had no idea I would do until the moment came.

So I paused a second to review some of the highlights of our two years together.

Ironman Texas marathon
Ironman Maryland marathon
Harrisburg Marathon
JFK 50-Mile Ultra-Marathon
107 mile backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail
14,000’ mountain climb in Colorado
And most importantly: the many hundreds of daily training miles involved in preparing to do all that stuff.

Here’s what struck me as interesting.  I bought them two years ago because they were a simple, all purpose, reasonably good but inexpensive shoe.  I planned to wear them for the preparation and training.

Later I would buy the perfect footgear for each event I decided to do.

But I didn’t.

What “They” Say

They said you should have a specific road racing shoe for the kinds of races I was planning.

They say that a long trail race like the JFK-50 demands a specialized trail shoe.

They say you need special waterproof hiking boots with ankle support for backpacking and mountain climbing

They say you should get new shoes every six months or 500 miles.

Based on what “they” say, my feet should be a mess right now, my ankles broken due to lack of support, my arches flattened beyond repair.  There should be blisters on top of my blisters.

So Happy Together…

But as we trained together, there seemed to be no need to change.  Everything was functioning, healthy, capable.  These shoes, these training partners of mine, seemed to be doing just fine, despite all that “they” had to say about it.

Sure I changed to elastic laces for some of the races, or switched from lighter socks for racing to heavier socks for hiking.  I cleaned the shoes when they got dirty.  But that’s all that was really necessary.

With a little care and attention, we ran hundreds of miles, hiked for days in the rain, climbed thousands of feet in the hills, forded rivers, tripped over roots, clambered over endless boulders, roasted in the humidity and shivered in the frost together.

I decided to stick with those shoes, and they served me loyally.  We managed to do pretty well in all those events.  We passed a lot of people in a lot more expensive shoes.  We kept going while others in fancy, specialized shoes and boots suffered blisters and fatigue.

Building the Team – The Takeaway

Is this really about the shoes?  Well, yes.  But it’s also about the people and teams we lead.

As a leader, if you are getting ready to “buy” new “shoes,” get the best ones you can; focus on fit, quality, and adaptability.  If you choose well, they will help you though lots of difficult challenges, even the ones you don’t anticipate right now.

Once you have good “shoes,” stick with them; if you are loyal and true to them, they will likely be loyal and true to you.

Invest the necessary time to help your “shoes” adapt and adjust.  Team them up with the right socks and good laces so they can do the best job possible.

Keep your “shoes” clean.

Partner and work closely with your “shoes” daily as you prepare for each event; learn to trust each other, and they will take you far.

Don’t use your “shoes” as an excuse for failure; make them into a reason for your success.

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. - Arthur Ashe Click To Tweet

Most of the time, the “shoes” you have are perfectly fine.

The question is, how are you helping those “shoes” go the next mile?

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About the Author: Ken Downer
Ken Downer - Founder RapidStart Leadership

Ken served for 26 years in the Infantry, retiring as a Colonel.  From leading patrols in the Korean DMZ, to parachuting into the jungles of Panama, to commanding a remote outpost on the Iran-Iraq border, he has learned a lot about leadership, and has a passion for sharing that knowledge with others.  Look for his weekly posts, check out his online courses, subscribe below, or simply connect, he loves to talk about this stuff.

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