EyesUp Rolling #8 – in the TDC bubble

I come to you from inside what is known as the Tour De Cure “bubble”….  an intense multi-day experience which cannot fail to have an impact on the way you see life and especially other human beings.

For starters, the logistics are nothing short of astonishing – more than 140 riders, numerous support crew, 2 overnight stops, food, laundry, bike storage – and that’s before you’ve got everyone from A to B via a route of over 100kms per day.  Someone has thought of everything, all we have to do is follow the schedule.

Then there’s the riding – there will not be a person on this ride, however experienced, who won’t be challenged at some point by hills, descents, rain, wind, debris on the road, mechanical issues…. I’ve dug deeper in 2 days than I have for a very long time, physically and mentally.   I expected this to be hard work but there are so many things you can’t control, such as a flat tyre or a closed road, that can throw you off course and invite you to quit.

So what has kept us going?  And why have so many people given up their time to not only train and ride but to act as support crew pouring drinks, moving bags, navigating the peloton cars.  Everyone has a story behind why they are participating, and while we are in the bubble, these stories start to come out and make sense.  Add in the stories from local cancer charities we are donating to, such as last night’s speech from the founder of Quest for Life Petrea King, and not only are we frequently reaching for the tissues but really understanding that what we are doing is making a difference.

Today we made our first school visit, to deliver the Tour de Cure “Be Fit Be Healthy Be Happy” message – and we learnt about Flipman and his nemesis Pitman – I won’t steal their thunder here but it’s worth looking them up on the Tour De Cure School Program page.  I remember many years ago how great it was when a special event happened at school – you got to miss classes and enjoy a break in the routine – it was really special to see the excitement on the kids faces, to hear them understanding the messages that a healthy lifestyle and looking after each other can make a difference in preventing many cancers.  And great to see how they embraces us as riders and we’re full of interesting questions… I was quizzed at length about my shoes and the pockets in the back of my cycling top!!

Looking forward to tonight’s dinner and our final day tomorrow which will both be filled with emotion, I have two things I will take away with me in addition to knowing we have raised funds and awareness to help prevent and cure cancer.

Firstly, I have reminded myself that I am capable of so much more than I think.  The night before the ride I received an inspiring message from my parents re-telling the story of when I first learnt to ride a bike when I was around 4 years old.  I actually still remember setting off without the training wheels along the pavement and chanting out loudly “I WILL DO IT”.  I have been riding a road bike for 12 weeks and tomorrow I will complete 300kms in 3 days riding in esteemed Tour De Cure company, raising over $12,000.  I must continue to set myself goals and test my ability to be the best I can.

Secondly, I have been reminded over and over again how amazing human beings can be.  If you open a newspaper or turn on the TV it’s easy to forget this.  We have formed a Tour 200 team with a cross section of both Westpac and sponsor employees of all levels, but when the peloton rolls out everyone is there for each other.  We know we’ve formed both useful relationships and deep bonds, but as we leave the TDC bubble I will take away the mantra that generosity of spirit is the most important trait I can tap into at both work and home.

If you’ve read a few additions of EyesUp Rolling you’ll know I’ve mentioned several of the people I have been training and riding for.  They have all sat on my shoulder when things got tough in the past two days, and I know they’ll be there tomorrow too.  I have heard their voices and seen their faces, and continued to draw the inspiration to take just one more pedal stroke.

I’ll be keeping my EyesUp in the mighty Peloton 3 for one more day – the Westpac Tour 200 will come to an end tomorrow.  But the Tour De Cure bubble won’t be bursting, it will continue to growand float higher.

#tour200 @tourdecureaus @specialized_bikes @jetcyclessydney

 

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EyesUp Rolling #6 – Slow Down in front

This cycling journey has been full of surprises.  Last weekend I found myself at the front of the peloton about 15 kms into our 100km training ride.  Given it was 10 weeks to the day since I picked up my bike for the first time, this was surprising in itself.  However what came next was even more of a shock – a call came from the back “Slow Down in Front”. Seriously?!  Never in my wildest cycling fantasies did I ever expect such a call to be directed at me.

Actually to tell the truth I never really had any cycling fantasies.  Taking on the challenge to ride the Westpac Tour 200, 300 kms over 3 days, my aspiration was simply to make it to the starting line and reach my ambitious fundraising target.  With less than 2 weeks to go it looks like I’m odds on to make it – now the hardest days of training are done, it’s time to regroup and rest up for the big ride.  So the “slow down” call has come at the perfect time to prompt some more considered reflection and importantly, to remind me to appreciate what I have around me.

Caught up in the mad maelstrom of the past few weeks of training, work, more training, getting kids back to school, training again, fundraising, physio, more work, getting kids to sport, yet more training, I’ve often looked to deep emotional stories to act as inspiration and to focus on the next milestone.  I have driven myself hard for a good cause but still tried to do everything else… I have forgotten what I learnt a few years ago about the importance of slowing down.

This week marks 6 years since the devastating Christchurch earthquakes.  My life was somewhat in disarray at that time as well, and I was being treated for anxiety and depression.  As part of  my recovery, I realised the power in asking those around for help when I needed it, stopping to smell the roses along the way, and learning to appreciate the present moment more than I ever had before.

The beauty of the peloton, as described in EyesUp Rolling #4, is that it is more powerful together than the sum of its parts.  Riders at the front might be trying to get their as fast as they can, but if the peloton splits those behind will need to work 30% harder.  So the “Slow Down” call is part of ensuring we continue to help each other by sticking together and riding to the pace of the slowest.

Off the bike, the Tour group has formed a close community,a support network with great encouragement shown by more experienced riders towards the novices, and connections forged over chats during rides and coffee stops that will endure beyond the event.

I have achieved my training goals and my ambitious fundraising target.  Time to slow down and enjoy what is going on.  Stop occasionally on a morning ride and snap a photo of the sunrise.  Live in the moment, but recognise how far I’ve come.

EyesUp…….

(even though I’ve reached my target you can still donate to the cause here!)

Eyes Up #12 – For things to change, first I must change

broccoli

Recent discussion on the numbers of women in leadership has returned to the idea of quotas – including this article:

Quotas will put women of merit in top jobs

I have often pondered why quotas are seen to be evil.  Collectively, I think we believe that we are better than that given we all understand that women are equally as talented and educated as men in Australia today.  Indeed several senior executives I have spoken too would acknowledge that women are frequently more competent and knowledgeable than men at the comparable level in their chosen fields.

My view is that we all like to believe change can happen organically as part of a natural progression, once we all recognise and acknowledge the obvious benefits.  I don’t wish to feel constrained or dictated to by artificial quotas, targets or policies – I want the freedom to run my teams and businesses in the way I think is best – right person, right role, regardless of their gender, culture or lifestyle choices.  So quotas – which are more carrot than stick – are in my view a motivation that can work.  Much as I will tell my children they must eat 2 bites of broccoli before they have dessert.  But the “broccoli quota” doesn’t actually make them like or appreciate broccoli, they just grit their teeth and get through it, or worse hide the green stuff in their pockets, with the ice cream at the end the reward.

I think any public discussion of these topics helps, but I draw the most inspiration where we seek to put responsibility for change in the hands of the individual.  Recent references include Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant’s article:

Speaking While Female

So I ask myself – what actions am I taking to be a catalyst for change?  For a start I’m writing this blog, which is part of my commitment in 2014 to facilitate open discussion on the issue of women in leadership.  I believe real, sustainable change will only happen when we all recognise the need for personal, individual responsibility, including calling out inappropriate behaviour when we see it.  I am a fan of the sometimes controversial Male Champions of Change initiative, because it is leveraging the status of the current male dominated ranks of CEOs in corporate Australia to model behaviour and act as catalysts to initiate change – but as individuals taking responsibility upon themselves.  So I will continue this year to create talking points wherever possible and progress my own career.

But I also recommend we keep an eye on the future and question the way we present ourselves to future generations.  We all have the ability to act as role models day in, day out to not only our own kids but others we interact with, in both the ways we act and the things we say.

I was very proud of my teenage son when he announced last year he didn’t want me to buy Tim Tams anymore because he knew eating 2 packs a week was not healthy for him.  He had taken responsibility for change himself.  I was equally proud when he noted with horror that he had just realised how many mothers of his school mates didn’t work – but told me he thought it perfectly normal that I did.  In fact he thought it was better for everyone!  That moment melted away a decade of working parent guilt.

We should never underestimate the power of the individual – and neither should we abdicate responsibility for change to a system of quotas, targets or endorsement by senior leaders.  We should all just walk the talk ourselves in whatever way we can, and remember that doing nothing is akin to endorsing the status quo.