My Paper, Tuesday, October 30, 2012, Page A14, Viewpoints
Source Website: http://geoff-tan.com/2012/10/08/lose-to-win/
By Geof Tan, October 8, 2012
PHOTO: Geoff Tan
During a mentorship-training workshop which I attended only recently, the trainer touched a soft spot in my heart by emphasizing that one of the main attributes of a good mentor was the ability to tell “stories” – stories that resonate with the mentee and inspire him to reach his full potential.
My story today is about a running legend by the name of Greta Waitz.
She was a Norwegian marathon runner who won the New York City Marathon a record of nine times, setting a world record of 2hrs 32mins and 30sec in her very first attempt at the 42.195 kilometer race in 1978 when she was 25.
She also won the London Marathon twice, the gold medal at the 1983 World Championships, and the silver at the 1984 Olympics.
Beyond Waitz’s athletic achievements and her sports-superstar status, those who knew her said she was approachable, giving, and above all, humble.
A significant lesson we can learn from Waitz pertains to her decision to run in the 1992 New York City Marathon for the last time.
She wanted to accompany her old friend Fred Lebow, the founder of the New York City Marathon and the man who first invited her to leave her home in Oslo to run in New York City. He was 60 years old and suffering from brain cancer.
She and Lebow ran the entire race together, finishing in 5:32:35—twice Waitz’s usual finishing time.
The New York Times described their unforgettable appearance at the finish line: “They finished with their hands clasped and raised over their heads. She would always call it her 10th victory in New York.”
Lebow died two years later.
This story got me thinking – what if I choose to relate this to my mentee? What would the lesson be, in the context of his career and professional development?
The workplace can be a lonely place. That is why the endless pursuit of work in today’s competitive corporate world is referred to as the “Rat Race”.
Singaporeans tend to be an ambitious lot, obsessed with Key performance indicator and focused on climbing up the corporate ladder. The workplace can be cold and unforgiving.
But, like Waitz, we need to sometimes slow down our pace to help people around us. In the highly-strung environment we live in, especially with technology contributing significantly to upping our efficiencies, we may show impatience when people take a little longer to get the work done. I have been guilty of taking back a job that I had delagated, so that I can complete it myself.
Waitz’s story has taught me that there are occasions when we should let expediency take a backseat, and instead, take the hand of a subordinate or colleague and complete the task together.
Life is about sharing – whether it is your expertise, knowledge, experiences. Forgoing glory so that you can help someone else shine is a gesture that many of us can afford to do more of.
Waitz was a special kind of heroine – one who was so confident in herself that she was willing to deflect the spotlight onto somebody else.
“Losing”, in a situation such as hers, is in fact equivalent to “winning” – winning the hearts of the people around you.
By Geof Tan, October 8, 2012
The writer is a senior vice-president of Singapore Press Holdings' marketing division.
我的字典: Wǒ de zì diǎn
Resonate: 共鸣 gong ming
Approachable: 平易近人 ping yi jin ren
High-strung: 神经过敏的 shen jing guo min de
Subordinate: 下属 xia shu
- My Paper, Tuesday, October 30, 2012, Page A14, Viewpoints