The Strategy Of Non-Finishing

The 1992 Olympic Canoe Slalom Start Line, Parc del Segre,
La Seu d’Urgell, Catalunya (Joe Jacobi photo, February, 2021)

Two different Olympic Games. A different job at each one.

Here is the progression of both jobs as they played out at the canoeing venue’s Olympic start line:

Job #1
1. Build up drama.
2. Inject bravado.
3. Speculate on possible outcomes.
4. Consider the impact of what it would mean to win an Olympic medal.
5. Project knowing exactly what needs to be done.
6. Convey this as the opportunity of a lifetime.
7. Anticipate the finish line.

Job #2
1. Inhale the stillness of the start area.
2. Exhale gratitude.
3. Be present in the moment.
4. Conserve as much energy as possible.
5. Ready to adapt to change.
6. Let go.
7. The start line is the only line that matters.

What was the first job? This was the essence of my broadcast responsibilities as canoeing’s color commentator for NBC at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

And the second job? This was the essence of my athletic responsibilities during the final 60 seconds prior to starting our competition run at the 1992 Olympic Games here in La Seu d’Urgell.

As any of us navigate our own meaningful pursuit, mission, or action, it is worth noticing if one of these progressions color our efforts more than the other.

Job #1 builds a passive experience on the basis of speculative and currently unrealized conclusions.

Job #2 builds an active experience on the basis of thoughtfully utilizing skills and experiences that we completely own and control right now.

It is not that either progression is inherently right or wrong. But, each one is going to yield a very different start… and ultimately a very different experience.

If our start line is heavily influenced by the inner commentator, or the commentary of others, we separate from the elements within our control. We drift into a zone of uncontrollables and struggle to find a sustainable rhythm.

Sometimes, the magnitude of the huge effort needed to accomplish a major milestone overwhelms us. So, we remain in the safer state of continuing to plan, think, and talk about the goal.

When the inner athlete — the paddler that navigates the river — guides our path to the start line, we let go of the goals, results, and finish line as these elements suck away valuable energy from our core objective.

In a state of presence, the inner athlete better protects and directs this energy. Here, our performance system is fueled by exactly what have in this current moment — not what would be nice to have at the finish line.

This is the strategy of non-finishing.

Navigating the river has no margins to think about endings. The constantly changing nature of the river requires as much energy and attention as we can give to the moment where we are… which improves our disposition to get to where we want to be.

As good strategy filters out friction and resistance that can derail our efforts, the strategy of non-finishing also brings focus and clarity only to the attributes that support our objective.

Better starts lead to nuanced adjustments that shape more seamless starts.

Strengthened are the boundaries that contain the precious space that aligns us with the start line… where presence and simplicity foster something more than just a start…

The start line fosters a strategy to never finish.

With gratitude, — Joe

The Strategy Of Non-Finishing is a part of my continuing Sunday Morning Joe series, The Pursuit Of Contentment On The River Of Uncertainty.

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5 With Joe Performance Coaching

I coach established and experienced professionals, who feel stuck in place, to thrive in transition and bring focus to what matters most without compromising their lives.

My personal experiences winning an Olympic Gold Medal, serving as CEO of a national sports organization, and my current “Simple, Slower, and Less” lifestyle in the Catalan Pyrenees help to form accountable and transformative collaborations that see my clients create their next and most impactful chapter.

Olympic Gold Medalist & Performance Coach helping leaders & teams perform their best without compromising their lives.

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