Browsing articles from "October, 2013"

Ironman Tahoe and the Power of BHAGs

This fall I completed my third full Ironman distance event. Ironman Tahoe (IMT) stands out as one of the hardest goals I have ever set for myself and achieved. If I have one takeaway it is that if you set goals that are far outside your perceived limits, you are surprisingly likely to achieve them.

Ironman Tahoe Bike Course (photo courtesy Mike Stimmler)

Reports have it that a record-setting 25% of participants did not finish (DNF’d). That has given IMT the reputation of being the hardest Ironman out there. And for good reason.

Ironman Tahoe took place at an elevation of 6000 feet. The elevation alone made it difficult. But the freezing cold weather—there was literally ice on our bicycle seats when we started the ride portion of the race—was what put things over the top.

For days after the event I felt like I was looking at the world through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars. Everything seemed far away and appeared to be moving in slow motion.

I never considered myself an athlete. In high school I was that kid that always lagged at the back of the cross country running team. In grade school my Mom would call in on hot days to remind them that I needed to stay hydrated because I tended to sweat a lot. And as my friends from spin class can attest, my Mom was probably right!

One summer I was out of camp for two full weeks because I had leg pains from flat feet. The doctors took all kinds of X-rays and gave me a pair of crutches. It turned out that some simple shoe inserts cured the problem.

But all of that disruptive activity—the mental activity associated with going to the doctor, the implied limitations about my physical ability—had convinced me that I wasn’t an athlete. So it was news to me that I could complete an Ironman distance event, let alone three of them.

Personal BHAGs

BHAG is short for Big Hairy Audacious Goal. It is not a term people often talk about when setting their own personal goals. Jim Collins and Jerry Porras introduced the concept in their book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. They were talking about organizations:

“A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.”

Before my first Ironman, a friend of mine from the SF Triathlon Club told me two things I will never forget. First, that nutrition was the fourth and perhaps most important sport of triathlon. It wouldn’t matter how much training I did if I didn’t hydrate properly and take in enough calories to get me through the day. But he also said that people had been able to come back and finish races after bonking—a term for running out of energy mid-race.

Secondly, he told me if I could finish an Ironman, I could do anything. He was right. There is a certain confidence that comes from completing a physically challenging goal you have set out for yourself.

What I really learned was that your limits are in very large part determined by the size of the goals you set. Each time you accomplish a bigger goal, you realize you can accomplish an even bigger goal. Suddenly, “I could never do that” becomes “I could some day do that” and ultimately “I will do that.” That is the power of truly big BHAGs.

When it comes to setting goals, I’m not suggesting that everyone should go out and train for an Ironman. It is time consuming and requires many tradeoffs in other areas of your life. And yet I have found that such training also causes me to become more disciplined, more focused and more willing to set bigger goals.

The biggest lesson of Ironman training is that if you set goals within your limits, you will only achieve goals within your limits. If you set goals that are far outside your perceived limits, you are surprisingly likely to achieve them.


Oct 20, 2013

Is Getaround Lost?

Getaround is a great idea. That’s what makes it so painful that the current experience leaves so much to be desired. I expect a lot more from Getaround, especially considering they just raised $13.9M in funding last year.

Recently, I referred a friend of mine to Getaround. She has a relatively new model car she drives only occasionally and it‘s at a great location in San Francisco. It’s nearly perfect for Getaround.

Unfortunately, Getaround has not been perfect for her.

To participate in Getaround Instant, which lets a renter access a car without having to meet the owner for a key exchange, some specially installed electronics are required. Unfortunately these electronics don’t work well inside my friend’s parking garage, which Getaround discovered only after trying to install them.

To work around this, the company proposed attaching a lockbox to her car. They asked my friend to measure the size of her car key “down to the millimeter!” Instead they should have offered to have someone go meet her to measure the key.

Once she did send them the measurements, they found out their lockbox wasn’t big enough. They had to call a meeting to discuss options. Over the course of this process (which has lasted more than a month), there has been at least one time where the company has not gotten back to her for a week. So add poor communication to an already bad experience.

My friend did have one successful rental. Someone rented her car for a weekend and it worked out great. But to cap things off, while she was out for an hour and a half, more recently someone else tried to rent her car. There was no advance notice, and because the Getaround Instant still isn’t in place, there’s no way for the person to rent the car. That’s an entire weekend rental lost. My friend wants to rent her car out but can’t.

I love the concept of Getaround and I’m excited that big name investors like Marissa Mayer and Menlo Ventures have the vision and foresight to invest in a company with such incredible potential to disrupt the future of transportation. I just hope the company can get its act together when it comes to turning that vision into reality.

Oct 18, 2013