Racing for Canada… and other goals
Setting goals is a critical part of any business.
Anyone who has seen my office walls knows how much stock I put in clearly defined goals. I know how we’re going to grow Gibbons; I know where we’re going to diversify; I know what we’ll look like in the years to come.
The trick to setting goals however, is not just about keeping your eye on the finish line — it’s all about how you get there too.
I learned that early on as I set out to conquer one of my first goals — one day wearing the uniform of the Canadian ski team.
When I was a little kid, spending every winter weekend in Whistler, I used to eat, sleep and breathe skiing. I loved it so much that my mom and dad would often find me in the morning tucked under the covers, snug in my ski outfit, already dressed for the next day.
There was nothing better than skiing in my mind.
I loved baseball, hockey and soccer too but at 12, when my dad said I had to choose one, it was an easy choice.
Ski racing meant spending all day with my friends in the mountains, and being up there seemed to fill my soul no matter what I was doing.
Ski racing meant freedom to explore — there were days we had the whole mountain to ourselves.
Ski racing meant missing school for fresh powder.
Ski racing meant competition, gaining mental toughness and as I got better, winning. I loved winning. I loved the thrill of the race. The better my results, the more time I got on my skis and that was motivation enough to keep pushing it.
It was just like when the Crazy Canucks were in their hey-day, giving the Europeans a run for their money on the World Cup circuit, unlike anything ever seen before out of Canada. They embodied everything I loved about skiing — the fun, the freedom, the thrill of the win.
And so, I was going to race for Canada. I can remember writing down that goal in the old Whistler Mountain Ski Club cabin.
I spent thousands of hours on my skis; I spent so much energy and focus and discipline in pursuit of that goal.
By 1995 I made the Canadian development team. Next I was on the junior Canadian ski team and I was finally wearing the uniform.
Then, things started to change. Ski racing was now about travelling throughout Europe, staying in hotels, often alone. Those freedom-filled, friend-fuelled days on the mountain were replaced with intense, often lonely weeks, of single-minded focus. Ski racing was no longer fun for me.
It wasn’t easy, but I decided to hang up my skis. I was satisfied that I had reached my goal of racing for Canada and I was ready to tackle something else.
For almost 20 years after that decision I rarely skied. Lately, however, I’ve had an epiphany of sorts, followed by a very deliberate change in mindset. Ever since, I’ve been seeing skiing through my kids’ eyes, rediscovering all those things I loved about it when I was a kid.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a green cat-track to the bottom or a double black diamond; it doesn’t matter if it’s raining to the top or endless sunshine.
It’s that feeling of absolute freedom in the mountains. It provides me with clarity and a fresh perspective, keeping the edges sharp so to speak.
It’s also a reminder of those carefree days of fun and freedom; a reminder of the sheer satisfaction and power of setting goals and achieving them… and having the courage and insight to know when it’s time to walk away.
This year I made a new goal — 100 days on skis.
As I write this, I just enjoyed day 50 and loved every minute of my day up in the mountains.