What are you in it for..

.. the Journey, the destination or the spirit of it all?

This is an attempt at trying to reconcile my thoughts about what happened today on the tour1. Alberto Contador, the defending champion, and Andy Schleck, last year’s runner-up, have been involved in a super tussle from the day the tour arrived at the Alps. In all the stages since then, Contador, known as the best climber in the peloton, has been unable to comprehensively beat Schleck and win back the leader’s yellow jersey.

Today, towards the end of yet another gruelling hot and fast day in the saddle, Andy attacked the peloton furiously and was already off to a super start with only Vinokourov, Contador’s team-mate, anywhere close to chasing him down. However, very early into the attack, he faced a mechanical issue as his chain came off and he had to stop to set it back again. It was then that Contador, sensing an opportunity, attacked furiously off the front of the group to maximise his advantage out of Andy’s misfortune.

Now, had this been almost any other sport, this would’ve been considered normal. But this is not. This is cycling. Above all, this is the Tour. So, even if stopping their small group to wait for Andy would be asking too much of Contador, how should his decision to attack Andy at that point be measured?

Yes, it would be completely acceptable if this was a Formula 1 race since that is as much about the reliability of cars as about the skill of drivers. The Tour, on the other hand is a race of cyclists’ skill, speed and stamina. Taking advantage of a mechanical malfunction in this race seemed just a bit too opportunist, and almost contrary to the spirit of the race.

Which brings me to the main thought. Various facets of our life are much like a race. And everyone races both against themselves as well as against others. In these races of life, what do you race for – the experience of the journey or the chequered flag at the destination? And do you care for the spirit embedded in those races or just define your own laws?

My answer has been the journey most of the time. And it’s done me no good. Another thing I’ve realised. People who go for the destinations/targets, usually end up better than the ones who go for enjoying the journey. This may also be because the metrics of being better/worse off are usually defined by the people who reached the destination first.

A follow-up question: Are your answers to the above questions about being a journey enjoy-er versus destination seeker the same when you race against yourself compared to when you race against others?

(1) If you don’t know what the tour is, this may not make much sense to you. The Tour, here, refers to Tour de France, the most important race on the cycling calendar. Check out more here and here.

What are you in it for..

3 thoughts on “What are you in it for..

  1. Understanding the purpose of the event is important, in my view. If the purpose is to spend a lovely day biking with friends, this will drive one set of behaviors. If the event is organized and rules are established to determine a “winner”, then another set of behaviors will emerge.

    1. Hey Martin

      Yes, understanding the purpose is important. But that is what I’m trying to get to here. Understanding the purpose of a ride in the park or racing the tour is easy.

      What I get confused about is the purpose of more ambiguous areas. Let’s take ‘work’.

      For one set, it’s about the destination – earn $X or become Partner in the firm or be recognised by Z magazine as the best marketer in business.

      For another set, it’s about the journey – earn enough but also make a few friends, deliver delight to a few customers – try and deliver superior results but not at a cost to all other facets of life.

      And for another fast dwindling set, it’s just a small part of life that helps them earn enough to pay for the other, more central motives in life – tour the world, help the needy, contribute to linux/android/apache, spend time with kids/parents/partners, run marathons across the globe,…

      Folks from all these sets (and others) will be working in the same work arena. How do people decide, when they begin, which set will they belong to. How are the norms of a work place set. The rules, of course, are set by the leaders/managers/partners, who’ll usually belong to the first set. But norms are usually set by the influencers who are more likely to come from the 2nd and 3rd set.

      Ok, too much of typing up there. I think I need to collect my thoughts and put them up in another post sometime :)

      P.S.: Went through your blog, liked it. And absolutely agree with your view on the kick stand. I’m one of the very few who had it in Bombay and will have it now in London ;)

      1. Excellent – another member of the Kickstand Club! As for your question about work, perhaps there are many activities occuring at the same time. Just like there are many different jerseys and awards in the TDF (green, white, yellow, polka dot, team award, etc…) there are many different ways to “win” in life. Consequently, there are many different behaviors, depending on which “jersey” each person is trying to win.

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