“So, I hear that you’re training for an Ironman.” Our new sales manager leaned across the table smiling brightly,”Man, that’s impressive – how do you do find the time to do that?”
We were enjoying drinks with a few others after dinner. It was a beautiful evening outdoors in the mountains, and we had already shared several laughs. The banter was light, and so was my response.
“Oh, it’s not that big of a deal, and it takes far less time than people imagine. It’s just twelve to seventeen hours of training a week, which isn’t bad.”
“No, that’s not what I meant,” he said as his smile vanished,”I meant: How do you train for an Ironman, and still do your job?” This had quickly turned into the conversation that changes everything, in just two sentences. Everyone at the table noticed, and went quiet.
“Well, it’s really not that much time when it’s broken down,” I said,”It’s some early morning workouts, some lunchtime workouts, and then some longer rides, swims, or runs on weekends.”
“Hmmm. I guess I can see that, but I’m pretty good at time management, and I couldn’t work it in. I don’t know how you do it.” He paused for a moment before he added,”and still do your job…”
The wind blew down from the mountains as I considered my response. I already knew where this conversation was going, and – in fact – he did, too.
“Okay, well, what time do you get up in the morning?” I asked.
“Oh, I like to roll out of bed by 6:30.”
“On training mornings, I get up at 5am, so there’s seven-and-a-half hours in my week that you don’t have,” I said. “And, how far is your commute?”
“Forty-five minutes, each way.”
“Well then, my commute is thirty yards, so there’s another hour-and-a-half per day for me.” I said. “So there’s an extra fifteen in my week.”
“Okay, I see where you’re going with this,” he said, shaking his head,”But I just don’t see it.”
“You don’t see it?” I asked.
“Yeah, I just can’t see how you can train for an Ironman and still do your job.”
“Well, I DO do my job and train for Ironman events. And – in fact – this next one is my second one, and it hasn’t been a problem with work, so far.” I was by then firmly on defense, and this statement – in retrospect – was as close as I could come to punting.
“I just don’t see it.” He said this definitively, as if it wasn’t just a matter of perspective and it certainly wasn’t open for debate. The conversation was over, as far as he was concerned.
I got up to leave shortly after. That evening, we had an impromptu meeting of Team Pemba, where we started crafting our exit from that brand. Less than three months later, we were done with them. I still see that guy around from time to time. He’s put on a lot of weight. To be fair, he’s also had a few promotions since then.
And herein lies the dichotomy in the outdoor industry. It’s best represented in the difference between Alec Baldwin’s cameo in Glengarry Glen Ross and the memory of Alex Lowe. When our motivation comes from “Third prize is: You’re fired” instead of “It’s going to be fun to the bitter end.” it’s safe to say we’ve lost our way.
It’s time we each asked ourselves: Is outdoor activity what drives us, or is this just some other kind of widget or rag to sell?
While we consider the question, our customers are playing Wii, and teaching their kids to do the same.