What's your triathlon?

Great but not elite. But wait, what's this thing I'd never thought of before? Also, 7 other things worth your time.

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The 2020 Olympics won’t be held until 2021, and that’s assuming all else goes well. But one of the things I’ll be looking forward to is seeing Gwen Jorgensen compete.

You might not remember—glory is fleeting—but back in 2016, which seems like the Bronze Age, Jorgensen won the gold medal in the triathlon.

I’m always glad to see an American athlete do well, of course. But, the real reason I remember her performance is that her win was a celebration of a strategy that could lead a lot of people to greater success, if they’d only let it.

Jorgensen had been a talented swimmer and runner in college, but she hasn't been quite good enough to be considered truly elite. So, her story begins, for our purposes, in 2010, when she was working as a tax accountant at Ernst & Young—literally spending her days in a cubicle.

Of course, tax accountants are among the most revered, envied members of our society, their moments jam-packed with action and adventure, each day more cathartic and engrossing than the last. Still, Jorgensen sensed something was missing.

Then, she got a phone call from USA Triathlon, the organization officially in charge of the sport in the United States.

As a sport, triathlon isn't very old. The French developed it, and Americans didn't really pay attention at all until the 1970s. It's only been in the Olympics since 2000, and in the first two outings, the U.S. had only won one medal—a bronze in Athens in 2004.

Hence, the recruiting spree from USA Triathlon a decade ago, trying to find American athletes who had competed in swimming, biking or running, who hadn't quite cracked the top echelon, but who hoped their careers weren’t quite over.

“My joy in this job is giving a second chance to athletes who never made it to the absolute top of their sport,” Barb Lindquist, who ran the program, told The Wall Street Journal in 2014.

Jorgensen had never been in a bike race, but her swimming and running fit the bill. She signed on and did well in her first competition. Then, she began training at an elite level—even while maintaining her full-time job, going to swim practice in the early morning and running a half-marathon to work before at 8 a.m.

She rose through the ranks, made the Olympics in London in 2012—and finished a disappointing 38th. (Flat tire in the bike section.)

But with that experience under her belt, she set her sights on Rio four years ago, took a leave of absence from her job, and worked out full time.

Then it paid off, and she walked away with the gold medal. U-S-A!

I like the idea that someone like Jorgensen had to face her strengths and weaknesses head-on, and then find a way to achieve greatness. I don’t need to hammer over the head here of course, but the lessons are applicable to almost anyone trying to find his or her true passion, and the thing they can really excel at.

People are often told that their dreams are unrealistic, or that the competition is too steep. And we might be tempted to tell them ignore that advice, and persevere if they want to achieve.

But what if it’s the wrong advice? Not everyone can succeed at everything. What if they’re chasing the wrong goal?

It’s not a measure of settling, but of refocusing.


So if you're starting your day today in a place you don't want to be—especially a professional career—maybe ask yourself, what's your triathlon?

What talent do you have that might, especially when you combine it with another seemingly unrelated talent, give you an edge in a completely different discipline?

Figure that one out, and you might wind up with a gold medal of your own.

7 other things worth your time

  • OK, perhaps we need to take what I shared yesterday about the safest states to have Thanksgiving in with a grain of salt. Since then, the CDC issued a warning to all Americans: please do not travel at all for the most American holiday. (Axios)

  • Buzzfeed acquired Huffpost. This means that Jonah Peretti, who was co-founder of Huffpost and is now the founder and CEO of Buzzfeed, will run both companies. (WSJ, $)

  • The Boeing 737-MAX was cleared to fly again, 20 months after two crashes that took TKTK lives. I wrote about it for Inc.com (with the angle that they didn’t rebrand the plane, which is what President Trump had advised). (Me on Inc.com)

  • Americans are moving to Wyoming. Then North Dakota, Alaska, Idaho, and Nevada. This is according to a new report that looked at percentage of the population of every state during 2019 that lived in a different state in 2018. Overall, it’s the West picking up population; outliers however include New Hampshire and Washington DC. It will be interesting to see how this changes, if at all, post-Covid. (US News)

  • Don’t send an email you wouldn’t want in a lawsuit, part 2,499: A wrongful death suit claims managers at a Tyson facility took bets on how many of their workers would get sick with Covid-19, after ordering them to work during the pandemic. (Business Insider)

  • Four workers who spent the last eight months isolated while they worked to restore the environment in a tiny island in the Pacific returned to civilization—and their first experience with the pandemic world. (AP)

  • Here we are, 2020, and people are still using passwords like “password” and “123456.” Here’s a list of the 200 most common. If you’re truly stuck, can I suggest something like, “BillMurphyJrIsTrulyAwesome123?”(CNN, Nordpass)

Photo: Pixabay. I’ve written before about Gwen at Inc.com. If you liked this post, and you’re not yet a subscriber, what are you waiting for? Please sign up for the daily Understandably.com email newsletter, with thousands and thousands of 5-star ratings from happy readers. You can also just send an email to signup@understandably.com. 

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