I originally wrote this post over five years ago, rallying our Sales Engineering team into the final quarter of the year. It holds up today - I’ve completed my first marathon since, and things like HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) have become popular flavours in running and other types of training.
As we embark on the most important few weeks of the financial year, I feel compelled to share some of my thoughts on intensity.
A little under a year ago, I set out on a journey. After years of half-hearted struggle, I put together the necessary ingredients to set a course towards a healthier me. Two measures of this are weight loss (I've lost 60 pounds) and running. Prior to a personal discovery about running, I had struggled to run - run/walking, not managing to build up distance or speed or fitness. I'm not doing marathons (yet) but am easily handling 10k runs now - shaving minutes off of personal bests regularly and completing a public 10k last weekend despite a cold, rain and sore calf muscle.
That personal discovery was the importance of intensity.
Intensity in running for me meant figuring out how to condition myself to run faster, run farther. I run hills. I run in the rain. I run barefoot. I run on the beach. I run sick. Every time I push myself, I get better, faster, healthier. A year ago, my per k pace was 6:30 - now I can do that up mountains. And when I run for fun, I just run faster. It's easier, more enjoyable.
What does this have to do with you? I believe intensity can be applied not only to running, or fitness, but in everything we do. The top performing athletes raise their game by pushing themselves and intense competition. The best performing Sales Engineers I've worked with have had a period I call 'the crucible' - a period of intense pressure and performance that forced them to raise their game. And like athletes, these performers bring a better game all the time - they simply perform at a higher level.
So, how do you do this?
1. Push yourself. Never accept that you've peaked, or can not improve your performance. Figure out, through feedback, mentoring, coaching - how you can do it better. Don't accept 'that was great' as feedback but find the one thing that can be improved for next time.
2. Play aggressively. Don't wait for the ball to come to you but reach out and grab it. Show leadership, initiative, proactivity. Figure out creative ways to overcome problems.
3. Learn from each other. I've become better runner not just by going out and running, but by talking to others with more experience, to see what they do, what works for them. Sales Engineering is the same - there is over 500 years of SE experience across Sophos - lots to learn from. There are hundreds of sales people to learn from (and teach) as well.
4. Experiment. Try new things, see what works, what doesn't. Pay attention, learn from your mistakes and success.
Sometimes, we are fortunate and the market and conditions put us through the crucible and forge us into stronger, fitter versions of ourselves. Sometimes, we need to internalize the flame, and drive ourselves.
Today is that day. Make no excuses, play like a champion, raise your intensity. The future, fitter you will thank you for it.