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The Best Combine Will and Skill
2021-10-12 • 2 minute read

I wanted to share this with you because I just had a conversation with Chris Jeppesen, who is, as you might know, the co-author of The Advisor Playbook. He also heads up the best practices department of First Trust Portfolios. We were prepping for a podcast and discussing how revealing the past 18 months have been, especially between the teams that are cresting and potentially on a collision course with a plateau, and those who continue to climb with limitless potential for growth. We ended up talking about the Tour de France and it’s a great analogy. I don’t know if you follow it at all, but most cyclists on the flats look pretty comparable, but on the climbs you start to see how the best-prepared and those who really put in the work start to put distance between themselves and the pack.

Those distinctions are subtle and gradual, but very revealing. If you look at the leaderboard, the winner of the Tour de France was the Slovenian Pogacar, who compiled an all-in time of just under 83 hours of race time. What’s fascinating to me is that the South African racer Meintjes came in 14th - also world-class, but it was only a combined 34 minutes behind the leader. So it was a small gap, but a huge difference in rewards. That’s the winning edge.

Admittedly, if you’re into sports, cycling is one that requires immense will to achieve success. There are other sports that require both will and incredible skill. If you look at tennis, for example, the longest play in the history of the majors was Djokovic and Nadal, who hit a combined 54 shots at the highest possible level. In fact, the year before, they played in something like a six-hour marathon in Australia. Look at hockey. The longest continuous play between whistles was just over 11 minutes, and again, at the highest level. LPGA player Jane Blalock made 299 consecutive cuts over 11 years. Sport is truly an incredible metaphor for what separates the best from the rest.

The bottom line is this: Sit down with your team and take a moment to savor your grit, your passion, and resolve to continually improve while overcoming friction and uncertainty in the marketplace. Discuss what has been revealed within your team and not just what you’ve learned, but also who you become as a result of your accomplishments. Keep in mind that opportunities for innovation and refinement don’t just present themselves when you’re going uphill. Difficulty is still revealing, but there’s an awesome YouTube video of Michael Guerra who was going downhill in a cycling race. He pulled away from the Peloton by laying out flat on his seat, like Superman on his bike. So while all his other competitors were peddling madly, he reduced friction and blew by all of them without expending any effort. So remember it is often just slight adjustments, breaking away from accepted norms.

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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