Three Ways Triathlon Racing Has Influenced My Problem Solving
Working smarter thwarts working harder
By: Dave Kaufman*, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Resideo and five-time, All-American Triathlete
As a triathlete, I feel comfortable living my life in sets of three. Swim, bike, run. Morning, afternoon, evening. Test, learn, apply. Breaking things into groups is an incredibly effective way to simplify a large task.
Dave's optimized transition area – bike shoes clipped in, towel and nutrition at the ready.
Speed is another contributing factor to my life as a triathlete. To become a faster athlete, it requires more than just training and trying harder. To become faster, you have to be smooth. You need to optimize and shorten the transition period from one task to the next. For example, the transition time from riding a bike to starting the run portion of a triathlon can be less than 30 seconds, and your transition time can literally mean the difference from being on the podium or not. I once missed a podium spot by .86 seconds.
The same can be said about becoming a faster problem solver: separate the complexities into tasks and optimize transition points. This concept, and the following three principles I have adopted to become a top triathlete, and I realize these same principles can be applied to one's professional life, as well.
- 1. Commit. To be successful in triathlons or your career, you must commit. Rarely can you be successful by doing something half-way. Triathlons require extreme discipline in planning, training, nutrition and rest. You need to balance all and commit to each one with a vision and goal in mind, challenging yourself to do better in every race.
- My career requires the same commitment. I create a vision, set goals, and drive towards them with a dedicated effort and focus while staying healthy in mind, body and spirit.
Dave competing at the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon near San Francisco.
- 2. Adapt. No triathlon race is ever perfect. I once asked an elite professional triathlete how many of her races were perfect – her answer was none! She had competed in more than 200 races in her career. How did she continually do well in every race? By adapting. As much as you plan for a race or your career, sometimes things just go south, causing you to improvise and adapt to the situation in front of you. In a triathlon race, that could be a six-foot ocean wave cresting in front of you that you must swim through or beginning to cramp in the run segment of the race. You don't give up: you assess the situation, and you find creative ways to adapt to push through the challenges.
- My career has been like that as well – it has not gone perfectly. I've had to adapt again and again to challenging business environments, organizational changes, new technologies and other issues. But I've never given up. I adapt and find creative paths forward to push through the challenges. Because those challenges are really opportunities.
Dave competing in the bike portion of the race in Lake Patagonia, Arizona.
- 3. Enjoy. This is probably the most important category, make sure you decide to enjoy the entire journey. I say "decide" because the reality is that – with both racing and your careers – there will be aspects that aren't glamorous or enjoyable, so you have to decide to enjoy them. But I do thoroughly enjoy every aspect of being a triathlete – the training, gear, nutrition, racing, new relationships, new discoveries, winning – all of it. It has truly been a journey for me. I started out just a middle-of-the-pack racer and over time became a triathlete who is consistently on the podium. And recently I enjoyed mentoring a fellow Resideo colleague who completed his second sprint triathlon and helped teach him what it takes to achieve excellence.
Dave alongside Scott Harkins, Resideo's Vice President of Sales – Americas, following a triathlon race in Wildwood, New Jersey.
- In my professional life, I've held a similar mindset. I enjoy nearly every element – new learnings, new technology, ever-changing business environments, new relationships, traveling the world – all of it.
- This will date me a bit, but my first assignment as a newly minted industrial engineer in the 1980s and the youngest sales engineer in my office was to organize the filing cabinets of sales materials. Due to years of neglect and mismanagement, they had become a complete mess with no organization to them – so much so that no one wanted to tackle the problem. I leaned into that very menial challenge and creatively came up with a whole new, self-managing filing system that I enjoyed creating and others enjoyed maintaining!
- With that success, I got the next harder challenge, and then the next, and then the next, leading my career to being part of Resideo's Innovation Team and the company's representative on industry standards boards including Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA) and others.
If you remember nothing else from my musings, remember this: challenge yourself and enjoy your career journey. It will stretch you and take you places you didn't even know were possible.
*About Dave: For more than a decade, Dave Kaufman has traveled the U.S. competing in seven to eight triathlon races annually. He is a five-time, All-American triathlete and consistently ranks in the U.S. top 100, out of more than 4,000 triathletes in his age group. Dave serves as Resideo's Director of Strategic Initiatives and represents the company alongside other leading smart home companies on complex initiatives including board seats on CSA's Matter and the Continental Automated Buildings Association.