The Danger Is at the End, Not the Beginning

A few years ago, I was invited to go on a Segway tour of Washington, D.C.  Having never been on a Segway before, I was a bit anxious, but I didn’t really have a choice.  I had auctioned off the ten-person tour for a charity, and part of the package was for me to attend.  I was stuck, so when I showed up, I was hoping to entertain the group.  I was also hoping not to break my neck on that crazy Segway.

We were given a short class on how to ride and operate our Segway.  Our instructor immediately calmed many of our fears down, convincing us that anyone could learn how to ride a Segway, and quickly.  He was right, and we were all surprised at how rapidly we were able to master the skills necessary for our three-hour tour around the city. One of the final things he said was to assure us how safe a Segway was, and that he would not allow us to continue if he didn’t believe we were ready to go.  At that point, his eyes narrowed a bit and he told us this: “Stay vigilant regarding the conversations we’ve had about safety, and please remember that the most dangerous part of our trip together is not now, but at the very end of our trip.  The reason for that is that you will have a false sense of security, and you will be vulnerable to losing your focus and being reckless.”  I locked eyes with one of the other riders, exchanged a quick, quizzical, “he’s not talking about me look,” and away we Segway-ed! True to form, we began our journey, excited and eager to put our newfound training into action; we were cautious, and focused, just like we had been taught.

If you’ve never been on a Segway, do yourself a favor and give it a try, because I can’t remember when I enjoyed a tour of a city more, particularly one I thought I knew well. We started out in a perfect formation, zipping here and there, and stopping to see this and that.  Within an hour, our formation wasn’t quite as perfect as it had been, and our focus was slipping a bit, but in all fairness, we were getting pretty good at that Segway thing!  Our driving record remained perfect… until the last 15 minutes when, almost on cue, one Segway rider hit a tree, one slipped off a curb, and two more were involved in a collision with each other.  What a coincidence – or was it?  After all, we had been warned.

The moral of this story is not a unique one.  It’s quite common to meticulously prepare for activities and events when we aren’t sure we are ready.  We take our preparation seriously, and we maintain focus.  Ironically, we may very well be at our best when we think we are at our worst.  Then, much like that Segway, as our skill level goes up, our attention to detail goes down, and we are at our most vulnerable.  For instance:

  • A weary nation continues to cope with a pandemic. Scientists have  not only told us what to do to stay safe, but they have also discovered a vaccine to help us end this crisis.  With an end in sight and news of increased numbers of cases logic would state that now would be the time to be even more diligent about the safety precautions we take… and yet, for many, attention to detail has gone down, and we have never been more vulnerable.
  • You’ve worked hard to identify a prospect. You’ve meticulously put together a proposal, engaged in multiple conversations, and earned the right to work with a new client. With a contract in hand, logic would state that now would be the time to triple your efforts to exceed expectations… and yet, for many, with the intensity of the chase complete, attention to detail goes down, and we become vulnerable.
  • You’ve worked hard on a project that required meticulous planning, preparation, and execution, and you were up for the task at every turn. With the project up and running successfully, logic would state that now would be the time to leave your stamp. You want everyone to remember you with a powerful wrap-up and follow-up… and yet, for many, our attention wanes, our focus shifts to the next project, and we are once again vulnerable.

As a distance runner, I was taught to run strongly and to finish strongly by always running through the finish line. The reality is that it’s the very end when races are won or lost.  Watch a football game, or listen to those who play the game, and you’ll see the most dangerous time on the field is not the beginning or middle of a play, but right near the end of the play.  Once again, that’s when athletes tend to let up, lose focus, and get injured.  This doesn’t have to happen to you.  Run through the tape, play until the whistle blows, keep wearing a mask, and for goodness sakes, work with your clients until you’ve been able to conclude whatever has been agreed upon. Make sure you don’t let up until the job is completely done, and everything has been signed, sealed, and delivered!

Related: How to Plant a Seed for Commitment