Skinned Knees

Last week, I had the opportunity to hear  1871 CEO Howard Tullman kick off Chicago Booth’s Innovation Week with an inspiring talk about innovation and the changing landscape of business. 



Howard presented his Seven Rules of Innovation, which I found to also apply to anyone starting a business and, more generally, pursuing his/her dreams, whether in sport, business, or any other arena. Howard’s Rules:

1.     Focus on a few important things. Live by metrics without exception or excuses.

2.     START NOW and start with what you have.

3.     Feasibility will compromise you soon enough. So ignore naysayers and don’t let their limitations define you.

4.     You don’t get to heaven in a heartbeat. Set milestones and goals.

5.     Make cheap mistakes, make it ok… and then don’t make it again. Skinned knees are part of the game.

6.     Fail smart and fail fast. Failing is ok, giving up is not! Fail, fail again, fail better.

7.  Protect your pioneers. It takes all kinds to form a successful team.


Skinned knees... and road rash... are sometimes just part of the game (much to my parents' dismay)!

Howard’s Seven Rules resonated with me as I reflect on the role I would like triathlon to play in my life, my goals in the sport, and how I would like to apply my MBA when I graduate from Booth one short year from now. They hit especially close to home given recent discussions I have been having with my coach (and myself) about pursing a career as a professional triathlete; conversations with professors, mentors, and classmates about starting my own business as a pro triathlete; and the various injuries I have had to overcome in the past year as I am striving to take my performance to the next level.

Patience is not my strongest suit. When I set my sights on a goal, I tend to want to have accomplished it yesterday…. But nothing like 4 months in a walking boot to teach someone patience! The pain (both physical and emotional) of that injury, and the long (and ongoing) journey back from my stint in the walking boot simultaneously broke me down and made me stronger. So when a bike crash last weekend took my right wrist out of commission just when I was starting to regain some sense of normalcy, I was admittedly crushed. 

 Cast post-ER visit .... cut off and replaced with double brace (per my Dr.'s recommendation!) the next day. Much better!

Cast post-ER visit .... cut off and replaced with double brace (per my Dr.'s recommendation!) the next day. Much better!

But as Howard said, sometimes you have to fail in order to succeed. The adversity we face will only make us stronger. It will make your future victories that much sweeter when they finally come.

 Source: Howard Tullman, "Seven Rules of Innovation"

Source: Howard Tullman, "Seven Rules of Innovation"

It is admittedly easier to say this than to fully internalize it. However, Howard’s inspiring words couldn’t have come at a better time and truly got my head in a better place. Now is my opportunity to call upon the patience I have learned this year, to work with what I have as I pursue my dreams and climb my stairway to heaven… one step at a time. After months of not being able to bike and run this Fall, I am doing my best to frame this twist as an opportunity to throw my focus into those disciplines and use the (hopefully brief) break from swimming to build fuel for the fire for when I get back in the water again.


Back on the band wagon, enjoying some quality aerobar time - woo!!


"We acquire the strength we have overcome."  

- Ralph Waldo Emerson