Low Hanging Fruit
by Sue Aquila
During the act of vacating (vacation), I had an opportunity to capture the picture of the man to the left trimming a palm tree. Who knew you had to trim palm trees? This man scurried up the tree with a rope and a machete. He proceeded to chop off the coconuts and the dead branches. I thought, wow, that is a tough dangerous job and it is a metaphor for so much of what we do professionally and as triathletes.
I find I improve in my work and my athleticism through the simplicity of hacking at the low hanging fruit. In my business life I keep it simple by focusing on our three Ps: product, people (coworkers and customers) and pesos (the only “P” I could come up with for money). I find if I focus on great products and terrific people, the money will be there.
Another area this applies in my life is investing. I keep it simple in three ways: maximize my retirement contributions (corporate/Roth/IRA), only choose mutual funds with very low expense ratios (Vanguard is great for this) and limit solo stock purchases to companies that I am passionate about (buy low, hold and sell high). I am not a financial expert nor am I giving you any advice beyond doing the things that require the least effort. The 80/20 rule works!
In triathlon the same simplicity exists. We play in three sports: swimming, cycling and running. Where is my low hanging fruit? The obvious choices are the sports that take the most time; cycling and running. The derided choice of late has been swimming. At one point in my career, I was guilty of this triathlon sin. I am not alone.
I have noticed the trend in triathlon to pretend that the swim doesn’t really merit the time and effort to spend a lot of time training. In reality, the top people having their best seasons have dedicated years and thousands of meters to being as swim fit as possible. Notice I didn’t say as fast as possible. It usually goes hand in hand but in reality, the difference between the top age groupers’ swim times and the average age groupers’ swim times may only be 15 minutes.
If it isn’t about time then why is being swim fit important? Because you can’t improve your cycling and running unless you deplete your energy as little as possible during the swim. Once you are swim fit, for whatever race distance you focus, then you can see the true benefits of picking the low hanging fruit from your cycling and running.
Getting swim fit for me has required focusing on the following:
I live in Indiana and one of the most popular fruits here is the persimmon. Every year I am offered multiple persimmon puddings and I have come to the realization that it must be an acquired taste. I still cannot get over the fact that a persimmon is ripe only after it has fallen off the tree and landed on the ground. Fruit doesn’t get anymore low hanging than a persimmon.
How do I find low hanging fruit? I ask myself what I am not enjoying right now or I listen for people describing their limiters. What we avoid is the thing that requires our attention. Climb the tree, take out your machete and do the work...
Sue Aquila is a USAT Level 1 coach who balances her ironman training with running a successful business that she built from the ground up. She blogs regularly at fewoman.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @fewoman.