The Long Win: The search for a better way to succeed

The Long Win: The search for a better way to succeed

Author: Cath Bishop
Review by: Jane Williams

Cath Bishop draws so deeply on her personal experience, from early upbringing to successes as an Olympic Athlete and Senior Diplomat to critique the perception, prevalent in all aspects of our culture, that winning is all.

The prologue is fascinating describing the ten minutes from the start line to the medal podium of an Olympic race, the facts and her feelings, when she and her partner Kath Grainger won a silver medal rowing at the 2004 Olympics. The reflection in response to the question, ‘ how does this feel’  to win a silver medal,  is the trigger for this book. It was nominated by the Financial Times as one of the best business books of 2020.

This is such a powerful recollection of the Olympic race leading to silver medal and the analysis, what could or does this mean for each athlete?  The casual comment, ’ it was only a silver or bronze medal’ denigrates  the whole experience and achievement.  The author quickly became aware that this total focus on winning gold, beating competition, is destructive potentially causing serious damage to ourselves, our relationships and our society.

The author began challenging this framework to understand why winning alone may not bring much meaning to our lives.   It is a tough to find a way through this deeply engrained cultural phenomenon.

The author embraces this so honestly beginning with very deep insight into her own life to understand how this brought her success. Is it enough to come first?  Would there not be mutual benefits in setting more powerful, broader goals which gives even better results and more fulfilled individuals?  The aim is to define a different framework to build greater achievement and  gain in other ways.  She reflects on when she had her greatest successes how was this achieved – what was she thinking at those moments/

As she prepared for World Championships and Olympics,  the author was working as a Senior Diplomat and training in the Olympic Rowing Squad.  It is interesting that the skills of a diplomat enhance the experience of Olympic training and the achievement of medals. What is the overlap between these two? The hint comes from making connections to better the experience and results.

Her journey included reflecting on her own life purpose and to understand what counts each day producing some very deep insights. The reader should be prepared to begin a similar journey from review their life purpose and the alignment of daily activities..

The structure of the book is logical in three parts, beginning  with defining the meaning of winning in today’s world, then reviewing how the current obsession is restrictive finally shapes a new approach to winning – the Long Win. The final section includes diagrams and bullet point summaries of key questions to aid the personal learning for the reader.

To understand the current definition of winning,  the journey begins by looking at the differing perspectives of language, science and history. Very quickly the media is identified with very obvious responsibilities aligned with the dangers of metrics and the importance of language. Every HR Director is fully aware of the power of language and the choice of the right words to change mindsets.  The concept of the mindset moves from winning to mastery as outcome alone does not lead to success. This stems from creating the supportive environment essential for achievement.

The middle section is a comprehensive review of the current modus operandi where winning comes at a high price limiting our society and people.  This price includes surfeits of rivalry, arrogance, selfishness with a lack of humility and generosity seen as the need for greater care, nurture and mutual support. As with the book’s overall approach this section starts with childhood experiences at home or school and the huge impact these can have on subsequent individual behaviours.

There are warnings of the strategy focused heavily on metrics at the expense of experiencing the joy and satisfaction of learning of a new skill. Coming top, beating others, quickly becomes the goal creating the desire to do better than others which is very different to the desire to do well. The fallout can be insecure overachievers with a competitive culture indicating  the link between fierce competition and destructive neuroses.

In terms of what makes sport fun, trying hard, positive team dynamics and coaching, learning and improving your capability are significant. Yet it is reported as well known that winners often feel flat and empty while those who lose flat and worthless.

The perspective is similar in business with the significant differences between espoused values and what actually happens in hostile environments at the culture and sub culture levels. The recent emerging collaborative cultures are seen as beneficial as well as the increasing action to develop the underlying purpose of the company giving foundations for building stakeholder relationships.

The author returns to international politics to point out that no one country alone can solve global problems such as zero efficiency.   So the world has to work together to change mindsets to find and support solutions including new mental models relating to structures, behaviours and relationships.

The third section focuses forward to a new approach to winning to reduce the current downsides and focus on greater achievement. A new approach to the Olympic Rowing Training focused on the performance, improving the aspects of what produces speed in the boat and enjoying the training experience. All of which happened for the author.  The features forming part of the new approach speak for themselves and are outlined below in italics:

  • Communication and strength
  • Collaboration and technique
  • Recovery and physical power
  • Mental preparation and fitness.

There is a description of world championship race when the pair became the first women to win a World title. This outlines a very different feeling to the first earlier in the book, with moments of pure synergy, triumph and joy. The leads to the third and final section of the book  the development of Long Win Thinking Three Cs: Clarity, Constant Learning and Connection: personal foundations of the author’s experience.

Clarity about what matters to each individual, developing for the longer term a sense of our purpose, scoping the impact of our contribution to the world around us and then defining the experience we seek. A timely reference is made to England’s success in the 2020 Euro Football Cup with Gareth Southgate’s focus on the players having an excellent experience. This shapes the culture on which any world class performance is founded.

Constant Learning Approach which focuses on the important of personal growth balanced with external results, the how of an achievement which creates sustainability, supports the ability to repeat, and minimizes the dangers of the ‘to do list’,

The Power of Connections relates to the much used term networking always reported as important yet often without sufficient reason. The author explains this proactively investment in relationships are a precursor for success as they create the powerful company in which achievement in created. We are all creatures of our environment

There is sound advice on how to do this well taken from her diplomatic experience which resonated strongly to my personal experience leading change programmes in the corporate world.

This final section outlines what is an inviting formula for success to encourage any leader and individual to begin this journey.  Readers are encourage to rethink what has brought out the best in their performance previously and whether any of the three Cs will enable this to happen again.

This book is absolutely fascinating as it traces the threads of our embedded approach to winning and shows how we can move forward on all counts.  I enjoyed every moment of reading reminding me of my own priorities and my team, it is a very worthwhile investment of time.

Published by Practical Inspiration Publishing

Jane Williams, Director – People Innovation Ltd