Ivan Zimmermann on Why Leaders Never Quit

Ivan Zimmermann on Why Leaders Never Quit


The Tour D’Afrique

For the adventure and indulging my passion for cycling; wanting to motivate people to believe in themselves through my Leaders Never Quit campaign; and to connect a charity to my adventure so that it would help people in need.

I created the CANaKILO campaign that aimed to collect cans of food to donate to the hanna charity and empowerment foundation. Having sponsors and people counting on you is a huge motivator when things get tough.

When I rolled into Cape Town, I had to readjust my mind-set to the fact we collected 5 000 cans for the CANaKILO campaign. This was well below my target. While I was initially disappointed, we’d still raised a lot and we learnt valuable lessons that will be applied to the next campaign:

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A whole infrastructure and team is needed to run a successful campaign while you’re in the middle of nowhere on a bike.

We’ll ensure we’ve got bigger retail partners, that all involved share our vision, that there’s more marketing, and that collection points are more central and convenient.

The Core of Leadership

What makes a leader, and what do leaders do? Leaders don’t compare themselves to others, but measure up against themselves and the challenges they face. On the tour there were younger and fitter guys.

Had I compared myself to them I would have lost confidence. Many quit after six weeks and only four out of 42 finished – that says a lot about the power of mind-set.

What I achieved through training and self-belief serves to motivate others by proving that ordinary people can be leaders and achieve extraordinary things. There will always be better people – one guy just did the whole thing in 41 days unsupported.

Focus on Solutions

Things break and you can’t just pop to the shops to fix or replace them. When my heart-rate monitor strap broke it was a huge deal and throwing away the strap and keeping it in my pocket would have been a quick fix, but not a solution.

The watch was very important to a mental game I played with myself when chunking kilometres: On 160km days I’d push myself hard to 80km, then tell myself it’s only another 20km to the 100 mark. Then another 30 and another 30.

Keeping track of these mini goals with my watch was important, so I fixed the strap with cable ties and carried on. South Africans are amazing like this.

When small things break, fix them there and then. You never quite realise at the time how something so small can potentially derail the larger goal if it’s not dealt with there and then.

For example, if the zipper on your tent is broken, it takes you longer to pack up, eating into your time, you rush and don’t do a proper job, things don’t fit in your locker, and you’re worried in the back of your mind about getting malaria. Without knowing it, one tiny cog breaking can potentially destroy your chances at achieving your goal.

When the mind is tired it looks for shortcuts. It takes real discipline to resist it. When we were in Malawi I woke up one night covered in these vicious ants.

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They’d chewed their way through a tough tent to get to the packet of biscuits I left out. I had a choice there and then to find somewhere else to sleep, or to fix the hole. I fixed the hole because I knew the knock-on effect it would have after riding for 150km the next day and still having a problem to fix.

Be Part of a Team

I’m a loner and don’t like working in teams but I learnt to put aside my pride because it wasn’t helping me. In fact it was jeopardising my end goal. On our first night it was -3 degrees and extremely windy.

I battled for an hour trying to set up my tent myself until I relented and asked someone for help. We got the tent up in ten minutes. I’d wasted an hour trying to prove to everyone that I was capable. By the time we got to Kenya I was known as the guy who’d get up at the crack of dawn and be far ahead of everyone.

Then I came down with a cold and didn’t want to get on the support truck. I asked the Dutch team if I could draft with them, which none of us wanted, but it was the only way to stay in the game.

Learn more about Ivan Zimmermann, his motivational talks, sponsors and charities at www.ivanzimmermann.com.

Watch the video of his journey below.

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Tracy Lee Nicol
Tracy-Lee Nicol is an experienced business writer and magazine editor. She was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Rhodes university in 2010, and in the time since has honed her business acumen and writing skills profiling some of South Africa's most successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, franchisees and franchisors.Find her on Google+.