It was the last meet of Paul’s high school swimming career. He was getting ready to swim the 100-yard backstroke. His training had gone well; he felt physically strong and psychologically ready.
The start signal sounded, and he shot off the block. He swam fiercely, gave it his all, and slammed his hand down on the touch pad with confidence and satisfaction.
At which point he looked at the clock and saw that his time was shockingly slow.
He was crushed.
All that effort. All that time. All to achieve his worst performance ever.
Paul had expected this race to be his high school swan song, but instead he felt humiliated. He was dismayed to have gotten it so wrong. The experience changed how he felt about swimming and his ability to excel at it.
Off he went to college. He had planned to join the swim team there, but after his unimpressive high school finale he decided against it. He moved on with his life, eventually opening an elegant bistro that was successful and beloved in his community for decades.
Swimming, from which Paul had received such joy and satisfaction, became a distant, disappointing memory.
Fast forward many years. Looking for a way to keep fit in middle age, Paul began swimming again. One day, the topic of different kinds of pools came up in conversation with his coach, and Paul learned something that stopped him in his tracks.
He had always known that life-changing meet had taken place in a long course pool, which was different from the short course pools where he’d usually swum. What he hadn't known was that race times achieved in the two types of pools can't be accurately compared. To compare a long course race time to a short course time, one must first convert it.
Paul pulled up the memory of his time from that fateful meet. Then he pulled out his calculator.
When he finally compared apples to apples, he learned that his last high school swim was not his worst time ever.
It was his FASTEST TIME EVER.
His performance at that last high school meet was indeed a triumph, and he hadn’t even known it.
Paul didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He thought about the ripple effects of what he calls his "failure to investigate":
His decision not to join his college swim team.
His conclusion that he didn’t have what it takes to excel at swimming.
His failure to make swimming a part of his adult life, both for physical fitness and for joy.
All of these actions and decisions were based, at least in part, on inaccurate information. Kind of absurd, isn't it?
I bet this happens more often than we think. All of us have probably made career and life decisions based on factors we didn't investigate adequately.
What about you? Does this resonate with you?
What important decisions about your career or your life were based on information that turned out to be misleading or flat-out wrong?
What conclusions have you jumped to without investigating sufficiently?
What choices are you currently weighing that need further investigation?
Please leave a comment below. I'd love to hear what you think!
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