The racers are gathered at the starting line. Some shift nervously from foot to foot while others laugh and joke with one another. They all know what lies ahead – grueling trails up steep ski slopes, two story rope climbs, sandbag and bucket carries (uphill), barb wire crawls, rings, hoists, cement drags and 8-foot walls, to name a few. An obstacle not completed means the all-dreaded burpees, 30 to be exact. This is Spartan, one of the many popular obstacle course races.
Some will finish the course in under 30 minutes, others will still be out there four hours later. It’s not just a test of strength and endurance, but one of heart.
So why do they do it? Why do they pay to do it? Surely, not just for the medal and t-shirt at the end?
Then a staff member steps in front of the runners and begins to speak:
“The day may come, when the courage of Sparta fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. For this day we fight! And to prepare you for that battle, I’m going to ask you, ‘Who am I?’, to which you shall respond… ‘I am a Spartan!’
He pauses for just a beat, “Who am I?”
“I am a Spartan,” the racers respond, a bit tentatively.
“We are honored by your courage and commitment to excellence, but know this… your mind, body and spirit will all be put to the ultimate test, for you chase glory on this day! Who am I?”
“I am a Spartan!” comes the chorus, louder now.
“Look at the Spartans on your right and your left, you will draw strength from them, as they will draw strength from you, you will not let them fail! Who am I?”
“I am a Spartan,” the racers yell enthusiastically.
“By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand, sons and daughters of Sparta. Stand and fight! For today is the day that you rise to glory. Not tomorrow, not next week, right here! Right now! In your house, your home. Who am I?”
Now the racers are pumped, “I am a Spartan!” they call together.
“Who am I?”
“I am a Spartan!”
“Aroo, aroo, aroo, go!” he calls as they start running.
And this is the reason people flock by the thousands and pay to torture themselves – for the struggle and the glory that comes with it.
We have no issue with hardship, pain and adversity when we can see the victory that lies at the end. In fact, we relish the hard work we need to put in to get there.
We’d do well to remember the Spartan speech when it comes to our workplaces. Employees need to know the triumph that awaits them. They need a worthy cause to draw them together and say to one another, “I will not fail you.” They need to know they are working towards glory.
A Team Human Conversation
Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.
- When was the last time you took on a daunting challenge? Why did you do it?
- What big goal is your team/organization working towards? Is it clear? Is it motivating?
- What can you do to get people excited about putting in the work to reach this goal?