Monthly Archives: January 2014

Cycling is Back

It’s back!  It might be -20 outside, with huge snow piles lining my driveway, but in Australia the sun is beating down an the cycling season has formally begun, with the first stage of the Tour Down Under.  This feels like the first hint that Spring might one day return.

Cycling might be a terribly tainted sport, and it has certainly suffered a ridiculous number of scandals over the past few years.  The Tour de France records no official winner for the years 1999-2005.    And even laying aside the well-know doping habits of Lance Armstrong, many, many other names from that era are also tainted: Levi Leipheimer, Floyd Llandis, Tyler Hamilton, David Millar, Bjarne Riis – the list goes on and on.   I sometimes think that the only good think to come out of that decade was the book The Secret Race,  by Tyler Hamilton, which documents in-depth the length that competitors felt they were forced to go to to remain viable competitors.

And yet, despite all that, I still love the sport.  I love the spectacle of it, I love the many-races-in-one format of the Grand Tours, I love the interpersonal dynamics of the racers, as sprinters and climbers and GC contenders make alliances of convenience and conduct diplomatic negotiations at sixty kilometers an hour; I love the thrill of the twisting descents of the final kilometers of Milan-San Remo, I love the mud-splattered brutality of the Paris-Roubaix, I love watching the peloton snake its way through the Flanders countryside I used to live in, and I love the rare occasions when I get to attend a race in person and feel and hear the hum of derailleurs inches from where I’m sitting.

I can hope that with the introduction of the biological passport, and with new leadership at the UCI, that the sport is slowly becoming a place where athletes can genuinely contend on their own merit, and I can also hope that the UCI adopts the egalitarian spirit of the International Olympic Committee and re-instates a Women’s edition of the Tour de France.

But for now, enjoy some highlights from the first stage of racing of the year.

 

Changing the World Through Stories

JFK once said that the only reason to give a speech was to change the world.

I think this is wise advice.  I’ve been reading a lot recently about the art of speaking and presenting, and the true masters of the subject seem to agree on a couple of points.

Firstly, PowerPoint is evil.  Or at least, can be used as a tool for evil.  Consider the following slide, for example.

 

Afgan-COIN

 

That’s part of a real PowerPoint presentation given by a real military commander trying to explain the goals of the occupying force in Afghanistan.  I don’t understand it.  I’m sure the audience didn’t understand it.  And I’m not at all sure that the guy giving the presentation really understood it.  If you can’t get your key point across in a few sentences, you’re probably not sure what you’re trying to say.

Fortunately, the masters of presenting agree on a second point.  Speaking and presenting is about telling stories.

Consider this example:

stories

This is from a vastly better presentation, Pixar’s 22 Rules to Phenomenal Storytelling. Go and watch it now.  Seriously.  I’ll wait.

Done?  Good.  The author of that presentation had a clear point he wanted to make, and made it with simplicity, creativity, and a keen eye for design.  All the hallmarks, in fact, of the company that he’s talking about.

If, like JFK, we want to change the world, we’ll need to do better than endless bullet lists and obfuscated flow charts.  We’ll need to learn to tell honest, simple, engaging stories.