A few years ago, I was invited to start running with the local running group, the Liverpool Dockside Runners. I was excited about joining and one of the first things that happened was they gave me the club T-shirt to wear.
This had the word RUNNER emblazoned on both front and back.
Now I must tell you, I didn’t feel at all comfortable with this idea. I was already second guessing the reaction this might receive on the streets of Liverpool. An out of shape, middle aged geezer, plodding along at a sedate pace, couldn’t really be described as a RUNNER and I certainly didn’t feel like Usain Bolt.
I looked at the T-shirt several times. I laughed at the possibility that someone might be slow enough to see RUNNER written on my back as I showed them a clean pair of heels. And I made a decision to wear it.
Eventually it became more comfortable. I invested in the kind of gear that ‘proper’ runners wear. I asked for advice and talked about running as I hung out with the other runners.
Much to my surprise I started to adopt the persona of a runner. It became part of my life and I worked hard at it. It became a mission, not to run a particular race, but just to keep improving. Which I did.
One day I ran alongside a lady who came to visit our club. Our club captain Sophie shouted, ‘Hey Kelly, have you met JD? He’s a legend!’. Kelly smiled as she gave me a high five and for a few minutes we matched each other stride for stride. JD… and Kelly. Dame Kelly Holmes the double Olympic champion.
Did I feel like a RUNNER that day? You bet. And by the way she was everything you would expect from a national sporting hero. It was quite an amazing experience.
I’ve since thought of my T-shirt as being representative of how we approach other aspects of our life. That unless we embrace the role or title we are given, we are never going to develop the practice of it. Leadership for example, is one I’ve seen people struggle with. I would argue that unless we embrace the word LEADER printed in big bold letters on our T-shirt, then we will never fully develop the practice of being a really good leader.
Wearing the T-shirt for me means:
1. Finding something you love doing or have affinity with
2. Associating yourself fully with that persona/label/title
3. Building your support network
4. Practising it, immersing yourself and making it ‘salient’ from other things you do
5. Developing your narrative and vocabulary and talking about it
6. Noticing the changes (however small) in yourself
7. Wear it with pride!
It’s ok if the T-shirt stretches or doesn’t quite fit to begin with. In fact, it should feel uncomfortable to begin with and if so we need to think ‘what do I need to do to make it fit?’. Your T-shirt is a statement of intention. It will fit eventually.
We wear many T-shirts in life.
Why not have a rummage through the closet and decide which T-shirts you want to wear. Remembering it’s also ok to throw out the ones that have faded, that you no longer need.
Here are a few questions to help you wear your T-shirt.
· What’s on your T-shirt?
· How do people know about this?
· How can you associate fully with what’s on it?
· What is the strapline or logo? Nike have ‘Just do it’ – so what’s yours?
· What would your keynote speech be about?
· Who supports you in this?
· Where is your time/space to practice this?
· If you wore this consistently and with pride, what difference would it make?
Enjoy wearing your T-shirt.