How are You Leveraging Your Next Lap?

How are You Leveraging Your Next Lap?
Thomas Thompson
April 12, 2022
min read

When I was in high school, I wanted to play sports.  Now, my legs were not really built for long distance (my brief career as a cross country runner was punctuated with PA announcements of, “Please stay off the track, we still have a runner competing).  And I was not really good at any sport where I had to catch, handle, or throw a ball.

So I ran track.  And my race was the 1600 meter relay, or what we used to call the mile relay.  4 runners, 4 laps, a gutbuster of a race.  Each lap required a different focus and skill–one for the start, another for the 1st handoff, another for that 3rd lap, and then the anchor brings the baton home.

Normally the anchor is the most experienced or fastest runner.  Think of Carl Lewis or Usain Bolt.  Our coach, however, had a different strategy.  He loaded his first three legs with his fastest runners, hoping that the anchor could make up some ground, or at least, preserve whatever lead the team had.

So I became anchor of the 1989 First Baptist Academy Saints 4x400 relay team.

Now, a relay race relies on runners who can run a distance that is not truly a sprint, yet not fully long distance.  This means they can’t just go all out, but have to pay attention to acceleration, pace, curves, and straightaways.

And you need runners who have to do what no other track competitor in any event has to do–run with equipment in your hand.  A small, colored tube weighing less than a quarter pounder hamburger.  In ancient days I imagine this tube carried scrolled up messages of important military tactics, or urgent political intrigue.  But this tube is just filled with air.  It's only value lies in it not being dropped.

So runners work as a team to perfect the three handoffs of that baton.  I remember the four of us, standing in practice one in front of another, swinging our arms and practicing that handoff over and over again.  One two three, hand back.  One two three hands back.

See, it was crucial for us to focus on navigating that 20 meters of track where we synced up strides of our legs and arms, to pass that baton for the next lap.  There is a brief, beautiful moment that happens three times a race.  Where in the middle of the takeover zone, the runner finishing his lap extends the baton, slapping it into the waiting hands of the takeover runner, who blindly awaits that THWACK in his palm, the closing of his grip, and the baton is now fully his to carry, and his lap begins.  But for a moment, a fraction of a second, these two runners become one.  Two runners, one baton, one speed, one united mind.  And then it's gone.

After that baton is handed off, your lap is done.  Gone forever.  There is nothing more you can do once the baton has left your hands.  You slow down, raise your hands above your head to open up your lungs, and make your way over to greet the anchor when his lap–and your race–is finally done.  

I said there were three handoffs, but actually there are four.  The final handoff takes place after the race is over.  When you’ve crossed the line, the timekeeper clicks the watch, it's in the books.  Then the four of you find your Coach, clipboard in one hand, other hand outstretched to take that final handoff.  He takes the baton and tells you “Great race.” 

We were never the fastest relay team in the district, but I am proud to say my best leg time was ONLY 17 seconds off of Usain Bolt’s world record!  

What does this race have to do with you?

You have been entrusted with something that matters.  Something that matters to God, something that matters to people in this world, and something that matters to you.

A baton.  Your baton.  Your 50 gram tube that you carry through the lap of your life.  No one carries it for you.  

Q: What is this baton?

A: Your leadership.  How you carry the precious time, people, health, possessions, responsibilities, and potential has been entrusted to you.  It is not yours to keep, but you do carry it.  It will outlast your lap, it will live on when you are done.  It is the contribution of your life.

And yet, there is a twist.  The twist is that in the race of your life…You are handing off the baton to yourself.  

  • You are the starter lap, launched out of the blocks when God fires the starter pistol.  
  • You are the second lapper, taking the baton from yourself as you step into your prime.  
  • You are that third leg, having to build upon or catch up from the previous half of your race,
  • And you are your own anchor, running your last lap without a handoff in sight, only a finish line to cross.

So the running of this race, or what I call “stewarding the baton of your leadership” takes on great import as you realize three sobering truths:  

  1. How you run this lap sets up your next lap.
  2. Each lap has its own strategy and approach.
  3. Ultimately, you are not racing against the person next to you.  You are racing time itself,  leveraging each lap for your best finish.

So leaders like you begin to ask questions like: 

Q: How do I steward my leadership baton?  

Q: How do I leverage my lap?  

Q: How do I gain ground that was lost or preserve leads I’ve been given?

Often these questions surface the idea of transition, of the next lap looking different than the one before.

How will you leverage your next lap? I'd love to talk with you more about this. Shoot me an email and let's start leveraging your next lap today.

I founded Thompson Leadership to come alongside leaders like you. Together, we will unpack your unique leadership, unearth your biggest challenge, and create an action plan to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
Connect with Thomas
© 2022-2023 Thompson Leadership. All right reserved.
Privacy Policy