Most amateur athletes, from casual joggers to avid jockeys, would consider their athletic ventures as being far removed from their professional lives. While there may not be any physical overlaps between sporting ventures and boardroom meetings, both endeavors may be more connected than most presume. In my own experience, my lifelong love of cross-country skiing has undoubtedly shaped my professional trajectory in many distinct ways. From instilling a love of camaraderie to inspiring me to always improve, my vast participation in skiing has elicited various soft skills that I have implemented into my professional life. 

Camaraderie and Competition

I’ve been a passionate skier since the age of two, but upon entering Williams College, I became vastly interested in competition and joined the school’s varsity cross-country skiing team. Throughout this experience, I developed an inherent love for the sport, and for the spirit of camaraderie and competition that it brought. Though the primary act of skiing is a solitary venture, there is combined energy that illuminates each competition, and a forged team spirit that expands beyond an event. The shared love of the sport is infectious, and this camaraderie enables individuals to connect.

Post-matriculation, I entered the professional sphere and found myself working toward achieving recognition, increased responsibility, and success with my professional ventures. Subconsciously, the spirit of competition continued to live within me, born from my cherished memories of skiing competitions. In the professional setting, I wasn’t necessarily competing to beat a record time. Instead, I was fueling my fire for success with the same fervor for competition that drove my passion for competitive skiing. This helped me to stay on track professionally, and to not lose momentum in my professional ventures. If professional success was a slope, it would certainly be a long run. Thus, I focused on pushing ahead with the spirit of competition urging me to always aim higher. 

Of course, the spirit of competition doesn’t always necessitate being the best. In the corporate world, it can manifest itself via a motivation to be a part of a winning team, or championing team members to excel. Camaraderie can bring co-workers together, foster a collective winning spirit, and ensure that team members work together to succeed. As the Chairman of Taconic AS, a family-owned investment company, I am consistently working to spread the spirit of camaraderie for the betterment of the entire team. When making investment decisions, I often even compete with myself, setting specific benchmarks for success that outmatch previous successes.

Losing And Winning

As an adult, my love of skiing continued to grow. Though I found myself busier than ever, I consciously carved out the time to participate in skiing events. As my professional and personal life evolved, so did my views on losing and winning. Participating in various world-renowned competitions as an adult, I found myself increasingly grateful for the opportunity to spend time with other impassioned fans of the sport. I found myself wanting to learn from others, and happy to be able to compete. Of course, my innate desire to win was always present. However, my concept of “losing” pivoted a little. My motivation became to try my personal best, and consider those efforts to be “winsome”.

Professionally, a similar pivot allowed me to focus more on professional growth and long-term development, and a little less on immediate results. This allowed me to think of long-term goals, and to remain motivated in the midst of long projects. With extensive leadership experience, I also began to think of ways that I could leverage my industry knowledge to enhance the success of other businesses. I began to serve on various private and public Boards and to involve myself in philanthropic ventures. In all of my professional experiences, even if the outcomes weren’t as planned, they became valuable experiences.

Bring Your Best

At almost 60 years old, I’m actively competing in skiing marathons and races. These annual treks include the famed 62 km La Diagonela in Switzerland, 70km Marcialonga in Italy, and the 90km Vasaloppet race. According to Visma Ski Classics, I am ranked at #6 in my age bracket. In all of my skiing ventures, I always bring my best. While some skiers may have “slowed down” by this age or may have pivoted to a more casual approach, I continue to constantly yearn for excellence, and come prepared to perform at top-caliber at all times.

I implement the same approach within all professional endeavors. In the professional sense, I believe that “bringing your best” entails approaching each facet of work with motivation, focus, and a desire to excel. Rather than passively hoping for success, and putting in minimal effort, “bringing your best” means proactively approaching each situation, and taking control of the outcome. This fluid concept can be applied to any type of employment, in any industry. From fledgling entry-level professionals looking to make a mark, to well-seasoned leaders, all professionals can benefit from implementing this strategy.

Build Upon Existing Skills

Though I have amassed decades of pertinent skiing experience, I still continue to learn! This is perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of the sport, and I am pleased to constantly improve upon my skill sets. By surrounding myself with dedicated lovers of the sport, I am able to pick up new skills, watch subtle nuances, and perfect my own proficiencies. 

Since 2018, Taconic AS has Co-Sponsored Team Ragde Eiendom, a premier ski marathon team. The team is the 2019-2020 winner of the Visma Ski Classics pro team competition, men’s’ competition, and Vasaloppet race, which boasts over 15,000 competitors. Founded in 2007 by Jørgen and Anders Aukland, Team Ragde Eiendom is committed to forwarding the sport of skiing and bringing attention to competitive skiing. By championing this team, and surrounding myself with leaders in the sport, I have been able to gain knowledge, perspective, and build upon existing skills. Even with so many years of pertinent experience, there is still knowledge to be gained, and skills to be perfected!

The same concept can be applied within a professional setting. Even seasoned industry leaders can learn new skills, perfect their command, and gain useful insights. By remaining open-minded to learning, and avoiding becoming rigid, even experienced leaders can continue to grow professionally. My love of learning reaches beyond the skiing arena, and well into the professional and philanthropic sphere. 

Final Thoughts

After participating in avidly and wholeheartedly in skiing related ventures for the majority of my life, I have come to understand the impact that cross-country skiing has had on every facet of my life. From establishing my appreciation of camaraderie and shared interests to propelling my competitive spirit, the tertiary aspects of skiing have resonated with me in other areas. For individuals who enjoy a similar extracurricular passion, I encourage them to seek out professional wisdom and motivation from these activities. For those interested in pursuing a new passion, think of it as a long-term investment in professional development!

Connect with Ragnar Horn on PeoplePill and LinkedIn.