If you’re into running or marathons, you most likely have experienced extreme exhaustion at some point during a run and the need to catch your breath. You close your eyes for a few seconds, take a deep breath, and then suddenly you find the strength to press on at top performance with less exertion. This phenomenon is called “second wind,” which is the result of the body finding the proper balance of oxygen to counteract the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles, or due to endorphin production, or even just a purely psychological effect.
But whatever its cause may be, it is the moment of finding renewed energy to perform again. That is why we use the term “second wind” as a metaphor to describe the moment of revitalization to continue past the point one is thought to be at one’s prime or an abject failure, whether in sports, career, one’s business, or life in general.
Extraordinarily successful entrepreneur Elon Musk experienced his second wind in business long after he invested in Tesla Motors, the automotive company that produces electric cars, in 2004. The struggling company nearly collapsed in 2008 during the financial crisis. In February 2010, Musk filed for bankruptcy amid an emotional divorce and had been living off personal loans from friends since October 2009. Tesla had been losing money such that Musk needed to throw everything he had into keeping the company alive.
In the first quarter of 2013, Tesla posted profits for the first time in its history. Now, Musk’s net worth is $187.9 billion, with the stellar performance of Tesla shares. His recent investments include Twitter, apart from his privately held spacecraft-maker SpaceX, which has a $1.15-billion contract with NASA for a second Artemis lander mission.
Second wind also happens in one’s career. An example is Nancy Berk of Pittsburgh, as told in Forbes. She left her stable job as a clinical psychology professor in a university when she was 45 to pursue her second-wind career as a stand-up comedian and humor writer.
Her first career was due to her interest in medicine, but the use of humor in her day-to-day life led her to an “emotionally, financially, and creatively profitable” career. She combined her years of experience in examining and learning about the human mind with her love for humor. Nowadays, she writes for Forbes.com Hollywood & Entertainment, and has contributed to PARADE, the Huffington Post, and MORE Magazine.
Tremendous changes in one’s life — may it be a career shift or a prolonged business downturn — can be risky, if not outright scary, because of unforeseen consequences. But understanding how a second wind works can shed light on how to successfully manage the transition and ultimately experience it.
A second wind starts with a clear vision and the passion to do and act on something. Musk had a laser-focused vision and goal of creating a zero-emissions form of transport and revolutionizing inter-planetary travel. Nancy Berk had her passion for comedy and humor which she showed while practicing clinical psychology. Vision and passion fuel the renewed energy to go on.
A second wind also requires a sense of urgency to pursue that vision or passion. Musk took loans from banks and investors to continue funding his ventures. He hired experienced executives to help run the different functions in his automotive startup. Berk continuously writes day and night to perfect her new-found craft in humor writing.
Lastly, a second wind entails unwavering determination to do what you love doing. Lack of experience in technical know-how in the automotive industry, and even bankruptcy, did not stop Musk from achieving what he has today. Berk took the risk of leaving her stable job and pursued her new career, even accepting a cut in income at the start because she was resolute in doing what she loves to do.
A second wind can also happen in one’s life in general, may it be pursuing a new hobby, experiencing a new relationship, or undertaking a social cause. It starts with renewed energy from a vision or passion and resolutely acting on realizing your goals.
Reynaldo C. Lugtu, Jr. is a member of the MAP ICT Committee. He is founder and CEO of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation consulting firm. He is a fellow at the US-based Institute for Digital Transformation. He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University.