Nathan Tanner

How Continual Improvement Led to Qualifying for the Triathlon National Championships

My brother Jordan and I recently qualified for the Olympic triathlon national championships.

How we did it is a lesson in getting 1% better every day, something I first learned at DoorDash.

Jordan and I did our first triathlon in 2011. I only trained for a few weeks and had to borrow my dad’s bike for the race. It was a lot of fun, but our times weren’t competitive. We finished in the bottom 25%.

The following year we did the same race. I trained more this time but only saw a slight improvement. We’ve done 10+ triathlons since, all of varying distances.

Four years ago we increased our training load significantly and started training on a year-round basis. Despite this, my improvement felt insignificant. I only saw gradual gains.

It wasn’t until this year I saw a step-function improvement. My times on the swim, bike, and run all got significantly faster. My brother and I went from below average triathletes to qualifying for the national championships. A week after doing that, I finished 2nd overall in a triathlon that fielded 500+ athletes, something I never thought was possible.

I’m a believer in continuous improvement. I believe in the power of getting 1% better every day and the compound gains that come with it.

But triathlon has taught me that there’s often a major lag between our efforts and our results.

This is true in all aspects of life. You put in the work, but your growth feels immaterial at first. You don’t see the progress you’re looking for. But you don’t give up. You trust the process. You keep going.

Then one day you look back at the person you were years ago and can’t believe how far you’ve come.

When you focus on the right inputs, and do so consistently, the results will eventually follow. Or as Bill Walsh taught, the score will take care of itself.

How have you seen the power of continuous improvement show up in your life?