Amazing Training: Shawn King’s lessons from ‘The Race’

How a career in advertising prepares you for reality TV

Shawn King’s Amazing Race Canada adventure came to a premature end when an old shoulder injury put him in hospital and forced him and wife Jen to pull out of competition during the show’s second episode. Before the episode aired on July 15, King penned a story for the August 2014 issue of Marketing about his experiences, drawing a few parallels between his professional calling and his foray into reality television.

Kings

Unexpected everything, plans that don’t go as planned, pressure that makes you overthink overthinking and the most intense highs and lows you can imagine in very short amounts of time. You go faster than you should, can’t miss a single detail and have to be better than everyone else to stay in the game.

Yep, it’s the ad business and it pretty much sums up exactly what it felt like to run in season two of The Amazing Race Canada. You can see it all for yourself on Tuesday nights, but what you won’t see is how my life in advertising prepared me—more than I thought—for something I had no idea how to prepare for.

Yes, it’s harder than it looks. No, it’s not scripted. Yes, we fought. Yes, we’re still married. Yes, I’d do it again and no, I can’t tell you who wins.

What I can tell you is how there are a few eerily ironic ways the ad world prepared me to run the race.

You have to be quick on your feet — nothing ever goes as planned
It’s true. Almost every plan we had didn’t work as we had planned it. We had the best intentions for everything, but you know what they say about good intentions. We didn’t dwell on how or why it didn’t work, we thought quickly, adapted and got it done. Just like every day on the job.

The Devil is in the details
They have a saying on The Race: “Read your clue.” Everything you need to know to get through each challenge is there. Miss a single detail and it could be the end. Execute flawlessly, you move on. Sound familiar? A background in art direction helped here.

It’s a people business
I don’t believe our business is advertising. It’s people and relationships. Relationships with brands, products, services and each other. The race is no different. Sure, it’s a race, but it’s really a story about the relationship with your teammate as you take part in a race. The challenges you face are won or lost based on navigating emotions, egos, different opinions, strategies and beliefs on creating the best odds for success. Figure this out and you can do anything. I know, right?!

You can always find a way to get it done
You have two options on The Race: do it and move on, don’t and you’re out. You have two options in advertising: find reasons not to do something or find ways to make it happen. Actually, the race may have taught me this about advertising… when you commit to getting it done — when failure isn’t an option — you’ll find a way, 100% of the time. It was incredible how many times we started something not sure we’d ever do it, only to do it quickly and well. You’ll find a way.

Slow down to speed up
It’s the biggest piss-off — you never have enough time to do it right the first time, but you always have time to do it again. When you slow down, think through what you’re doing and take a little more time up front, your immediate chances of success are much better. Sure, we didn’t always follow this advice on The Race — stressing right out on national TV has a funny way of messing with you — but when we did, it worked perfectly. Take a breath, gain your perspective and move on.

• Read more about King’s experiences in Shaw King’s Amazing Race is over

This story originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Marketing. Subscribe today, and check it in the iPad newsstand.

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