This story starts in early 2009. In January that year, I had never run more than about 3km in a row, EVER. In June of the same year, my wife and I joined a gym as part of our “Get Fit Get Pregnant” campaign to help us have our second child, our son Rilien. We set fitness goals, as you do, and worked our butts off to … well, to work our butts off.
Since running and I always had a rocky relationship, my first goal was to run 5km on a treadmill non-stop, followed soon after by another goal of completing a 9km “fun-run” across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 50 minutes or less. (I did it in 50:45). After finishing the 9km run I swore, loudly, that if I ever EVER thought about doing something like that again, my wife had my full permission to hit me on the head. Hard.
Later that day my life was changed, forever.
Our trainer and a few gym friends were running the full marathon (part of the same running festival), so Bel & I stayed back to watch and cheer as they came across the finish line. (Note: a full marathon is 42.2km or 26.2mi. It’s FAR. A long long way to run… See what I did there? Hah. )
Up until this moment, I had never witnessed first-hand the elation on someone’s face as they completed a physical challenge such as running a marathon. I’m telling you, it is profound, and beautiful. People’s bodies were utterly spent, yet their faces were beaming with pride and accomplishment that they had worked so hard AND FINISHED THE JOB.
Seeing this, I instantly reversed my earlier vow and quietly confessed to my wife that I wanted some of what they were having. I started training and completed the Gold Coast Marathon in 2010 (that’s me, below), in my goal-achieving time of 4:32:49. Yes, that’s four and a half HOURS. I didn’t run fast, but I ran, and I finished. I have my finishers medal and shirt; the former is in my trophy cabinet, the latter I still wear with pride.
As an unexpected side-effect, running became a regular part of my life. I love hitting the pavement along the cliffs near my home – I am the weird guy smiling at everyone while I run.
On a recent run, my mind started wandering and I began considering the parallels between business and running. I believe that some of the lessons I’ve learned from running are directly applicable to business.
(By philosophical extension, what we learn from running and business almost always applies to life in general too, but for now let’s stick to running and business…)
So, for your interest and edification, here is my list of 12 Important Lessons About Business That I Learned From Running.
1) It takes dedication and commitment.
You’ll often feel like stopping and giving up. That’s kinda the point. What makes you succeed is your ability to keep going, even when you feel like quitting.
2) Breathe deeply and with control.
Runs are their best when your breathing is slow and steady, not fast and huffy. Business is the same – getting hot and bothered all the time is a recipe for disaster.
3) Stay in the moment, but have a target.
Running with a distance or time target is essential for quality, but to get the most out of it you need to stay in the moment while you run, monitoring your form, breathing, comfort, and so on. Business works best when you are “in the pocket” and have a very keen sense of exactly where you are in the moment – BUT you need a target too, otherwise you never get anywhere.
4) You have to START.
A run isn’t going to do itself – you have to get your butt out of the door and go. Same with business. “There’s no-one/nothing else”.… No one is going to do it for you, you need to start.
5) The right tools for the job are essential.
Running strictly doesn’t require anything but two legs and two feet – and based on the recent performance of many Paralympians, even this is up for debate – however it’s often more comfortable and more achievable with some tools, like comfy shoes, a hat, etc. Business is impossible without the tools that help you do what you do best. Ever try building a house without a hammer?
6) Take some friends along.
I run with music, and mostly with some of my favourite bands. (Recently it’s been a tossup between Foo Fighters / anything featuring Dave Grohl, and Kanye West.) Business mentors, colleagues, and like-minded people make the journey easier and give you a great sounding board when things get difficult.
7) Shoulders down, face and eyes soft. Relax.
It’s that simple. Relax. The Universe / God / <insert grand power of choice here> has you just where you need to be. Remember this always.
8) Give it time; Nothing happens overnight.
If you push too hard too soon you’ll either break down or burn out. Treat business like a marathon – runners take time to get miles up, and get faster gradually. No-one went from standing still to 42.2km in one go. (Except possibly the Greek guy.) Every “overnight success” in business has been at least 5-10 years in the making.
9) Measure, but not too frequently.
I’ve recently started using Map My Run to track my run time and distance, instead of my fancy GPS watch. One of the main differences is I only get notified every MILE, not every kilometre. This means I run more freely and with less anxiousness about distance/time/etc… and helps me return to #3 (Stay in the moment.)
10) Stop and reflect on your achievements.
I’m a marathon finisher, and have completed a 42.2km running race. I have also been in business for myself for over 8 years. These achievements can never be taken away from me, no matter how many failures or disappointments I encounter. It’s always worth reflecting on your achievements when you feel down.
11) Great ideas happen along the journey, so get moving and keep your mind open.
This article came to me almost fully formed on one of my morning runs. Sitting at home all day stifles your imagination and creative brain…get out in the fresh air, see the world, MOVE your body and you’ll be amazed what comes to you. Same goes for business… don’t confine yourself to the same old routine all the time – stretch out, do something new, break habits, diversify…or even take a class in something COMPLETELY unrelated to your field.
12) Allow for recovery.
Every time I run I allow a little time to cool down afterwards, so my body recovers properly and I can keep running, injury free, for the long run. After each major milestone you reach in your business, allocate some recovery time. Your body, mind and sense of well-being will thank you for it. You’ll also find some fabulous new ideas come from the nothingness of recovery time.
Are you a runner? Are you better at some other sport? Please share your own insights in the comments below – I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time, keep running!