What Running 39.3 Miles Taught Me About Business
I hate running. Well, that’s what I thought back in 2007 before I accepted the challenge to run my first marathon. Since then, I have run six marathons, including my most recent marathon: last weekend’s 39.3-mile Goofy Challenge in Walt Disney World (it was also my daughter’s 4th birthday so we had a huge party!).
I must admit, I’m actually quite infatuated with running right now. I initially started running to shed a few pounds (I was about 30 pounds heavier back then), however, I soon discovered that running marathons had many more benefits than simply better health (although that’s a nice benefit too!). In fact, my marathon training has taught me a lot about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.
Here are a few lessons I’ve learned:
“Attitude is the little thing that makes a big difference.” – Winston Churchill
Translation: Without a positive attitude, you have no chance.
I regularly have people tell me “you must be crazy to want to run that far.” Maybe I am, but I wouldn’t call it “crazy.” Instead, I prefer “ambitious.” I’ve always been ultra competitive and, when I commit to something, I follow through with relentless determination. Having a positive attitude throughout my training, even during the most difficult days, is a critical component to successfully completing my marathon.
I believe that same positive outlook is required to be a successful entrepreneur. Many people will tell you a million reasons why you won’t be successful in your pursuit to build a thriving business. You’ve got to shrug off the naysayers and remain positive if you want to have any chance at surviving, let alone creating a successful company. Although starting a business is huge risk, with great risk comes great reward. And when you stay positive and work hard towards a goal, great things often happen.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins will a single step” – Chinese proverb
Translation: There are no shortcuts so get started now.
Training for a marathon requires a tremendous commitment. Every day of training is incredibly important as it builds upon the previous day and brings you one step closer towards your goal of running 26.2 miles. After all, you cannot run 26.2 miles after a few weeks (or months!) of training. Each week you run a little further and, after about five months (if you’re starting from square one), you’ll be ready to run a marathon. But it certainly doesn’t happen overnight.
The same is true in entrepreneurship. A tireless work ethic is an absolute must. It’s easy to coast through the day but, if you really want to build a successful company, you need to work hard each and every day. Over time, as you continue to work towards your goal, you will begin to see things “happen” for your business. This is not an accident, but rather the result of taking the initiative to start building your business, and putting forth the required effort to set things in motion. Simply put, there are no shortcuts to success.
“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.” – Newt Gingrich
Translation: The challenge doesn’t really start until you’re completely exhausted.
It happens to nearly every runner at some point during each marathon and it’s not a matter of “if”, but “when”. There’s a time in every race when you “hit the wall” and feel like you cannot continue. If you’ve never experienced this feeling, trust me, it’s horrible. Your calves ache and your quads are completely destroyed. You just want it all to end, but you still have four more miles until you reach the finish line. At this moment you have to make a decision: do you give up or continue on? And it is this moment that will reveal your commitment to training, and define your race. Everyone loves running a marathon during the beginning of the race when it’s easy- you’re feeling good and everyone is smiling. But do you have the guts to dig deep and push through the pain when your on mile 23?
The same thing often happens in entrepreneurship. Many people start building their business with tremendous enthusiasm and optimism but, as the road becomes increasingly daunting, many people simply give up. It’s is only those people who are willing to push beyond this barrier that enjoy the fruits of their labor. One of my favorite quote is by former pro basketball player, Art Williams: “I’m not saying it’s going to be easy; I’m saying it will be worth it.” Ultimately, you need to decide how bad you want it.
“Don’t limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you.” – Mary Kay Ash
Translation: You can achieve anything if you truly believe you can.
Running a marathon is obviously an incredible psychical challenge, but the mental and emotional aspects play an even bigger role in whether or not you are successful. Marathons are a long and strenuous journey. It’s important to begin the race with the mindset that you will finish, and then maintain that mindset throughout the marathon. You’d be surprised how powerful your thoughts and beliefs truly are.
If you’re an entrepreneur then, at some point, you’ve had one (or many!) people tell you that you’re going to fail. This constant negativity can often have a weakening effect on one’s positive outlook. However, we must maintain belief in ourselves and our ability to reach our goals. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.
I always get emotional at the end of every race. As I near the finish line and reflect back on all the hard work that I put in: the hours of training, the many early morning runs, the vast time commitment. As I approach the finish line, I know I’m on the verge of completing something truly great. Something that I thought I could never do. Something that most people will never even attempt. And the best part is knowing that I will cross the finish line triumphantly. Although I feel completely drained physically, emotionally and mentally, I come to the realization that Art Williams was right: it really is worth it.
True greatness lies on the other side of adversity, and running teaches you to confront your self-imposed limitations and push beyond. And that is why I love running.
This is an article contributed to Young Upstarts and published or republished here with permission. All rights of this work belong to the authors named in the article above.