Let’s be clear first up. This is not an article to get you all motivated to strap on some running shoes and head out the door and attempt something similar to my act of lunacy. I can totally understand if this is the last thing on your mind. However, there may be a few lessons in here that may help you put in your own “marathon effort” to get your business to do what you want.
So back to the running part. About 18 months ago in a rush of excitement I announced that I was going to run my first offroad marathon. I researched my options and picked the T42 event based in a remote part of the central North Island.
Last Saturday all the training stopped and the event started. Five and a half hours later I hobbled over the finish line, way down the list of finishers. It was messy but it was over. Looking back I can see a number of lessons I learnt that I think are relevant for the small business owner struggling with their own test of endurance. Here are five that come to mind.
Lesson 1: Slowing down helps you go faster
I have written before on my early mistakes in training. Basically, I was pushing my body to go too fast for too long. It took me a while to realise that the speed of my fitness development was limited by my capacity to recover from each session. So I had to slow the pace, back off the volume and let what recovery I had do its stuff. The paradox being that it was while I was recovering – not running – that I got fitter.
So where’s the “recovery” part in the full on mental side of business life? We all know the weeks that are packed with effort from start to end. What are our options to take a break and let the clarity return? I admit to being a very sporadic meditator. However, when I do take the time to “rest the chatter” for a few moments, I get the break I need and my thinking deepens. And, probably like you, some of my better business ideas have come not while at the desk, but after a day or two away from the office. Maybe we make smarter business decisions while away from the office rather than in it?
Lesson 2: Fuel is reasonably important
I ran with a backpack that looked twice the size of the others. My logic was that I would be running for twice as long so I needed double the fuel. Plus it was nice to plan each hour knowing I was going to slow down and munch my way through the weight on my back. Babyfood, pretzels, beef jerky – I mixed them all up depending on what my body wanted, and every hour I shoved down a bit more of each mixed with a couple of magic pills to delay the onset of cramp. No, it didn’t prevent the gradual drain of energy from my legs – BUT I didn’t hit the wall at four hours either.
So what fuels your appetite for business? Last year I took time out for the inaugural Nurture Change event in Fiji. For three days I listened and absorbed speakers’ stories from all parts of business. Each provided their own piece of motivation to ensure I came back fired up and ready for the next stage of the company. Those three days gave me enough motivational fuel to push through the next six months.
Lesson 3: There’s not much flat along the way
When it came to the event this was not a surprise. The organisers had earlier posted a map and profile. Yep, 800 metres of climbing from start to finish with a few streams and mud trails along the way. Other than the car park where we started and finished, we were running either up or down.
I was once told by a business mentor that running a business doesn’t have many flat bits either. You are either growing or you are not. Which can be a challenge for those looking for an easy life.
Lesson 4: It’s a bit easier when you love what you do
But me, I love running in the hills. Now I admit that running up the hills is no fun – but running with hills around me is the best. I put it down to my Capricorn goat-like star sign. Show me a trail which is heading up and away and you have me.
So training was something I looked forward to. In fact, when the feeling fell away I knew I had to dial back the volume as it was a sign my recovery was underdone. Twenty five years ago I ran a road marathon and ended up hating the training. I didn’t run on the road for months after. Motivation had pushed me to keep on doing something that wasn’t for me and once the event passed then my desire to run went with it.
It’s the same in business right? To keep going for the long term you have to love what you do. There’s only so much personal motivation that will push you to drive forward. Things are a lot easier when you are pulled along by doing something you love.
Lesson 5: There needs to be a time to celebrate
I crossed the line, received the medal, was given a sausage and a beer and I was done. I texted Claire to let her know I was OK then sat down chatting with others who had run with me over the last few hours. There wasn’t a lot of jumping around with excitement – just quiet sitting and enjoying the fact that we had done what we had set out to do and how that mattered to us in our own different ways. It was a great feeling.
How many times do you stop to celebrate in business? Do you take the time to reflect on what you have achieved and what that means? Marathons have an end point, otherwise nobody would enter them.
So where are the end points in your business? Think of them as the places where you take the time to look back and be thankful for the effort you put in and the goals you achieved. Perhaps they arrive each quarter or after delivering a chunky and challenging project.
Then you can allow yourself to rest, recharge and plan the next adventure.
Just as I am.