During the Girls On The Run inaugural 5K race yesterday in Orange County, Ca, I had many moments where the race paralleled life and business. To be quite honest, running always gives me clarity of thought, but this particular experience was so much more than that.
Here's what I found:
1) Every runner needs a cheering squad. Whether running a physical race or building a business, we all need people to believe in us and cheer us on. As we go through the pain of running the race, thoughts cross our mind like “why did I start this”, “this is so hard”, “I'm getting tired”, and “I want to stop”, and having someone cheer you on can make all the difference. And it's just like that in business. Sometimes we just feel defeated and need someone with a pom-pon to believe in us. Often it's because they see us from the outside, and they can see how capable we are of accomplishing this goal. Seeing ourselves through another's eyes reflects back to us the hope that started the race to begin with, and that re-ignites our drive to continue. Cheering on other people to succeed feels just as good.
2) New runners need a running buddy. A more experienced runner to run with and keep them going can keep a first timer from throwing in the towel. That's just like having a mentor in business; someone who's done it before and knows the goal can be reached and can more easily navigate the terrain, and guide us from making costly mistakes. When we had rocks on our path, a running buddy would say, “stay on the dirt so you don't twist your ankle” where a novice might not notice at all because all they can think about is how hot and thirsty they are. A business mentor brings the same value. Plus, it's a little easier to do hard stuff with someone else than alone.
3) You have to run your own race. No one else can do it for me and no one else will cross that finish line in my time, and the same is true in business. Whether I run it in 25 min or 35 min, it's my race. No one but me knows where I started and what I had to do to get this far, so comparing myself to another runner won't help me finish, in fact, it will help me feel more defeated. In business we can see other people achieve greater success faster than us, but we don't know how much longer they've been preparing than we have. Nor do we know how many races they've won. It's your own race, run it.
4) You will pass a lot of people if you just keep going. At one point I saw a friend of mine ahead of me and I thought “I want to catch up, but not if I have to sacrifice my pace to do it or I will then fall behind again”. So I kept running. Unpredictably not too far ahead she stopped and walked. Because I kept going, I passed her and she never caught up. Business favors consistency, too, and you will pass a lot of others by simply keeping your pace consistent and not sacrificing long-term stability for short-term success.
5) Encourage others. All along the trail fellow runners encouraged each other and high-fived each other, because it's a challenge for each of us. Running isn't like walking, and neither is building a business. Both take effort and stamina to make it to the finish line, no matter how far away it is. If you can find a group to belong to that will do that for you in business grab it and run!
6) Everyone sweats the same. No matter how long you've been running or how conditioned you are, you still sweat. The same is true in business. Even if you have connections, you still have to put in the work to build your business the same as anyone else in your industry. The victory is paid for in sweat. The only thing that makes the run easier is good pair of shoes and a buddy to do the work with.
7) Momentum is everything. It's easier to keep going than to stop and walk. Slowing down requires me to muster the energy to get going again, which is always more than energy than I would have exerted if I just kept going and didn't stop. So I decided that I wouldn't stop. I kept telling myself,” I keep going, I don't stop”. In business, momentum is king, and stopping to “catch your breath” can cost you a lot of energy trying to get that momentum back. In fact, the whole idea of needing to slow down is all in our heads because since we have already made it this far at this pace, there's really no reason why can't we make it all the way at this pace (unless we are having trouble dealing with the pain of the race–see #1 above for the solution).
8) The turtle can become the hare through consistency. As I ran I realized if I just kept going and didn't stop, I passed up runners that were faster than I was. And I stayed ahead of them. Then I realized that the slow, and consistent turtle can condition herself through consistency to become as fast or faster than the hare. Conditioning strengthens the body and the mind, and one success builds on another and you can gradually push faster and faster. That's true in business, too. When you start, you are fumbling to learn what you need to keep going and as you master those skills, you can pick up the pace because it's old hat by then.
9) It feels really good to have other people proud of you. We ALL crave recognition (especially those who seem like they don't need it–they really do!). I was that runner. I'm independent and used to do most everything alone, so I was astounded at the well of tears that overcame me when I saw an entire runway lined with people on both sides for at least 100ft clapping and cheering me on to finish. It was then that I realized just how much I needed that encouragement. Not because I didn't think I could finish, but because someone else cared enough about me as a human to cheer for me. Business can be lonely at times because most people close to us don't understand why we undertake it to begin with, so we give up trying to explain it to them. In fact, those are some of the people who are the biggest opponents to us even trying to begin with. So having someone proud of us for no other reason than trying and finishing speaks to the beauty of the human heart. And that made me cry (thank goodness for sweat so no one could tell).
10) What seems like a trinket is a symbol of a “win”, so cherish it, don't diminish it for the sake of humility. When I received the medal for finishing, my first thought was “oh how cute” and as soon as I put it on, I didn't want to take it off. So often we get small trinkets of success in business and we diminish them. We tell ourselves “it's not what I really wanted” or “it's what I'm supposed to do”, but I realized that's not true. If that were true everyone would be rich, fit, and gorgeous. Hogwash! It IS special, and it's a step in the right direction toward your larger goal. When you diminish your successes you tell yourself that no matter how hard you work, you'll never be good enough for yourself, so celebrate all wins, no matter their size.
11) “I can” are magical words that go a long way to getting things done. Most people don't sign up for the race to begin with and only a small percentage of the population starts a business, much less succeeds at building one. Those two words are the difference maker in business and in life. They are not to be taken lightly, as they have deep subconscious value to the one who believes them.