Archive for May, 2009

Running’s Business Lessons

May 10, 2009

Several weeks ago I wrote about the business lessons I learned while training for a marathon. I also learned a lot running in the race so here is the sequel! I regularly run in South Mountain Reservation in Essex County, so I decided to run in the first annual Muddy Marathon, a trail marathon held at the Craigmeur Recreation Complex in Rockaway. I generally train alone and figured I would complete the course in 4 ½ to five hours. My race day reality was quite different: I ran with others and finished in over seven hours and remarkably tied for second place out of a starting field of 25. My marathon reinforced many lessons that are applicable to both running and business.
So here are a few of the lessons that can help all of us in our business lives:
Teamwork – The race consisted of 4 difficult loops and over 6,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. It included running in knee deep mud, scaling a sheer rock face and running on the edge of a cliff. All of this was done while following trail marking that disappeared with the rain the night before the race. There is no way I would have finished the race by myself. I met fellow Essex Running Club member Chris Jaworski (Bloomfield) and others during the first loop and we ran as a group. Working as a team we ran faster and smarter than any of us could alone. We kept each other focused, alert and energized. I experienced the ultimate team building exercise and realized that teams, even those created literally on the run, accomplish more than individuals. Build teams and alliances at work and watch your productivity grow.
Expect the unexpected – Cliffs, bogs and bears were not what I signed up for, but that’s what I got. Today’s business environment is unpredictable and full of surprises. To succeed and finish the marathon it was necessary to adapt my approach – slow my pace, read the environment and react. At work, you must take your time to assess situations before you act because they may not be what you expected. Possessing dexterity and flexibility is a valuable trait in today world.
Cheerleaders – After my third loop (about the 20 mile mark) I was tired and sore and needed a lift. My wife, kids and parents were waiting for me. They gave me strength. My “cheerleaders” stimulated my energy and drove me to the finish. It is important to build relationships at work where you encourage others and they encourage you. Words of support are vital; make sure you offer positive feedback and support to others.
Competition – After each loop I asked the race organizer, what my place was in the race. I wanted to know how hard to run so I could finish near the top. Life is a competition. We all try to do our best and perform at our peak capabilities, but a true test is how you perform relative to others.
Pain is transitory, pride lasts forever – During the race I was in pain, but I never thought of quitting. Everything I ever accomplished in life came after difficult effort. At work, that includes many long hours and taking on difficult projects, but they lead the way to promotions and increased skills. While you are in the midst of a trying period at work, remember it too shall pass, and you will be rewarded with the pride of achievement.
Challenge yourself – I initially decided to run a trail marathon because they are generally more difficult and varied than road marathons. I was not disappointed. Our careers need to constantly challenge ourselves. Challenges help us stretch ourselves and bring us closer to our capabilities. Achieving in a more challenging environment also creates greater euphoria. So stretch your goals, take a risk and go for it!
One day I will wipe the smile off my face, but I will still have the scars to remember my achievements.