4 Important Lessons Running Taught me about Business

May 21, 2012Work Uncaged

A few weeks ago, I attended the Scorre Conference. And while there, I ran in the mornings. On one particular run, I tried to run to an old church which was 1 1/2 miles away. I’ve been training first for a 10K, then for a half marathon (later this year), but I hadn’t run three miles in a long time. So as I jogged toward the church (which I couldn’t see), I grew weary. 

“It’ll just be over this hill,” I told myself. But it wasn’t. “Just over the next valley.” Nope. I ran and ran and ran and wondered if I’d survive to the 1.5 mile marker, let alone turn around and head back in.

I finally did locate the little church. I smiled and thanked God when I made it. And as I ran “home,” God whispered four lessons to me that had everything to do with work and business. If this is valuable to you, feel free to share it with your co-workers.

Lesson 1: The road is longer than you think.

I was sure the church would appear sooner. But it didn’t. In business, particularly if we’re entrepreneurs, we tend to go forward with optimism, forgetting that there will be a cost, and that tasks are often longer and harder than we anticipate. We forget to brainstorm obstacles. It’s best to go into the next endeavor eyes wide open, with a little pessimism sprinkled in so you can anticipate the roadblocks. Nothing kills optimism like unexpected obstacles.

Lesson 2: Head up is better than head down.

When I get tired when I run, my head drops. This seems like a logical thing to do, but in reality, this makes it so I’m not as aero-dynamic as I could be. And my pessimistic gaze toward the ground reinforces my desire to quit. But when I choose to lift my head, to see the scenery around, and look at the goal in front of me, I do much better. It’s the same way in business. We can spend far too much time navel gazing, or starting intently at our business’s problems, or we can remember why we’re doing what we’re doing, focus again on our mission, and run forward.

Lesson 3: It’s hard to finish well but rewarding.

The end of a race or a run is seldom easy. We’d rather give up as our lungs and legs give out. But if we can persevere, we’ll be happier in the end. Same with business. It’s always fun to start things, to be an instigator of a new project. It’s less sexy to work through the muddled middle of a project, pushing through to completion. Success comes from finishing things, in following through.

Lesson 4: It’s more important to go the distance than sprint and never make it.

I’ve started plenty of runs with gusto only to peter out at the end. It’s important to take the long view. Business is a marathon, not a sprint. And in that marathon, sometimes we need periods of rest in order to finish the race. Don’t burn out. Don’t ignite for a moment, only to flicker and die. Remember the tortoise and the hare: slow and steady wins the race. Build in margin to your day. Take strategic rest. Budget in the appropriate amount of time to finish a task (and don’t be overly optimistic). Then plow through, resting when necessary.

What about you? When you’ve exercised, what lessons have you learned that helped you in your business?