By: Victoria Collier, Coach with Upleveling Your Business
I am training for my first marathon. It is exactly three months from now. I’m excited but fear the Coronavirus may require it to be cancelled. My plan B is to keep training and hope the one in Greece in November is still an option.
This morning was my first 10-mile run. Although I ran cross country in high school, I don’t think I have ever run 10 miles straight. Plus, high school was 30+ years ago. The foundation is still here, but the stamina lost its way years ago.
Training began in January. For the most part, I have stayed on schedule. Last week, just as I was building momentum, I took the entire week off because I was out of state for a family funeral, the weather was bad most days, and I just didn’t feel like it. I knew today would be tough going from 8 to 10 with a week of zero.
My ten-year-old daughter agreed to ride her bike alongside me. I told her in advance it would be long and slow, but places she’d never ridden before. She carried a backpack with water, a camera and my identification. We were ready.
The first three miles felt normal, which means they were the toughest. The legs were wondering, “really, after all this time?” The cardio breathes, “if we make it tough in the beginning she may stop.” No chance. I broke through the first 3 miles and the rest just fell in line like a machine. My body begian to relax, my breathing became rhythmic, and the pavement felt like a friend.
But, today was different. I had another friend to tend to. My daughter. Talking to me. Asking questions. Making sure she crossed the street safely and swiftly on her bike. And, the time off I took was certainly no friend. The mind began to race the body to see who will win. The body? The mind? To keep my mind in check, I began thinking about all the ways training for the marathon, and this particular run, were just like running a business. These are the lessons that came to me:
Set the Goal Even If It Is A Long Shot.
A week ago, eight miles was a challenge. Then I took a week off. Going into it, I talked myself into believing 10 would be nearly impossible and that I would walk if I had to. Instead, I could have told myself that the rest would do me good, and 10 miles would be a breeze on such a beautiful day. Either way, the goal was the goal, and it was not changing. We set off to run 10 miles. Even if your goals feel impossible, like running 26 miles, set them anyway and break them down into smaller steps, like 4 miles, then 6, then 8, you get it.
Once you stop, you lose all momentum and have to ramp back up again physically, emotionally and intellectually. At the four-mile mark, my daughter asked to take a break. I agreed and took the opportunity to wet my lips. Didn’t want the water to go to waste after all, but starting back up again was like running the first three miles. Limit the ability for employees and co-workers to interrupt your schedule and workflow. One study shows that it takes 25 minutes to get back on track after an interruption. Schedule times for short meetings to answer questions and provide guidance.
Fail in Front of Your Employees.
After running another mile and a half after the break, I knew I needed to stop again. I just couldn’t do it. In fact, I said directly to my daughter, “I just can’t do it today. Taking off this last week has really affected me, and I won’t be able to do 10 today.” I was not going to reach my goal. The lesson was my response to failure. I stated that I was failing, I stated why I was failing, and I stated what I should have done to be better prepared, and we charted a new course. Too often, managers hide failures behind closed doors. If you hide your failures, then you also hide your response. Then you prevent your employees from learning how to respond appropriately when they fail. They, too, feel like they need to hide their failures from you.
Have a Buddy Take Up Your Slack – Tag Team.
When I could run no longer, my daughter volunteered to run and let me ride her bike (a bit too small but totally workable). My daughter won two 5ks within the past few years (and beat my time each time). It was awesome having someone who could pitch in and take up some of the slack. Would have been a slow, long walk home otherwise. In business, it is critical to cross-train employees so that each has a primary and secondary job skill. That way people can be out sick, take vacations, and generally not feel the stress of being strapped to their job because they dread the pile up when they return after a stint away.
Consistency Is Key to Progress.
Today, my daughter could only run one mile. After she had already witnessed my response to failure and feeling like she had a safe space to speak, she lamented, “Wow, I really lost my stamina much quicker than I thought. I’m going to need to run more often.” I did not need to counsel her. She came to her own conclusion – run more, do better, keep the stamina going. Businesses are the same – especially with marketing. We market, get good results and stop marketing. Then we wonder why no one is calling anymore. Keep marketing, keep getting good results. Over time you will get excellent results because you kept at it. During this Coronavirus scare, one of my attorney colleagues asked, “Are you still marketing or should we use that money in a better way?” – afraid he was not going to have enough money to pay salaries and are now prohibited from laying off employees. My answer, “YES! Keep marketing but look for better, more cost effective, systematic ways to do so.”
There are so many more lessons that were reinforced on this one run, but I’ll leave you with these five for now. The difference between good businesses and great businesses is that good businesses stick to one-mile fun runs, and great businesses are in it for the marathon.
Victoria L. Collier, JD, CELA, CEPA, is an entrepreneur, attorney, business owner, author, speaker, and business coach. After serving in the United States Air Force for six years, Victoria obtained her B.A. in Psychology, and then her law degree. For 17 years she created, developed, and lead one of the pre-eminent elder care law firms in the United States, creating a specialized niche in the Veterans Benefits area teaching thousands of other lawyers. Victoria has sold a few multimillion-dollar businesses and is a Certified Exit Planning Advisor. Victoria recently bought an 87-acre farm, has been married for over 20 years, has 10 year old twins, and just adopted two puppies. She lives life to the fullest and enjoys helping others do the same.