By Maurie Cashman
I ran the Dam to Dam half marathon in Des Moines this weekend. I use the term â€œranâ€ loosely as I did not finish as I had planned. I ran well through the first nine miles and then both calves and one hamstring cramped up. I spent the next two miles trying to figure out how to simply finish. It was disappointing â€“ for awhile. In the end, I was probably more proud of this race than the ones I had preciously run because of what I had to learn quickly to finish.
This was my fifth half marathon. I felt ready to have a breakthrough by running a personal best, which could have made me fairly competitive. I had run well over 500 miles over the winter and spring, rain or shine, to improve. I could be disappointed but I am not â€“ because I completely adjusted to the situation mid-race and finished very strong over the last two miles. I learned some things that I can use in the next race and I believe they can apply to business. A crisis is a horrible thing to waste.
â€œDesire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal — a commitment to excellence — that will enable you to attain the success you seek.”— Mario Andretti
1. OVER-PREPARATION. I can be very analytical. I had studied the course carefully so that I would understand what to expect. There was one long hill that I thought I could handle ok as I had trained on a lot of hills. However, I found myself thinking about that mile 7 hill when I was about at mile 3. By the time I got to it, I think I had psyched myself up too much to run it and didnâ€™t have a good enough plan for how to run after it.
How many times do we over-prepare for a known obstacle in our business lives to the extent that, while we may overcome that obstacle, we donâ€™t have a solid plan for what is going to happen next?
Obstacles will always be there and we should prepare to overcome them â€“ when they present themselves. It is nearly impossible to anticipate exactly what is going to occur while you are working through a significant roadblock. I would have been better off simply anticipating some mid-race problems and knowing what I would do when they occurred than anticipating this particular problem three miles before it was presented.
2. ADJUST. Things rarely go according to plan â€“ we must learn to adjust on the fly. In a race, as in business, you have to constantly adjust. The tie-up I had was completely unexpected and something I had not dealt with before. It took two miles to figure out how to adjust to the problem. I completely changed my stride to one that I had never tried before, which allowed me to run through the cramps and finish the race with a very strong two miles. I wonâ€™t forget that.
Adjusting approach is something that can be tough for an organization to do. We are used to doing things a certain way â€“ a way that we feel has been successful and gotten us to where we are. However, what got me to mile 9 was not going to get me to mile 13, and what got your business here will not keep it here. We must adjust to changing business climates, loss of key employees, new competition, regulation and the requirements of a larger business than the one we started. It may be uncomfortable, but it is important to be able to implement new ideas to keep your business alive.
3. MOTIVATION. Sometimes it takes a meltdown to motivate us to make significant changes. It is easy to get discouraged when things donâ€™t go the way we planned. However, as the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Sometimes we are forced to make a decision that we would not otherwise make. Those decisions are often the ones that can lead to better things down the road, even though they are painful to make at the time. It is natural to want to avoid pain and conflict. Embrace the opportunities that motivate you to endure short-term pain to reach a longer term result.
4. BENCHMARK PERFORMANCE. It is sometimes difficult to clearly understand how you are truly performing and where your strengths and weaknesses lie. It is important to choose benchmarks that force you to confront your realities in order to improve. Statistics say that .17% of the US population will finish a half-marathon. Thatâ€™s a strong benchmark, but one that I have to be realistic about when measuring myself.
It is equally important to understand that the road to improvement is not linear. You will occasionally regress before experiencing a breakthrough.
The same holds for business. I have always found it to be very important to choose businesses to compare to that are both reasonable comparisons and also present stretch goals. These comparisons can inform your discussions and planning for how to push your performance to new level.
5. PERSEVERE. Every round of golf will not be your best, neither will every race. You have good days and you have days that you must go home and re-tool. In my experience there are very few natural runners. Most get there through a ton of hard work and a lot of learning experiences.
The single common characteristic I observe is there willingness to persevere. Almost every runner I have talked to says that at mile 10 they are questioning their sanity and swearing never to go through this again. However, an interesting thing happens after the finish -when you talk to fellow runners regardless of their finish, they canâ€™t wait to run again.
This trait may be the key to success. I admire people who have started something and seen it through. I donâ€™t think that any business can succeed without going through some tough times. Being able to endure those tough times to adjust, learn and improve is likely the differentiator in allowing a successful business ownership transition to occur.
Iâ€™ll be back â€“ hopefully with an improved approach!
Â© 2016 Aspen Grove Investments, Inc.