Start Where You Are

Two and a half years ago while high on hot dogs at a minor league baseball game with a large group of friends and our kids, a girlfriend challenged me to sign up for a half marathon. It seemed like a great idea at the time (despite the fact that I’d never run more than two miles at one time) so I quickly said, “Sure, I CAN DO THAT! I’d love to!!”

Nevermind that I would have to train in 100 degree weather.

Nevermind that I had a million other things to do.

Nevermind that I was a single mother at the time, and didn’t know who would watch my kids, and I certainly couldn’t strap a 3 and 6 year old to my back.

Nevermind that my last experience running competitively was in my junior year of high school when, during a race in 100 degree heat, I blurted out, “I hate this!!” as I passed one of my teammates before literally passing out on the finish line and being served orange slices like they were some kind of magic candy. (Apparently I still had some lessons to learn about positive psychology, teamwork, and motivating others.)

Nevermind that I don’t really like running.

I CAN’T DO THIS, I thought as I got home that evening.

I’m stubborn to a fault, so I kept my word. The question was not whether I would run the half marathon, the question was how on earth would I get past the first two miles?

It turns out, a few people had run half marathons before me. In fact, as I would learn, those numbered stickers on the back of people’s cars–13.1, 26.2–were not some secret code. They instead meant that more people than I’d ever imagined had run half marathons and even full marathons. And as I’d soon learn, those were the slackers, because the real athletes were running ironmans at 70.3 miles. WTH. I will never compete with them. I will never be good enough, I thought. But I CAN learn from them.

And so I did. It turned out that when I said I can’t do this, I was right. I couldn’t go out and run thirteen miles that day. But I also learned that when I said I can do this, I was right. I learned that I didn’t have to run thirteen miles that day, or even every day. I only had to run hellishly long distances once per week, and I only needed to add one mile per week.

So I started–at two miles–and within eleven weeks, and after many hills, hundred degree days, hellishly painful joints, and a worn out pair of hundred dollar shoes, I ran my race at 13.1 miles. I didn’t by any means win, but I did get my own sticker.

What did I learn, and how does this apply to a business blog? As entrepreneurs or leaders or humans, we often look at where we want to be. While envisioning the goal is crucial to staying focused, it can also be enough to demoralize us. Don’t stop there. Set your goal, but start where you are–not where your competitor is or even where your finale is. Learn from others, but be present to yourself one mile at a time. This is what I did, and now I have enough endurance (and foolishness?) to think I should strive for that 26.2 sticker (before I’m too old to try). What challenge will you try next, and how you will you break your goal down so that you are starting where you are?

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