As hard as it may be to believe, there was a time in my life when this body looked like a chiseled block of granite! Obviously that time is not right now, but in my younger years, I ran distance both in high school and in college. I learned a lot of lessons about life and business running long distances, whether it was on a team or as an individual.
One of the first lessons I learned was that I couldn’t blame the outcome of my race on anyone other than myself. I was the only one responsible for always doing my best. If I didn’t perform as well as I should, it was all on me. Even today, I vividly remember being repeatedly taught that lesson by my college track coach … at the top of his lungs as he stood about six inches from my face! I can assure you, he was not practicing social distancing or kumbaya coaching as he gave me my lesson.
At one time or another most of us learn the same lesson in business, although hopefully not by having someone shouting at us. Our customers let us know we’re not performing when they take their business elsewhere. Our employees let us know when they choose another place to work. We can blame outside forces, inside forces, or mystical forces for poor performance all day long, but the only one responsible is us.
In track I had coaches who helped me develop the technique and stamina to compete and win. In life and in business we have coaches too; they go by different names and instruct us in different ways. We call them bosses, competitors, colleagues, spouses, partners, employees, and paid consultants. The good ones help us become better versions of ourselves. And the courses we run now are called professional careers or lifetimes.
The lessons I learned in sports and the ones I’ve learned in life have been invaluable to me when it comes to competing and collaborating in business.
People with all kinds of physiques run distance. Short ones; tall ones; ones built like fire hydrants; ones built like telephone poles. Some run faster than others. To this day I find myself getting annoyed when a runner passes me who’s older, chubbier, or has a lousy running form. Still, those factors don’t change the fact that they’re passing me by.
It’s no different in business. We will always have business competitors who are smarter than we are, more well-known, or better funded. We should learn that if we spend our time focusing on their perceived advantages it won’t make us any better. All it will do is take time away from us being able to focus on ways to strengthen our own weaknesses or leverage our own strengths.
Some lessons take longer to learn than others, both in track and in business. One of the lessons I’ve recently learned is that knees aren’t always as forgiving when we get older as they were when we were much younger. Unfortunately, without the assistance of surgery there aren’t any do-overs to make things right.
It’s no different with businesses. When we don’t take care of them as we build them—managing the money responsibly, hiring the right people, building lasting relationships—we not only struggle to get a decent return when we go to sell, but we’re not able to enjoy the journey as much while we’re running it.