This is the sport where everyone truly comes together. I’m talking about my favorite sport in the world, running. Over the past few months, my wife, son, and I have participated in four separate 5K races. Over the last few years, 5K races have become a family tradition. This incredible sport has the power to transform our world.
Ever since high school, my favorite sport has been cross-country running. I am significantly better at swimming, and enjoy that sport as well, however there’s something about running that intrigues me. In addition to the fact that it brings everyone together, I love the distance covered, the scenic views, the diversity of terrain, and the thrill of pushing further and faster with each run. You may be thinking, "This blog is all about business, digital marketing, and sometimes investing, Ian. Why are you writing about running?" I personally believe that there is a huge tie between the mental side of things and the physical. I’m thrilled to share life lessons I have personally learned from running.
Lesson 1: It’s All About Pushing Through
When I train, I’m typically running about 5 or 6 miles at a time. I exclusively train with hills because I like a good challenge. I have always found that around mile two (right before the half way point), everything gets easier. I’m actually approaching some of the most difficult terrain of the journey (steepest hills), yet things just start flowing. I attribute this to the phenomenon known as "runners high". There’s a point where you cross your largest challenge, and things just start getting easier.
I believe the same is true in life, business, and investing. Far too many people give up when they reach challenging times. The challenges seem to pile up, just as the summit of my run. It’s difficult to see past the challenges since the hills are so steep. However, it’s often at this very moment that you’ll get a surprise. In the case of running, it’s the endorphins kicking in (or runners high). In the case of life, I believe it’s a little help from up above. The moral of the story: Don’t give up. When things keep getting more difficult, know that you are incredibly close to your big breakthrough. Persistence is the name of the game.
Lesson 2: Sportsmanship Is Alive And Well
Over the years, I have participated in a multitude of 5K runs. Some are more fun than others. My personal favorite is the annual Lupus 5K in beautiful Saratoga, CA. I actually just completed this 5K, along with my wife and son. There is a great cause behind this event: Raising money and awareness to find a cure for Lupus. The event is team oriented and often teams are rallying around someone they personally know with Lupus.
I have found that this event is really special, and am proud to call it my favorite 5K run. It’s hard to explain, but when you are in this race, you feel a common bond with everyone there. Everyone is so kind, so well-spirited, and in it for the greater good. Nobody is trying to "win". Nobody is trying to beat their neighbor and cut around others. While I was participating in this race, I had one thing on my mind and that was giving it my all to truly support Lupus. I even found myself praying for those with Lupus. I imagine that others felt a similar experience and that is why the sportsmanship at this race is so amazing.
In business, it often becomes extremely competitive. We’re competitive with one another. (Who will get promoted first?) We’re competitive with our competitors. (Can we beat the competition?) We can lose sight of the big picture. Running provides the perfect framework for business. Look at everything from a team perspective.
A real world example: In the self storage industry, we are sometimes out of a certain unit size (they are all taken). We make a point of referring potential customers on these units to our "competitors" down the street. At the end of the day, we don’t even look at other facilities as competitors, we look at them as friends and neighbors. It’s all about good sportsmanship.
Lesson 3: It’s Your Race
I participated in four 5K races recently. Of all the races, the San Carlos Fun Run felt the most competitive. It’s in a town that has incredible athletes and the runners take this event with complete seriousness.
I ran my heart out in all races. I would say that I had the most people pushing me to do my best in San Carlos since it was a close race and people were actively passing each other to get an edge at the finish line. The interesting fact: I ran the fastest (by far) in the Redwood City 4th of July Parade Run, even though I literally had nobody pushing me other than myself.
At the end of the day, it’s your race and nobody else’s. Running is a sport where you are pushing yourself to do your personal best. The only thing that pushed me in the 4th of July Parade Run were the thoughts and prayers running through my mind.
In business, it’s so easy to compare yourself to others. Am I making enough money? Why does somebody else have more responsibility than me? Is my title good enough? The list goes on… Rather than compare oneself to others, why not focus on your personal race. After twelve years in pure play digital marketing roles, I said, "To heck with it. Why not take a completely different route and pursue my dreams of investing full time." It was an unconventional move, but has paid great dividends in a variety of ways. Remember that this life is your race alone. Benchmarking against others can be helpful at times, but the most important benchmark is yourself.
Lesson 4: Take Time To Meditate
Any of us with a digital marketing background know that ads are everywhere in this digital age. It’s difficult to get a moment to oneself. The noise is always there. Aside from ads, we all have persistently growing checklists, phone calls, work. It can become really "loud" in one’s life. I have found running to be the perfect avenue for meditation. I like to run long distances. I like to push myself and feel the pain. It is in this precise moment that the noise goes away. I can meditate and pray. I can reflect. Whether it’s running or something completely different, I challenge you to find your avenue for unplugging. Find that time. This is when you will have your best ideas and gain inspiration to fuel your best work.
Lesson 5: Mix An Active Lifestyle Into Your Business Routine
We live in a unique age where we are "always on". Personal time and business time no longer exist. It’s business and personal 24/7. The two blend together. I joke with my wife that I am all about the "athleasure" lifestyle, and it’s true. These days, I mainly wear sneakers and Lululemon clothes. In fact, I feel like I have a shopping addition for both. Throughout the day, I’ll take random breaks to get in a few pushups, jump lunges, or even a quick sprint. For me, the active lifestyle fuels energy, thought, success, and overall happiness. While I still plan longer workouts like my runs and swims, I also like to incorporate impromptu, high intensity training. My advice: Consider bringing this active lifestyle into your life and office. There’s nothing wrong with someone doing some pushups or crunches in the middle of the corporate office. In fact, I hope this becomes the routine.
Lesson 6: We Are The Human Family
I have seen this theme emerge a variety of places recently. As an avid student of life and someone growing in my spirituality, I have learned that we are all part of the human family. We are each a cell in a greater being, a collective being. There is no event where this becomes more apparent (to me, at least) than a 5K race. Each time I complete one of these 5K races, I try to take the good vibes with me wherever I go. It’s all about what one can do for the greater human family.
Thanks for reading. Do you enjoy running? Any lessons you have learned from sports?