April was an extremely busy month for us. Mack Story and I were on the road (or in the air!) from coast to coast in April, having speaking engagements in Ohio, Iowa, Indiana, Washington DC, and several in Georgia. We finished the month in Las Vegas where I ran a marathon. (That’s 26.2 miles of running)
The day before my race, someone sent me an encouraging text, and remarked there had to be some leadership lessons in there somewhere. I had plenty of time to ponder that as I ran the marathon and wanted to share with you my top 7 takeaway leadership lessons learned from a marathon.
1) Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes or Take Risks
I admit, it’s intimidating to sign up for a marathon. 26 miles is a long way to drive, and so much longer to cover on foot! And, part of the intimidation is the fear deep down inside that says, “I’m afraid to try because I might fail.” What if I don’t finish the race? What if I don’t finish as fast as I want? What if I’m the last person out of my group to finish? What if…
We can’t be afraid of making a mistake or just taking a risk. The greatest barrier to accomplishing something is the fear of getting started or making a mistake.
2) Don’t Complain
This marathon was the most difficult race I’ve ever done in terms of external conditions. It was a great course, great race, and well planned. But, the greatest event planner in the world doesn’t control the heat and there were record high temperatures in Las Vegas last weekend. It was more than 80 degrees when I crossed the finish line and at those temperatures it’s easy to dehydrate or overheat. But, most of all – it’s just downright HOT when you are running in those conditions. It’s miserable if you want to know. But, leaders and successful individuals don’t spend time or energy complaining about what they can’t control. I passed so many people in the last few miles who were spending precious energy complaining rather than simply getting on with it.
I passed a sign with some pretty good advice: “Smile – it will hurt less.” Leaders know that complaining about something never makes it better – it makes it hurt more because you focus on it more.
3) Don’t Make Excuses
I didn’t finish as fast as I had hoped when I started out that morning. I covered the first half at my goal pace but realized it was getting very hot very quickly by mile 13. And, it would be so easy to make excuses about the heat, or the course, or the fact that we had flown five times in the four days leading up to race as to why my second half of the race wasn’t as good as the first half.
All those things are true – but highly successful individuals don’t focus on blaming someone or something else for their lack of success. If I had done more downhill specific training, perhaps I could have overcome some of the effects of the heat. If I had started slower, perhaps I would have not crashed at mile 23 and ended up walking some of the last three miles. Leaders take responsibility for what THEY can do different, instead of making excuses about what they didn’t do.
4) Don’t Lose Focus
Mack loves to say, “Don’t focus on the mountain, focus on the moments. If you conquer enough moments, you’ll conquer the mountain.” It’s so true. I had to be aware of the overall goal but remember to focus on the small milestones. We often get distracted or overwhelmed when we have our intentions set on a big goal. I couldn’t get distracted by how long the race was. I set my focus on just getting to the next aid station and eventually that got me to the finish line.
Highly successful individuals don’t lose focus and don’t let distractions get in the way.
5) Don’t Listen to Everyone
This is where I like to tell people, “Be careful who you get your advice from.” It’s too easy to allow what other people have to say influence you until you talk yourself out of it. Sure, there is a time and place to seek advice from a mentor or listen to the wisdom of those who have gone before you. But, be careful about who you allow to give you advice. In my race, I knew I couldn’t stop to listen to those who were talking about quitting. I tuned them out and looked toward those ahead of me who weren’t quitting.
Leaders know most people are happy to share their opinion, whether they were asked to or not. But, successful leaders and people also know when they don’t need to listen.
6) Don’t Worry about What You Can’t Control
Most of our fears are unwarranted and unfounded. Fear is something we create in our mind. But, how much energy do we waste when we allow worry or fear to distract us? Just like we don’t need to waste energy complaining, don’t waste energy thinking about what you cannot control. I knew the night before the race that the forecast was less than ideal, but rather than worry about it all night, I simply focused on preparing as best as I could for the conditions ahead. I couldn’t control the temperatures, but I could control if I was hydrated properly.
Push the worries about what you cannot control to the side and simply remind yourself what you CAN influence. And, do those things.
7) Don’t Quit
A marathon is a challenging event regardless of how fast you want to run it. Just finishing it is a big goal in itself and we shouldn’t fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to everyone else. But, the biggest lesson I take away from running a marathon is don’t quit. Don’t quit when it gets tough, hot, or when you are tired. If you have cast a vision or set a goal, don’t give up on it. It’s only “failure” when we quit trying.
Yes, of course, there is a time to redirect, change course, or reevaluate. If you are running a marathon and get injured, there is a time to sensibly say, “not today.” But, far too often we have a dream, vision, or goal, and when we get started we realize it’s not as easy to accomplish as we thought it would be. And, if we allow ourselves to quit simply because it was hard, we lose integrity within ourselves – and with others. If it’s a worthy goal, commit to it. There may be detours, roadblocks, or redirects. But, leaders know they can’t reach their potential in life by quitting when it gets tough. I know so many people who want to speak, write, or lead and influence at a high level, but they give up after a few months, or years, because it takes too long or there is too much sacrifice required.
There will be sacrifice. When you strive to reach the top of the mountain you can trust it will be a difficult climb. Leaders dream of influencing other people but you must earn the right to do so. Because earning the right to lead ensures you will become the leader who is worth following.