We have always been taught that in order to be successful, we would have to study hard, seek knowledge and learn from our experiences and mistakes. Sure, being knowledgeable and equipped with the right set of skills can help us advance in life and further our careers. But life often has different plans for us, and skills alone won’t help us surmount the different challenges we sometimes face. For that, we need a strong mentality and work ethic. This is exactly what differentiates highly successful people from the rest. What the likes of Oprah, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and others have in common is their positive attitude and willingness to face and overcome the toughest of obstacles to achieve their objectives. People often try different ways to strengthen their mental state and keep themselves motivated, such as attending motivational speaking events or watching their role models’ success stories. But examining the world of sports can also be a great source of inspiration for many. If there is one sport that perfectly combines skills and willpower, it has to be marathons.
In this blog post, we will examine the main traits of marathon runners and how you can apply such traits to your career or business.
Find your “why”
The key aspect that differentiates running a marathon from any other activity or sport is that, usually, something motivated runners to participate in the first place. This may have been about staying in shape, fundraising money for charity, experiencing new things or simply meeting new people. Whatever the reason, knowing the “why” is the driving force that keeps runners motivated to pursue their sport – with all its demanding training routines – and achieve the objectives they have set.
To succeed in business, we need to place the “why” at the heart of our business or career. More often than not, business owners or employees know what they do and how they do it but don’t necessarily know why (and no, making money or profit is not a reason – it’s a result). The importance of asking “why” first is the foundation of a leadership model known as the golden circle. This model was first introduced by Simon Sinek, an author and motivational speaker, through his book Start With Why. In this, Sinek explained how businesses can thrive and attract more clients and followers by adopting an in-and-out approach rather than an outside-in approach, moving from the why, to the how and finally the what. Sinek further demonstrated the model by sharing success stories of big corporations and personalities like Apple, Martin Luther King and others. I would suggest you watch his TED talk to get a broader idea about how this innovative model works and how you can apply it to your own business.
By failing to prepare … you are preparing to fail
With marathons, there is often a common misconception that all you have to is run them. But in order to complete the whole 26 miles of the New-York marathon or even a small fraction of that, runners need to go through an intense period of physical and mental preparation that can take several weeks in the lead-up to the race. This period may prove to be brutal for beginners since it requires extreme effort and discipline and may lead many to just give up (especially if they don’t know their “why”).
Preparation is also key in business. Whether you are starting your own company or launching a new product or service, there are a number of steps you need to follow in order to succeed, such as researching market trends or determining your brand’s positioning and USP. Similar to marathons, mental preparation is vital as you may face several obstacles along the way that can jeopardize the whole project.
Set milestones and objectives
When it comes to a long race like a marathon, it’s essential to take it one step at a time. During preparation, runners often don’t look too far ahead and make sure to set short-term milestones like gradually increasing their run mileage and occasionally going for longer runs. That way, they can focus their efforts on immediate objectives rather than being distracted or even overwhelmed by the bigger picture.
Emulating this approach in business can bear positive results and help you stay attuned to your priorities and effectively manage your resources. For example, en route to growth, successful business owners often determine long-term objectives as well as a number of milestones and SMART objectives. For example, one long-term objective could be to enter or dominate a new market. To achieve this, different teams then need to set and reach different milestones, such as performing market research, developing a robust business model or testing the initial market response and the list goes on.
Define a clear strategy
After setting their objectives for the race, runners then need to develop the right strategy and tactics to help them reach the finishing line. Some strategies are universal: don’t start strong, maintain a regular pace, and so on. However, others depend entirely on the runner’s preparation and energy levels. For example, runners have their own particular diets and hydration strategies – for example, they can split the marathon into smaller, more manageable distances or try to walk briskly for a couple of minutes instead of running.
It goes without saying that strategy is also the most important part of business. Similar to marathons, some business strategies and tactics are adopted widely while others depend entirely on your vision and available resources. Either way, you can’t start and grow a business without having a clear vision and strategy and a variety of tactics that you can adapt to different challenges and circumstances.