Over the past few years, I’ve competed in a number of Half Ironman (70.3) events around the nation. Never did I see myself becoming an endurance athlete…but here I am, now 3 years into it, and I really enjoy it! The races are very challenging. What’s even more challenging though is the training required to prepare for the actual race while simultaneously aiming to be a great husband, dad, business partner, and entrepreneur.
A couple of weeks ago I completed the Hawaii Ironman 70.3, held annually in Kona. It was my favorite race so far. It was also the most challenging race I’ve experienced! When I returned home, my business partners asked me about the race and how things went. In the course of sharing my thoughts, Katelyn Saunders (aka Lil Kate) asked me what lessons I’ve learned from the sport that carry over and are applicable to business. I discussed my thoughts with her, and she mentioned that it may be worthwhile to share my experiences with the Metrix community! So here goes…
The 5 Similarities Between Ironman 70.3 and Business (or maybe it’s Business and Ironman 70.3?!)
1. In Ironman, the “real” work – the training, grinding, sweat, tears, and mental anguish – are all experienced behind the scenes while the rest of the world is either sleeping or going about their own business. The pain and struggle are unknown to those around you (even those that may be living with you). You spend a lot of time on your own island, wrestling with your own mind, overcoming your own obstacles and barriers. Most people will only see the fruits of your labor…in this case, the completion of the race itself. But very few if any will have any idea as to what was going on in the months leading up to race day. And that’s exactly how I’d want it – in life, sport, and business. Over the years, one of my favorite questions I’ve been asked with respect to my business career is “how many hours do you work?” It’s funny because how does a business owner answer this one? What’s considered work? When I am on the couch at 10pm thinking about how to handle the next day’s challenges, does that count as work? Or when I am making notes on scrap paper in my car so I do not forget about my newest (oftentimes ridiculous) idea, should I count this activity as work time?! This “work” is being done 24/7, and it is one of entrepreneurship’s greatest joys. To those running your own operation and/or carving your own career path, embrace this opportunity and enjoy the loneliness that comes with the territory.
2. On most days, it is really, really challenging to get started. But once you get started, it gets easier with each step. Once you hit the midpoint it is all downhill from there! For this last race, I aimed to train every day. There were many days when I failed to meet this objective. The difference between success and failure came down to one thing…just getting started. After the first step, revolution, or swim stroke, I was moving forward…and the faster I started moving the harder it was to stop. I’ve had the same experiences in business. On the most difficult days, when the biggest decisions have to be made or the toughest conversations must be had, once started it all becomes a bit easier.
3. While it means a lot to set a great example for my daughters, to support a foundation, and to make my friends proud, at the end of the day I race Ironman for myself first. That’s not intended to sound selfish…I just think it is the reality of the situation. It’s my goal, my struggle, and my excuses that must be overcome. I am the one that is living and experiencing all that the race has to offer. And if I honor my commitments to myself and achieve my goal, the byproduct of this is that my family is proud and I’ve modeled “never give up” attitude for my girls. I think business in the same. I choose to go out each and every day to build the most successful business ventures possibility because I believe it is what I am designed to do. Yes, I believe there is some ego involved with this, and I am okay with that. I want the pressure on me, and I want to be responsible. And I’d like to think that if I do my part, my business partners benefit just as if they own their responsibilities and crush it, I win as well.
4. You race exactly how you train. You can’t show up on race day with a “PR” mindset and goal unless you’ve completed your training sessions with PR-esque intensity and commitment. I’ve learned this one the hard way. On race day, I always have this idea in my mind that I am going to have the greatest performance of my life. But have I actually trained to the level required? In Kona, I had tricked myself into thinking that I’d have my best time yet. But the reality is that, now a couple of weeks post race, I can objectively analyze my training leading up to race day and know it was truly only marginal. I missed too many days, my nutrition was not perfect, and my intensity lacked at times. I was operating on “hope” – and hope is never a great strategy, in Ironman and, of course, in business. You can’t expect to nail that presentation, negotiate that amazing deal, or make that game-changing hire unless you trained properly for the days, weeks, months, or even years leading to that moment.
5. Getting to the finish line matters most. For me, while I have all of these goals – time, physical performance, smile factor (how often I actually laugh at myself during the race – I know this sounds crazy but I gauge my experience by the number of times I recognize I am actually having fun) – the absolute, most important and non negotiable goal is FINISHING what I started. I do not care if I have to crawl across that finish line. No way am I going to make the sacrifices I’ve made to get to race day to not complete what I started. Now, this concept is a tricky one when comparing it to business, because there are times when you’ve truly given a business or a project all of the focus and time required, yet you must consider pulling the plug because it is just not working. That said, if it is truly something you believe in – that you’ve poured your heart and soul into – then you must give it your all. You must exhaust all efforts, change your thinking and strategy if necessary, remove your ego, change the model, etc. to get to the finish line. There are so many businesses that have been created with one direction in mind only to entirely change course and develop a product or service never envisioned. This was done because of the relentless pursuit to get across the line.