Starting a Business is like Training for a Marathon

31 Mar

"Pittsburgh Marathon"

My Next Challenge

For those of you who have experienced the daunting task of starting up a business or have trained for a marathon will completely understand the comparison between the two.  I, for some crazy reason, decided to do both at the same time! The business plan started to take shape about a year before the launch.  The marathon training started about six months before the race.  Neither would be successful without the proper planning and training.  Each day and each week, progress was being made.  Small little milestones were being met.  And each time I’d take a look backwards, I couldn’t believe where I had been.

Sometimes when we look at the big picture….it’s simply too big!  Twenty-six and two tenths of a mile is a LONG way to run.  Starting a successful company and generating enough money to cover overhead, pay yourself, and have some left over to reinvest seems like light-years away.  So, let’s not look at the big picture just yet.  That mountain we’re climbing is just a little too high right now.  Break down the ultimate goal into smaller attainable goals.  Daily goals, weekly or monthly…. it doesn’t matter, just scale the main goal back and enjoy those week to week milestones.  Those little achievements will fuel your engine giving you the energy needed to face and conquer next week’s goal.  Before you realize, you’re half way up that mountain.  You can see the top, but more importantly, you can see the bottom (where you started).  And that progress feels GREAT!

While working for different non-profit organizations that supported the business community, I recognized an unmet need that I knew I could fill.  But how on earth does a person who has little to zero tolerance for risk go about starting a business to help stabilize and grow other businesses?  The answer is very simple.  In two words, it’s called a BUSINESS PLAN.  Now of course nothing completely removes that element of risk.  But we certainly can minimize it.  And when I took a hard look at the root cause of my own problem with risk, I discovered that it basically was a derivative of a fear of failure; Something that many of us face.  Oddly enough, we’re all born with only two natural fears (and fear of failure is not one of them).  The first natural fear we’re born with is the fear of falling down; the other is of loud noises.  All other fears are learned.  Not to go too deep here, but my point is that these fears can be conquered.  Businesses can successfully start and grow; even for those who fear the worst.  I’m living proof that it’s possible!

You may be asking yourself, “What does training for a marathon have to do with starting and growing a business?”  Well, it honestly wasn’t until I heard Bill Rancic, Season One Apprentice Winner, make the comparison last week at a Women’s Leadership & Development Conference.  He referenced that successful entrepreneurs take the marathon approach in their business.  To prepare the body to run any distance (5K, 10K, 1/2 or whole marathon), one must follow a training program that develops the legs, lungs and heart to sustain the vigorous exercise.  When running longer distances, you’re just trying to get to that next telephone pole or the next mailbox.  (again, those little milestones).  Before you know it, you’ve just completed this amazing run that you never thought possible.  Ironically, it was last fall when I saw Al Roker (from the Today show) complete the NYC Marathon.  I thought to myself, “Amy, if Al Roker can do this, you certainly can.” Although I frequent the gym several times a week and would consider myself physically fit, in no uncertain terms could I ever consider myself a runner.   But Mr. Roker was the inspiration that caused me to put that challenge to myself.  I had to start training so that I could begin the training plan.  (if that made any sense)  But this non-runner just completed 7 miles last Sunday and will jump to 8 miles this coming weekend.  Never in a million years would I ever have guessed this to be possible.  I’ve never experienced a greater sense of accomplishment.  The Pittsburgh Marathon is May 15th and I’ll be running with thousands of others, crossing that finish line with hopefully one big smile.  This year I’m doing the 1/2, but next year…it will definitely be 26.2!

The lesson here is that all things are possible.  Plan accordingly, use those small milestones to keep you going, keep one eye on the finish line and the other on the starting point, and most importantly….enjoy the journey.

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