Why not? Let’s sign up for an Ultra Marathon (>100km in 24 hours). What do I have to lose? I haven’t done one of those before. On reflection ultra marathons and business have a lot in common.
Before the Race / Project Starts
- Say Yes then Figure it out – in business we often agree to taking on something new that we have no idea how to do. It may be a promotion or a new project. For me, my first ultra-marathon was the same. If you haven’t done it before, it doesn’t mean you cannot do it, so say “yes” and then enjoy the journey.
- Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail – planning is key. In a 100km race, typically you finish it in your mind before you start. It is the same in business, we plan our next steps, our next weeks, and our next months out in steps, as to how we are going to achieve our goal.
- Preparation is key –What do you need at each check point? Do I need hydration, nutrition, sunscreen first aid supplies? It is a similar question in projects – what do I need at each milestone, how do I track my progress and what resources do I need for the next stage? Do I have enough time, do I need more support?
- Value of research and advice – when training, it is essential that you research what techniques and processes are best for you. What nutrition is best for you, when do you need to rest, how have others done it before. It is import in business to have done your research and received the best advice possible, or to build in an allowance through trial and error when things haven’t been done before.
- Mindset is key – even if you have never completed 100kms before you need to believe that you can. Never once did I think that I wouldn’t make it. It is the same with business, it is important to believe in yourself, your business, your product and that it can make the difference you need it to make.
During the Race / Project
- Slow Down to Speed Up – Often at the start of a project or race we get excited and go faster than we have planned. In business, going faster means that we can miss important foundational steps. In a running event, going faster than planned at the start means that you may have not have the energy to finish the race in the timeframe you had hoped to, or worse still, you may suffer an injury and not finish at all.
- Have plans that are adaptable – (eg spare equipment at station that is visited several times in the race) – I love the saying “fail to plan, plan to fail”. Every 20kms or so there was a Check Point which provided the opportunity for me to leave a bag with extras in it. In mine I had spare socks, shirts, hats, bandaids, sunscreen, food, water, electrolytes, phone chargers and much more. I didn’t know what the conditions would be like so I wanted to be prepared. The same in business, unforeseen things happen all the time. It is important to have plans that can be flexible. Who would have predicted COVID prior to January 2020?
- Check Points – at each Check Point I was able to review my progress, my health and my status. In business it is the same, each month, each quarter, each year we review our progress against our Operational Plan.
- Treasure the Moment – the saying “it is about the journey not the destination” resonates at every level. In business, if we only focus on the outcome, often we miss the experiences and the personal and organisational development opportunities along the way. We meet new suppliers, work with new team mates and learn new things. So too on a long run. We meet interesting people, we learn about ourselves, we gain insights for the next long run and we experience moments we will never experience again.
- Value of Team Work – behind every successful individual is a great team. In business the more effective our team is the more effective our outcomes are. On my run I found amazing people who became my team. There’s the people I train with, my family who support me, a gentlemen who walked the whole way and stayed with me for 50kms and we finished together. And there are the volunteers who make the event happen, think of them as the staff who go the extra mile, even in their own time, to help the business succeed.
- Celebrate Success Along the Way – with projects we break the task into a series of notable events as milestones and celebrate them we go. This also happens in in ultras. It is so important to celebrate small successes in business as a series of small wins become large wins. Celebrate throughout otherwise the project or ultra will seem like a huge unachievable task.
- Break down large projects into achievable steps – most projects seem unachievable when they commence, the same applies with an ultra. However, if you use project manage principles of breaking down the stages you will be successful. The first milestone, the next and so on. The same with ultras – the first 10kms (1/10th), the first 50kms (1/2), the last 10kms.
- Accept help when offered – we are often offered help and usually we decline it. Don’t! You never know what you will learn if you accept the help. In my first ultra, By the 80km mark I was so tired I was even accepting help with getting my water pack off and letting the volunteers fill up my water. Only later did I reflect that they were there to help and wanted to help. The same applies in business. Often we are given advice that we don’t take, imagine what would happen if we accepted the advice and the intention with which it was given.
- Run your own race – this is so important! In business we do research and wonder if we should do things this this way or that way. You are in business as you are an expert at something, have a unique product or proposition or a unique market niche. The same with ultras. You have a plan – stick to it. I started the run with a friend and within 2kms had passed her. I felt bad as it would have been enjoyable to have company. Another friend then left me at 5kms. I felt like I should try to keep up with her. Thank goodness I didn’t, I would not have kept up with her pace and would have burned myself out too quickly.
- Policies can be broken – in business policies are the broad principles of how your business does things. In business policies are reviewed and updated at least annually. If the policy isn’t working, then the business should change it. The same applies in sport. If what you are doing isn’t working for you, review it and change it.
- Value of Advisors – in life, in competition and in business, a lot of other people have done what you are trying to so before you – whether it be building and selling a business, developing a new product or doing things differently. Find that advisor and learn as much as you can from them. The same applies in a long run – every person that you walk/jog with talk to and learn from. Some will have done the event or the distance before and have great advice for you.
- Stay positive – every cup is half empty and half full – what you focus on is key.
After the Race / Project Finishes
- Review your Race – as soon the project is over it is important to do a project review and capture your learnings. It is the same with an ultra. What did I do well? What would I do differently? And want do I want to remember.
- Share your Wins – in both business and life we love good news stories. No matter what you have achieved – share it. It may be the motivation that someone else needs to try something new, to set a new goal, to make a career change, to learn from or to simply enjoy your experience.