Endurance Runners Are Like Entrepreneurs

In writing for Inc magazine, Patricia Fletcher draws a comparison between entrepreneurs and marathon runners. In addition to being a little crazy, she says both have a plan to follow that prepares them for success. The performance for which you are judged is predictable from the “practice” that leads up to it. Here are Fletcher’s observations about the right mindset both need–

Get comfortable being uncomfortable for long periods of time.  Believe it or not, this will become a badge of honor.  Most of your work as an entrepreneur requires you to try new approaches, to push yourself beyond your limits. This means that you will fail a lot. You will struggle for funding–a lot. You will lose customers and opportunities–a lot. It’s all part of the training process. Your response to rejection is as good a determinant of your entrepreneurial ability as your response to success.

Adopt a resilient mindset. You are going to have some tough days; days when you question your own sanity and want throw in the towel.  Much like a marathon, the entrepreneurial experience is long, twisting, and filled with ups and downs. Every successful entrepreneur and marathoner I have talked with believes mindset is either your biggest asset or your biggest barrier. The pros handle it by maintaining an objective mindset that looks at setbacks as opportunities for improvement.

Embrace others like you. Working in a vacuum is not going to help you finish the race. Runners find running partners or join running clubs. They get faster because they push each other. They become stronger because they share tips for nutrition and avoiding injury. You can do the same thing. 

Connect with other entrepreneurs. Get together to practice your pitches, test your demos, and talk about go-to-market strategies. Working together will give you practice and insights while creating the relationships that will push you forward.

Don’t over-train. In my first few years as a runner and professional, I over-trained, thinking it would make me stronger and better, and prove that I belonged. Instead, I burned out. You will not succeed if you have 10 No. 1 priorities. Identify your top three goals. Don’t do anything that won’t make a big impact on your progress toward those three.

At conferences, I have heard several speakers tell up-and-coming women entrepreneurs and executives that they should say yes to any high-profile opportunities. I disagree. Go after new opportunities only if they’ll help you achieve one of your three big goals.

Measure. A good plan incorporates key performance indicators to track your progress. It also helps lessen risk by proactively addressing problems. What measurements will tell you that you are making progress?  How often should you track your progress?  What are your biggest obstacles?  Which do you need to address and which can be ignored? 

As someone who has been a distance runner for over 30 years, I can relate to each of these. When I was competing, I had a mental edginess honed from the daily effort I put into psyche and development of my skills. As an entrepreneur, I have  been more successful when I have brought my “A” game to what I do. How about you?


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