In 2013, I started my own company. If you’ve ever started your own company, or even if you haven’t, you probably know what a terrifying prospect this can be. To make matters even worse, I had absolutely no clue what steps were needed to begin, what I had to do to become successful, or if I would even be profitable. I wanted to freak out, but I remembered a simple lesson: I’m a runner.
In 2010, I returned to running after a 10-year break. My son was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and it was extremely challenging to be a good mother to him and continue with my passions at the same time. I had no idea how important running would become, not only to myself and my own self-esteem, but also to my future business. It’s really ironic, I stopped running because I thought that it was keeping me from being the woman, the mother, and the businesswoman that I needed to be, but it turns out that the lessons that I learned from running gave me the framework and guidelines that eventually led to my business and personal success.
Here are the key lessons I learned from running, and how I applied them to my small business:
1. Know Your Why.
If you don’t have a reason to run, there’s no point in doing it. If you don’t remind yourself of that reason often, you might as well just stop now. Every runner has a “why” — they’re running to become more fit, lose weight, or to try out for something. They may be attempting a distance that they’ve never tried before or to break their timed record. There’s always a reason. Business is extremely similar. The entrepreneurial journey is not for everyone, and it can be a very lonely road. People will question what you’re trying to do, why you have to start your own business, why you didn’t think of this or that, and you will question your sanity. Your “why” will be the thing that you reach for to hold onto and push through during those times, just like the sign announcing the final mile can motivate you through a marathon.
2. Embrace Failure.
You are going to fail. Often. It’s a fact. Without those failures, you won’t learn what works and what doesn’t. When you lift weights, you push yourself to “failure.” It’s the very thing that tears you down and builds you to success. If you are pushing, learning, and constantly growing, you’ll always be moving toward your goals and failure is a huge part of that. It will be extremely uncomfortable, disappointing, and possibly even embarrassing, but it’s a key part of the process both in running and in business.
3. Find Others with Your Spirit.
Being an entrepreneur is rough. Your friends and family can be the most supportive people in the world (although many aren’t), but you still need someone who understands what it’s like to be in your shoes. It’s like running a race: Your loved ones may wake up at the crack of dawn and be waiting for you at the finish line with signs and streamers, and that’s wonderful, but they still don’t understand what it’s like to actually run a marathon, and they never will. It’s important to find others who are trying to create something like you, so that you can get feedback and support along the journey.
4. Just Make it to the Next Tree.
Sometimes when you’re running you just want to stop, so badly. You can’t imagine running another second. You’re tired, cold, hot, hungry, sick, and you can’t stand the sight of squirrels or rocks. However, you’re committed to the vision you have and to completing the project, and there are many miles ahead. The only thing that you can do is keep moving forward, even if it’s one tree at a time. By breaking your goals down into small “trees” or pieces, you’ll be able to manage one piece at a time until you’re in front of the finish line.
5. Success is Not a Solo Journey.
Though many entrepreneurs and runners spend long periods of time by themselves, success is a team effort. You’ll need great coaches and mentors, your crew, your community, and your friends and family. They won’t let you quit when you shouldn’t. And when it’s time to call it quits, your crew will be there with you to help you make the hard calls and support you through that disappointment, so that you can live to run another day.
6. The Finish Line is Never Guaranteed.
There is no guarantee that you’ll reach your goal. You may never build your company to the level you want it to grow to, you may never make a million dollars, you may not ever finish first, you might not be on the cover of Forbes or Sports Illustrated, but it’s not about any of that. The process of trying to reach the goal makes you into the person you are meant to be. You may be injured, get lost, not complete the race in the right amount of time, but there’s always another race, another business to start, and some amazing new project to pursue that’s right around the corner. The goal is to love the process, and love who you are becoming along the way.