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Growing a business venture into a successful global brand is like running a marathon. Yet trying to achieve those marathon business goals when your brain is distracted, exhausted and stressed becomes extremely difficult and nearly impossible.
By understanding and adapting some of the critical strategies marathoners use to ensure optimal race performance, you will enhance your business performance and achieve those marathon-level goals.
1. Building resilience and stamina to push beyond comfort
Training to run 26.2 miles is stressful on the body and mind. It’s easy for the mind to be dissuaded and not want to do any more training. Since it’s nearly impossible to run a full marathon in one day’s training, a typical runner’s plan includes training days for long distances and short distances.
The short-run days challenge the mind to develop stamina so that both mind and body will continue to run while tired. These training days keep the runner going when his or her legs and mind are tired and scream “No more!” With practice, the runner continues on and says, “Yes, I can!” It’s hard to eventually get to that 26.2 miles; it’s painful. But runners keep reminding themselves that everyone would do it if it were easy.
Training your mind to run while physically tired is analogous to having mental resilience when you continuously receive rejections. Your job as an entrepreneur is to learn from these rejections always. You need to push past those rejections, disappointments, bumps and failures — don’t give up.
2. Using recovery as a potent tool for growth
Marathon-training runners know that the body cannot be under continuous physical stress. Otherwise, they risk an injury that can take away their marathon dream. So they have designated recovery days according to their performance plan. This process of muscle healing allows them to cover longer distances.
This same applies to the field of entrepreneurship. A common mistake that entrepreneurs make is pushing the brain by working long hours — not just once but continuously. Many entrepreneurs equate achieving their ambitious business targets with working 12-to-16-hour workdays 24/7. They cut out sleep, deeming it inessential. They skip events with family and friends. Yet, these long hours are consequential in more ways than one, sticking entrepreneurs in a cycle of brain fog, low energy and low productivity.
If you’re under constant stress At work, you risk burning out. So, take the marathoner approach: Designate brain rest and recovery days. Rest days for entrepreneurs are when you do not do anything work-related.
3. Getting the right fuel that powers efficient performance
When running long distances, the body will eventually run out of fuel. Runners training to complete marathons need to be aware of what nutrients are lost and take immediate corrective actions to replenish the loss throughout their training and during the race day. If not corrected, it can hinder their ability to finish the race. Professional marathoners work with their coach to design a unique refuel plan according to their physiology, training and race-day strategy.
As an entrepreneur, your greatest asset is your brain, which facilitates the achievement of your marathon business goals. The right brain fuel contributes to how well you can concentrate on a brain-intensive task; how well you stay alert, especially during important meetings and events; how quickly you can think on your feet in investor meetings and client negotiations; And how much energy you have throughout the day to not only produce knowledge-driven results, but also have reserves for personal pursuits outside of your business.
Ensuring that you consume the proper nutrients is the first best step when it comes to supporting your brain. Sometimes, working with a professional can help you map out the nutrients you need in accordance with your unique conditions, just like a runner would when training for a marathon.
4. Using milestones with progressive rewards to get to your goal
Getting to the finish line is the ultimate goal of marathoners. Yet, thinking about the whole distance can feel intimidating and overwhelming. To keep the mind focused on the goal, runners break the distance into specific milestones and match it with progressive rewards. Combining rewards and breaking their distance into attainable chunks keeps runners motivated to complete the marathon.
Progressive and milestone-based rewards are exceptionally effective in the entrepreneurial world. Yet, a common mistake entrepreneurs make is not utilizing this psychological motivation hack to the fullest. Many entrepreneurs don’t know how to reward themselves or their teams appropriately aside from the extrinsic rewards such as titles and salary raise.
Considering the mountainous hurdles you have to overcome as an entrepreneur, you can easily get demotivated without a proper reward system. One of the best ways to include rewards is to break down your marathon-goal roadmap into small achievable milestones. Once you reach each milestone, reward yourself and your team. Rewards can be anything from treating yourself to a break, patting yourself on the back, doing a high-five with your team members or going out for a team dinner. Don’t wait until you arrive at the end result to reward yourself or your team.
5. Staying highly focused to get to the finish line
Runners need to eliminate any distractions that can prevent them from reaching the finish line during the race. On race day, there are all sorts of distractions, especially from other runners. Other runners have their own pace. So if marathoners get caught in a group of runners with a faster or slower pace, it can hinder their performance. If they fall behind the group, it can be demotivating and impact their mental performance. Each marathoner needs to focus on his or her own pace and not keep up with others or get caught in a group.
Entrepreneurs must also avoid getting caught up in the pack and stay focused on the final goal. A common mistake that entrepreneurs make is comparing themselves with other business owners and founders. They care too much about what competitors are doing. They see that their competitors have closed massive rounds or announced global-channel partnerships, and they wonder whether they should be doing that too.
As an entrepreneur, when you start comparing yourself to others, it often kicks in the feeling of not being good enough. You feel that what you have achieved just didn’t measure up to anything. It also starts getting you distracted and away from the actual, real work to achieve your marathon targets. These distractions are costly, not just slowing down your progress, but also taking away time that could have been put toward achieving your goals much faster and dealing with emotional pressures.
It’s not common for people to publicly communicate their struggles or failures. More often, you see the success of other on social media — not the struggles they endured to achieve those successes. It’s like when people see marathoners’ medals and photos of them crossing the finish line instead of the months of hard work and training in the cold and the dark. The rigorous discipline to stick to the training plan and run even when the mind is against the runner. The strict meal plan to keep the runner fueled.
To all the entrepreneurs reading this, don’t get caught up in someone else’s story. Don’t compare your chapter one with someone else’s chapter 20. Remember that you do not know with 100% certainty the challenges that others had to overcome to achieve their goals, and what they have achieved is not necessarily what you need to do. Stay true to your path. Keep your eyes on your target and directions.