Which Direction Are You Running?
How one question changed the trajectory of my life
I’ve defined my life by running.
Some of my best memories are running marathons. I’ll never forget running the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Savannah: It was mile 20 or 21 or something like that, and we were crossing through a neighborhood toward the finish line. One very old woman—probably in her 80s—was standing in her front yard waving a huge American flag and yelling, “Y’all are just crazy!” In that moment, when my calves were aching and six more miles felt like 80 more miles, I needed to laugh, and her humor gave me the energy I needed to get to the end.
When I was training for my very first marathon, I followed the training schedule like my life depended upon it. Saturdays were our long runs, and that Saturday Steven and I were leaving to go to Belize for a week. Petrified that my legs wouldn’t survive a marathon if I didn’t do every single training run, I decided to run 15 miles beginning at 4 a.m. Friday morning so I could be back home in time to shower before work. So I woke up at 3 a.m., grabbed my sweet lab (Molly) who had been running every single mile with me, and we drove onto Furman’s campus. I ran 14 miles in the dark. At one point Molly and I ran up to the bell tower and stopped for a second to stare out at the still water, glittering under the sidewalk lights. I looked down at her, and she stared up at me panting, almost saying, “Isn’t this great?” And it was. After 14 miles, we drove off campus with the rising sun creating an orange haze on the dewy road ahead.
To be sure, not all of my running memories are good ones. My elementary school days were full of afternoons after school, running through the neighborhood away from a boy who would yell that I was fat and nobody liked me. In college, I walked out of class one day into the new semester and ran to my car, driving out the front gates and deciding that I needed to take the semester off to regroup. Eight years ago I ran out the door of my house when dealing with postpartum, roaming the streets of my neighborhood and feeling like the trees were going to lower themselves on top of me and suffocate any air I had left in my lungs.
Still, through all of the good and the bad, running has been a release for me. I have an unending amount of energy; when my body is tired, my mind still continues. Only when running do the thoughts slow to the cadence of my footsteps.
And then I stopped running.
I can tell when I haven’t run in a few days; suddenly everything feels SUPER URGENT and messy. The other day I asked someone on the TealHaus team if they had followed up with a client about some information we needed for a project. She answered, “Well, you just emailed them last night, so I was going to give it a day.” Oh, right. It had only been a few hours. BUT WHY HADN’T THEY ANSWERED?!
So a few weeks ago when I began declaring that the house was a “shit show” and we needed to de-clutter, my extremely patient husband Steven suggested quietly, “Why don’t you go for a run?” Good idea.
My house is at the top of a very large hill, so as I ran down, I felt like I was flying. I almost laughed I was so giddy. The sun was shining, the leaves were glittering in their golden bronziness, and the birds were singing. So was Taylor Swift in my earbuds, so I smiled and sang a few words. And then, out of nowhere, it was like the sidewalk came alive and grabbed my foot.
SPLAT. I was down. My phone went flying, my hands landed directly on the sidewalk, and my knee took a hard twist. Damnit.
I did what anybody would do in this situation: I looked around to see if anyone saw me and breathed a sigh of relief when I didn’t see a soul. Okay, ego is somewhat okay. So then I stood up and attempted to brush myself off only to see a piece of skin dangling from my right thumb. Gross. And my left hand dripping blood. My tights were ripped (Lululemon at that) and my knee was covered in blood as well. Lovely.
Sure, I was physically hurt, but more than that, I was ticked off at myself for being so clumsy. I hobbled home, bandaged up, and tried to figure out what to do next.
A sign from the universe.
A few days later I was lamenting my accident to my manifestation counselor (if you need an explanation of who she is, read my earlier blog), and she said simply, “Lindsay, this is the universe’s way of telling you to slow down.”
Nononono. Lindsay Niedringhaus does not slow down. I RUN, and I ACHIEVE.
But crap, maybe she was right. Maybe my heart and mind were tired, and this was the universe’s way of telling me to give myself a break. But how do I slow down? What does that even mean?
Well, physically that meant some changes in my routine. I had been waking up at 5 a.m. to work out at MADabolic, beginning my day with a punching bag and suicides. I replaced this with meditations and hot yoga under dimmed lights. And instead of running, I walked (begrudgingly at first). I also scheduled breaks in the middle of my day to get out and walk some more.
What direction am I running?
It was during one of these breaks that I was listening to an episode of Brene Brown’s “Unlocking Us” podcast. Someone had posed the question, “What do you do if you’re always looking for that something else to make you happy?” Brene’s answer: “So you can never find the thing that will make you happier because you’re not actually running towards something intentional, you’re running from something you don’t want to dig into.”
I stopped, rewinded the podcast and listened again. And at that spot on Earle Street, standing on the sidewalk, I asked myself, What direction am I running?
In nine short months I’ve built a team of six women who have taken on 19 clients. We—all of us, not just me—were working harder than we’ve ever worked in our lives. During these months, we’ve celebrated some huge wins: rebranding two companies, launching a website for another, helping a third get their processes organized, empowering several others with the tools they needed to succeed. We have extremely happy clients. So why did I still feel like I needed to run?
Because, to put it simply, I am afraid to fail. Beginning a new company is scary as hell. You’re putting yourself out there to be judged. You have companies trusting in you and relying upon you to give them what they need to build their businesses. You shake hands and make promises and create contracts that say, “Yes, we will do this, and we are the best at it.” You have phone calls and emails and texts all day every day at all times of the day from clients who always need more and more and more. The pressure of it all can be all-encompassing.
And somehow, in all of that, I lost focus of what I was building. I was running away from the possibility of failure, and that left me in this constant state of frenzy in which nothing would ever be enough. I would continue to run and run, this big fear monster following behind me and never disappearing, so no matter what direction I ran, nothing would ever scare him away.
I’m not the only one running away.
The irony in all of this is that I see this “running away” with many of our clients as well. To be sure, we do have those wonderful clients who trust us to do what we do best, and for them, the process is seamless from start to finish. What’s more, the plans and materials we create for them are some of our best work because all of us—TealHaus team and the client—understand the direction we’re headed.
And then we have those clients who are afraid, and their fear of failing trumps their vision for their futures. This usually becomes apparent when we’re in the design phase of a project, and we end up creating drafts upon drafts, as the client has forgotten the end goal, instead questioning every single detail and changing directions time and time again. Perhaps using this word instead of this word will REALLY win the audience over!
What’s funny is that no marketing material, whether that be a website, brochure, social media post, or press release, is going to transform your business on its own. It doesn’t matter if we create the most amazing website known to man. Everything we do is a supplement to your infrastructure. YOU are the engine; we’re simply giving you the car that’s built around it. And if you don’t know what makes your engine run, it doesn’t matter what sort of car we build.
Running toward our dreams together.
So that day, on that sidewalk on Earle Street, I made a promise to myself to do what I ask our clients to do on a daily basis: I would stop running away from fear, and begin again to run toward what I dreamed for this company.
I began this company to, put it simply, empower others. For our team, I wanted to build a company that would give them a vessel in which they can manifest their own passions—marketing or others. And for our clients, I wanted to a build a company that is truly an extension of their businesses. I don’t want our clients to view us as vendors, but as coworkers, in which we are all working toward their end goals for their businesses.
So next time you find yourself running, take a moment to pay attention to the direction you’re headed. Whether you’re running away from a fear or toward a goal, you’re expending a lot of energy; may as well use that energy in the most efficient way. And like that woman in Savannah for me, I’ll be on the sidelines waving my flag, cheering you on the entire way. Like her, I’ll probably also tell you you’re crazy, but hey, don’t you have to be a little crazy to keep on running?
See you on the road.