Before I begin this article, I want to make something perfectly clear. I have absolutely no business running marathons.
As much as I try, I do not eat particularly healthy, my running form falls somewhere between concerning and horrifying, and I have spent the majority of my adult life at a weight somewhere between 30 and 50 pounds heavier than the runners that will cross the finish line in under 3 hours this morning. You are not dealing with an expert here.
But, somehow, I have managed to run 26.2 miles continuously and I have also tried my hand at this whole entrepreneurship thing. The subsequent words are about the parallels between the two.
The destination sounds dope
I signed up to run a marathon 5 months before race day. When I committed, the destination was easy to visualize. The race website was full of captivating images of successful runners crossing the finish line, rejoicing with their friends, and drinking beers post-race. I was excited to share in this euphoria.
I knew at the end of the race I would be in much better shape, have proven to myself what I am capable of, and have achieved an overwhelming sense of personal accomplishment. This potential feeling of success, despite being 5 months away, was enough for me to take the leap.
People take their crack at entrepreneurship for many of the same reasons. When you start, you have a vision of what it will be like to bring your idea to the world, have a positive impact on people’s lives, and maybe get lucky enough to make some dollars one day.
I imagine building a successful business comes with the same overwhelming sense of personal accomplishment as a running a marathon. This vision of success is enough for a lot of people to take the leap.
The process can suck
Do you know what they fail to mention when you sign up for a marathon? They fail to mention that the race — yes, the 26.2 miles — is actually the best part.
On race day, you have thousands of participants sharing your pain each step of the way. You have crowds lined up with hilarious signs (“Remember, you paid to do this shit,” is probably my fave) to keep you going. And you have water, and electrolytes, and bananas, and oranges, and energy gels hand-delivered to you each mile.
Do you know when you don’t have any of that stuff? During the training you do to get you to race day.
They don’t tell you that you need to carve out 1–2 hours a day and 2–4 hours each Sunday to run. They don’t tell you how it is really freaking hard to carry enough food and water with you when you run 15+ miles on your own. And they definitely don’t tell you how mentally challenging it can be to run 20 miles by yourself when it’s 40 degrees and your headphones die on mile 16. The process can suck.
Starting a business is much of the same. When you see the success stories on TV or read about them on Forbes, you can forget that the success at the end of the road is the best part. Along the way, you need to deal with a lot of hidden challenges. They don’t tell you about how difficult it is to not make a normal salary, to work any and all hours to get done what’s needed, to get rejected and face uncertainty. The process can suck.
You must learn to love the process
A few months into training, I was complaining about my training and that I couldn’t wait for the race to just get here. A person far wiser than I told me I was setting myself up for failure.
I couldn’t find success just counting down the days until the race. I needed to learn to love the process.
What surprised me was how simple they said it was to make this change. I only needed a shift in mindset. Instead of focusing on the struggles of training, I began to appreciate the positives.
As much as it sucked, I began to see training was also incredibly rewarding. I was getting in better shape. The long runs gave me time to myself each day. I could reflect more than before. Each run made me a little mentally stronger.
Without this change in approach, I would have built up too much resentment for the process, and I would have come up short on race day.
I’ve now realized the same is true when starting a business, or for any other long-term struggle in our lives. If your vision of success is the only thing that drives you and you complain about the process, it will be incredibly hard for you to put in the necessary work each day. You need to fall in love with the process of getting there.
A lot of finding success in life is simply how you approach the challenge at hand. This holds even more true when you are staring down some particularly scary-ass monsters.
Learn to love to process and you can slay dragons.