By Rod Bolls, founder and CEO of Boxwell, LLC
There are some things that are commonly considered off limits, if not crazy. Things like running 100 miles or starting a business, for example, are not for everyone. Ultramarathoners and entrepreneurs possess an extraordinary amount of optimism, courage, and flexibility, which sets them apart. They stay positive through the pain and focus on the big picture. They are not afraid of putting themselves out there, and often do so alone. They have a solid plan and the drive to see things through. Most importantly, they know how to pivot and make adjustments when necessary.
In sports and in business, the hardest part about taking on the unimaginable is just getting started. But turning a notion into an action can be as simple as taking the first step. Sign up for the race. Jot down your business idea. From there, you can plot out what your next steps will be—from mile one to 100 in a race, or from day one to year five in business. That way, you can be prepared for the inevitable variances to your plan. When you dive into something that is bigger than anything you’ve ever done, you have to be a few steps ahead of yourself and take care of issues before they become problems.
Ultramarathons are often run on rocky, narrow, root-filled, and steep trails with big changes in elevation. If you are getting a blister, take the time to treat it. If you are getting fatigued, walk a bit. And always know where your aid stations are located on the course! Similarly, when starting a business, there are usually a lot of ups and downs to navigate. You need to think about what you could be doing now to make things run smoothly in the future. Talk to your team often; your employees are your legs in a race. Take care of your customers; it’s like fueling your body with necessary calories for the long haul. Keep a pulse on the industry; it’s like knowing your environment and competition at all times.
It’s no surprise that running 100 miles and starting a business will each cause pain and suffering. There are the physical risks with running long distances—everything hurts, bleeds, or oozes. Your mind wants to go to the dark side and your body wants to upheave, break, and stop. The stress of starting a business can also be painful, bringing ulcers, headaches, insomnia, and the like. In order to lower all of these risks and avoid running out of energy (or shutting down), you need to be ready for the road ahead with a can-do attitude. Learning how to suffer should be one of the goals, and that comes down to how much you want it. Pushing through the skepticism and hard times is what sets apart those who succeed from those who don’t. It’s going to be uncomfortable and hard. Look beyond each obstacle and be sure to celebrate your milestones along the way.
Ultramarathoners and entrepreneurs all reach a a point when it feels easier to just stop. It’s those who succeed who have made a clear choice between the doubt and determination in their minds. Once you lay out your own definition of success, you can work toward it. Is it crossing the finish line or completing a race in 24 hours? Is it having 1,000 customers or making your first million dollars? Always have something on the calendar and look at ways you can be prepared for the next race or the next level in your business plan. Having the right amount of support is brilliant, whether that means having enough sustenance along the race or growing your number of employees. Behind every super-achiever is support team of family, friends, and people whose goals align with their own. And it’s never a question of whether or not it’s worth it—of course it is!