Long-time readers know of my passion for triathlons and especially my love of the “big dog”- the Ironman.
Every other year since 2006 I have competed in this 140.6- mile event.
I often joke to clients and people in my personal life that all the important lessons in life are contained in Ironman.
Well, maybe not all the lessons but quite a few.
The other day I was sharing with a client one such lesson.
I call it “running your own race.”
The Ironman triathlon consists of a 2.4- mile swim, followed by a 112- mile bike, followed by a 26.2 -mile run.
Each participant has 17 hours to traverse the distance.
The races are usually held on a Sunday.
Over two thousand athletes compete in these one-day endurance tests.
One race with over two thousand people is quite a day.
Or, perhaps, is something else in play?
On Ironman Sunday, I would suggest, there is not one race with two thousand people.
What is actually taking place are 2000+ races over the same distance at the same time.
Each person is, in essence running his or her own race.
Pros are competing for prize money.
Elite age groupers are hoping to finish high enough to secure a coveted slot in the World Championship race in Kona, Hawaii.
Others are hoping to achieve personal bests.
For still others the goal is simply to cross the finish line before midnight.
(My goal is to finish in an upright position with a pulse.)
This approach has a profound impact on the way participants interact during the day:
There is an endless stream of encouragement from one athlete to another.
There is mutual admiration and respect.
Each person crossing the finish line is recognized for his or her individual accomplishment.
Imagine what would happen if you viewed your professional and personal life through that lens.
Running Your Own Race- Professionally
What would happen if the people in your organization and you focused, not on what others are doing, but on what makes you and those you work with unique?
What would happen if you chose to compare your organization’s progress to what you have accomplished in the past and improve upon that?
Would that mean you wouldn’t care about others in your industry?
Of course you would care.
One of the main goals in any organization is to move the numbers in a northerly direction.
(Doing so creates more opportunity and makes the pie bigger for everyone.)
Performance is important.
Competitively pricing your services is important.
Market share is important.
Improving is important.
Competition is a fact of life.
I like competing and doing my best.
But I don’t get every client or land every engagement, and my suspicion is neither does your organization.
And that’s ok.
Running your own race means focusing not on the “competition” but on each employee doing their absolute best day in and day out.
Running Your Own Race-Personally
It’s easy to look around and compare our situation to others thinking someone else has a healthier marriage, smarter kids, a nicer house, or a better job.
Regardless of how much you feel you have achieved, there will always be someone who has achieved more and someone who has achieved less.
And so what?
Life is not a competitive sport.
Someone else’s achievement is about them and has nothing to do with you.
In my work with others, I look for one thing—measurable, definable forward movement.
I look to see if people are doing better with their lives today than they were yesterday or last week or last month.
I want to make sure people are getting the maximum amount out of their own abilities.
But, more importantly, I want them to feel good about their efforts regardless of what anyone else is doing by focusing on their own lives and running their own race.
What’s at Stake
When you run your own race you get the sense of accomplishment, satisfaction and pride that comes from doing your best.
You lose the envy, feelings of inadequacy and worry that come from constantly comparing yourself to others.
The race is on.
How you choose to run it is up to you.