Going the Distance


You decide how much you want to improve by choosing how many roadblocks to remove so economy improves past a certain threshold – one where you’re suddenly performing your best at any age.  – Philip Maffetone; The Endurance Handbook

While training for a triathlon I came across the above quote.  Philip Maffetone is a world-renowned medical Dr. and trainer of high-performing endurance athletes.  His patients include Olympic and World champions across several endurance sports including, marathon, ultra-marathon, Ironman and the Eco-Challenge adventure races. 

Much of what Dr. Maffetone teaches centers around the importance of nutrition, rest and long-slow endurance training that builds up muscular resilience and trains your body to use its natural fat content for fuel over long distances.  When he talks about removing roadblocks he is mostly talking about changes to behaviour and mindset that allow his patients to think differently about themselves and the training process in order to go to the next level. 

Life, especially the life of an entrepreneur, is an endurance sport. 

The more I get involved in the triathlon world the more I recognize the similarities between disciplines involved in endurance training and those involved in business and entrepreneurship.  Here are just a few that I have observed so far.

  1. Nutrition

Eating right reaps benefits across a broad range of activities.  Carbs and simple sugars are responsible for most weight gain and general fatigue.  The easiest way to lose those love handles and increase your energy is to cut out the carbs.  Foods heavy in wheat and potatoes like bread, and chips are the most obvious culprits but don’t forget pastas and cereals too.  Just stopping the late-night bag of potato chips for me was worth at least five pounds.  I’ve since virtually eliminated breads and most potato products from my diet and I’ve never felt better, both physically and mentally.

       2. Sleep

A close second to eating right is getting enough sleep.  Your body needs time to recover and repair itself after a long day and hard training.  Nothing provides that time better than a good night’s sleep.  Your brain needs it too.  Falling into a rem state allows your brain to sort through all the sensory data it received throughout the day and never had time to process.  Chronic fatigue leads to mental stresses and physical aliments with some studies even linking a lack of sleep to heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.  Consistently getting eight hours of sleep during the week might not be practical in our hyper connected and high-octane world but a modest goal should be at least 6.5 – 7 hours from Sunday to Thursday with time to catch a few extra hours on Friday and Saturday nights.  I even like to go for a catnap of 20 minutes or so on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons, for me there is nothing better than the feeling I get from catching a few extra zees when I come home from church on a Sunday afternoon. 

        3. Take it slow

Endurance training isn’t about knocking out your personal best every day.  Incremental improvements come by consistently working toward a better time, but you are also training your body physically and mentally to handle the demands of the event.  That means slowing down enough to listen to your body and allow your brain to communicate with your muscles.  Once they know how to talk to each other, then you can push for a better time but that only comes after you’ve developed a solid understanding of what your body needs. 

The same is true in business.    You’re not going to sign the big deal every day.  Especially in a planning-based business like mine, you need to be comfortable and confident enough in your process to take it slow and let the client’s needs and understanding evolve over time.  Slow and incremental development leads to a plan that the client both understands and takes strong ownership in.  Without that ownership your client could move with the whims of the market.  The more your client takes ownership in the process, the less likely they are to leave you when times get tough.

        4. Go Far

Endurance racing is all about the distance covered.  Tell just about anyone that you ran a marathon and they won’t care about your time so much as they will be impressed that you finished at all.  People who have never stuck with something that is hard long enough to see it through will usually look at you with a combination envy and adoration. 

In business, going the distance means setting a lofty goal and then working tirelessly to achieve it, sometimes for years.  When talk about the fact I was involved in 3 Juno award winning projects (Canada’s Grammys) during my days in the music business people are impressed.  But nobody cares about the 12 years of late nights in the studio, smoke fills bars, hundreds of thousands of miles on the road, long days working the phones and endless rejection that preceded that first win.  Or the second win.  Or the third win.  They only care that I was part of something amazing. 

If it takes you 5, 10 or even 20 years to achieve your goal, so be it.  Hard things take time, but they’re worth it.

        5. Repeat

In just about any endeavor, once you know what to do to achieve success, all you need to do is break it down into a repeatable process and just keep doing the same things over again.  The first Juno took 12 years, we won the second one four years later, and the third just two years after that.  It didn’t get any easier, we had just learned the process of recording, manufacturing, promotion and sales that would lead to success and were able to repeat the steps without wasting time on things that didn’t work. The same is true of everything worth doing, learn the process, cut out the redundancies, and repeat what works.

I am sure there are more parallels that I could draw between endurance training and business.  Life is journey, not a destination.  The journey is long.  Eat right, get enough rest, take your time, go the distance and repeat the process and you will find success.  That’s a promise.

 

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