140.6 miles to learn 4 simple lessons

Last Fall I had the opportunity to train for and race in an Ironman in Panama City, Florida. An Ironman is a 140.6 mile race, broken down as a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run. The race has to be completed within 17 hours in order for a participant to be considered an official Ironman finisher. As you can imagine, I had to train countless hours for months in preparation for the race. All of that training taught me four simple lessons, which are applicable to life and business:

  1. Have a goal: It is important to know why you are doing something, because without a goal, you will never achieve the prize. In training for the Ironman, I knew my goal was to finish the race. Without that clear objective, I would not have persevered in getting up day after day to swim and bike hours before day break. In life and business, you need goals and objectives. It defines where you are going and why you are going there. Furthermore, the goal needs to be BIG. Don’t settle for something that is easily attainable.
  2. Have a plan: Without a plan, you will likely fail. As you can imagine, I had a very specific training plan. The plan told me day by day, what I was to swim, bike and run, and when I was to rest. The plan was also designed to look at the big picture, so that my weekly mileages would increase slowly, and I could avoid injury. It would have been foolish for me to simply enter the race and then decide each day what I felt like doing to train. I received expert advice from numerous sources in preparing the training plan, including from other triathletes who had finished an Ironman. In life and business, it is important to have a plan. The plan defines how you get from here to there.
  3. Persevere in adversity: Even with the best plan, you will encounter setbacks. During the months of training, I had two significant bike crashes. Both times I was bruised, scratched, and really sore, but blessed not to have broken any bones. It was hard to continue training, particularly because I had a good excuse to quit. There were also days in training when I did not perform how I expected. On one of my longest workouts, I biked 80 miles and then immediately ran 20 miles. The 20 miles run was really, really slow and painful, but I learned some great lessons, including when and how much I needed to eat and drink during the bike and run. In life and business, it is in times of adversity that we often learn the greatest lessons. There is truth and wisdom in the saying “If at first you don’t succeed, Try, try, try again!”
  4. Enjoy the journey: As crazy as it sounds, I enjoyed the training, and particularly the race. I was able to train with a great group of gentlemen, developing meaningful relationships. There was also the satisfaction in knowing that I was pushing myself, and completing something that was demanding and difficult. Proverbs 14:23 says “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” In life and business, it is the relationships that we form, the hard work we invest, and the hurdles that we overcome that make achieving the goal worth it.

In case you are wondering, I was able to cross the finish line as an official finisher. But as with any goal in life and business, once it is attained, the question becomes: What’s next?