I meet with Jim Rippey today to talk about training together to run the 2011 California International Marathon. Jim is a world-class snowboarder, but he’s never run a marathon. I’ve done 8 marathons and at least that many half marathons since 2004, but my last marathon was in 2007. I was training for number 9 when I injured my foot, and it has taken a LONG time for this old body of mine to recover.
Only a few people run marathons hoping to win a trophy. For almost everyone, the goal of running a marathon is to finish, and if possible, to finish strong. The single most important thing you must do to finish is to show up at the start line well prepared and healthy. You can’t finish a race you never start, and you will finish strong to the degree you are well prepared, have a plan you are committed to execute, and are flexible enough to deal with conditions in either the weather, the course, or your body that were not part of your “best” plan.
Getting to the start of the race well prepared and healthy is a lot of work. The thing I love so much about marathon training is it is actually more of a mental challenge than a physical one. If you train properly and put in the miles, your body will reach a level of fitness, and once your body reaches that level of fitness, it can do things you never imagined possible.
The real challenge is between the ears. Even when fit, your body will often tell your mind "let's quit." Your body will never make it to the start line without planning, commitment, learning, adaptability, confidence, patience, and resilience; these are all matters of the mind.
Likewise, the real challenge to your leadership effectiveness is between your ears. If you are willing, you can train yourself to be a better leader. In fact, if you want to stay in the race, you can never stop training yourself to continuously start and finish your leadership strong.
Your hands can work, your feet can take you where you need to be, your face can smile, your eyes can look for opportunities, your ears can listen to learn, your mouth can speak to encourage others, but all these functions depend upon your mind. If your mind is strong and healthy, you have a chance to lead well, but if your mind is unprepared and lazy, leading well will be a mere dream for you and a nightmare for your constituents.
Leading well requires continuous and disciplined training. That’s your responsibility. Neglect the training, and you’ll never be properly prepared for the start. Start unprepared and you might make it a long way down the road, but you won’t finish the race.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!