Last weekend my husband, Josh, went to Lake Placid and completed the Ironman -- a race that involves a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and essentially a marathon, a 26.2 mile run. Regardless of the unbelievable fact that he came in 5th in his age group and did it in under 10 hours (yeah, it's hot, no question), I found an interesting lesson in watching him get the idea to do it, train for it, complete it, and recover (currently.) Within Ladies Who Launch, I see women launch great ideas and businesses every day. They have brilliant minds, backgrounds, product or service ideas, philanthropic hopes and dreams - all of it. As an organization our job is to provide the tools, community and resources for them to meet their goals and be as successful as they want to be. But, you know what we can't do? We can't focus them. It's each of our jobs to focus our own distracted, ambitious (and lazy) selves...and not only innovate with ideas but actually do something about them. I watched my guy train for up to six hours a day, chart his progress, follow a rigorous sleep and eating schedule and cancel or amend plans in order to prioritize his goal; qualify for Ironman World Championships in Hawaii in October. Nothing, literally, nothing, not even the car that hit him 2 months ago and sent him to the ER or the recurring knee spasms or subsequent thumb surgery would get in his way.
Here's what I learned about goal-getting from my uber-focused bedmate:
1. Seemingly small decisions can make a big difference. Josh peed down his leg in order to save time in the race. Was it easy going 22 miles an hour on the bike and taking a leak? No, but he saved 3 minutes which was the amount of time it would have cost him not to qualify.
2. Listen to your gut. At one point, a fellow racer ran alongside Josh with some calculations based on how fast they'd have to run in order to qualify. Initially, Josh was relieved to hear the numbers--it allowed him to run a little slower than he'd planned and rest a little. But instinct kicked in and he left the runner after a gut sense that he'd need to pick it up. Sure enough, that guy didn't qualify.
3. Prep for conditions unknown. The one wish Josh had going into the race was, "I hope it isn't
raining with thunderstorms while I'm on the bike." Sure enough, it rained the entire time, with thunderstorms the entire ten hours. Know that conditions will be rough sometimes; in fact, he thought it would be hot and sunny and applied generous sunscreen which ultimately was useless. The marketplace is the same way.
4. Know it will be hard. He told me he doesn't think he's ever taken so much pain in his life. And as the great Steve Prefontaine said, "It's not who's the best, it's who can take the most pain." Josh said his quads were in so much burning pain that he had to break up the run into small goals in his mind. "Just let me get to that red barn" or, "the top of that hill will mean only 4 more miles." The entrepreneurial road is much the same - small goals met lead to a big finish.
5. Finish it. I don't know what kind of depression or profound level of dissatisfaction would have resulted if he didn't finish and qualify for Kona - but I do know that for those of us who have long-held goals that we just don't quite reach, there is an aggregated affect on our overall well-being that ultimately is depressing. Keep the finish line in mind---and of course this is contrary to what every Chicken Soup book will ever tell you about the "journey"--but truly, keep the finish (whatever that means for you) on your radar. It's going to be different for everyone--but even small finishes, the daily ones, are critical to building long-term happiness and success.
Follow Amy Swift on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SMARTYAmy