The two most overwhelming times in my life came within one year of another. The first was when I ran a marathon in Disney World two years ago. The second was when I started my business seven months ago.
It’s no coincidence that those were the scariest (and most exciting) times of my life. The truth is, owning a business is just like running a marathon. Even though you can spend countless months training and preparing, you can never truly predict what will come your way.
Based on my experience, here are eight similarities between running a marathon and owning a business:
You have to train your body and mind.
You wouldn’t run a marathon without having trained for it, would you? The same goes for owning a business. You’ve likely spent months (or years) preparing to take your side hustle full time. You’ve prepared financially, you’ve taken courses to perfect your craft…and now the time is here. It can be tempting to keep training without ever running the actual race. Force yourself to take off those training wheels and step into the race.
You have to pace yourself.
When the marathon began, I was very conscious of what other runners were doing. I saw some people sprint out ahead immediately and I wanted to keep up. After all, I couldn’t let people pass me right in the beginning, could I?
Luckily I ignored that temptation and focused on my own race. I paced myself and when I reached mile marker 10, I saw some of those early sprinters sitting on the ground, completely winded.
It’s a good reminder for our business, isn’t it? Don’t focus on what your competitors are doing. Yes, it’s good to be aware of what’s out there and how you can stand out. But if you focus on what your competitors are doing, you won’t be able to run your own race. Don’t try to be faster than someone else. Focus on doing what you do well and the rest will follow. Everyone’s journey looks different. Find your journey and stick with it.
You’ll need perseverance.
When training for the marathon, I ran several times a week, including one long run every Sunday that took up the entire day. I canceled plans with friends and sacrificed time with my husband to run. I had to persevere through the pain and the doubt. I had to force myself to get up and run – even if I didn’t want to.
Every business owner needs perseverance. You’ll encounter times when you’re swamped with work – and times when business is slow and clients are scarce. You need to persevere through the tough times and find ways to keep growing your business. You need to navigate difficult clients and people who question what you’re doing. Keep telling yourself that you’re good enough and eventually you’ll start to believe it.
You’ll get tired.
Running a marathon is not for the faint of heart. I remember the exhaustion that seeped through my body during the race. I wondered how I could make it another mile. I wanted to lie down on a comfy bed and go to sleep. What did I do instead? I took another sip of water and kept chugging.
There will be times in your business where you get tired. So tired. Maybe you’re a mompreneur and you’re struggling to keep up with work and the kids. Maybe you’re still working a 9-5 and juggling a side business. Owning a business means long hours, sometimes well into the night when everyone else is asleep. Prepare for those times. Sleep when you can. Accept help from others. Don’t try to do it all on your own.
You’ll want to quit.
Did I want to quit the marathon while I was running it? You better believe I did. I wanted to stop right where I was and take a golf cart to the finish line. But I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I knew that if I quit now, I would never forgive myself.
As business owners, we all have moments (or seasons) where we want to quit. Maybe we think we’re not good enough. Maybe we got feedback from a client that was less than stellar. Maybe we don’t have the support we’d like from our loved ones. No one said this journey would be easy and that there wouldn’t be obstacles. I doubt myself every day. But I never quit trying. I never quit working. And I never quit learning.
And you shouldn’t either.
You have to expect the unexpected.
Anything can happen during a marathon. Since my marathon took place in Florida, the weather was a huge unknown. Sure enough, two hours into the race, the skies opened. I hadn’t brought a case for my cell phone, so I had to stop at one of the medical tents and grab a rubber glove to protect my phone from water damage.
In business, anything can happen. You could gain an amazing new client you never expected. Or a long-term client could disappear at a moment’s notice. Nothing is ever guaranteed and it’s up to us to prepare as best we can. This means stowing away enough money to survive the loss of a big client (or two). It means going on the hunt for new clients and coming up with new ways to market your products or services. Instead of looking at unexpected circumstances in a negative light, view those situations as trials that are shaping who you really are
You need a support system.
I never could have run the marathon without the support of my husband and family. My husband cooked dinner on the nights when I was too tired from training. He gave me tips from his own running experience and helped me stretch my hip flexors (which took a beating from racking up the miles). When the doubts inevitably crept it, my family encouraged me. They told me I was good enough. They believed in me.
They also believed in me when I decided to leave my safe corporate job and go out on my own. I remember feeling concerned that I was letting my husband and newborn son down. Was I making things tough financially? How would we deal with the unpredictable nature of entrepreneurship? But my husband never doubted me for a second. He knew I wanted to juggle motherhood and career – and he told me that if I didn’t make this jump, he would be disappointed in me.
My point? You can’t run a marathon alone and you can’t start a business on your own either. Both take a village. You’ll face times of trial. Times where you aren’t sure you’ll make it. Times when you need to ask for help from others. Times when you need to fall back on the love of the people closest to you. With their support, you’ll be surprised how much further you can go.
You need to believe in yourself.
All the support in the world doesn’t matter if you don’t believe in yourself. I remember passing mile marker 16 during the marathon and feeling the energy drain out of my legs. My knees were sore and I watched as groups of people stopped and sat down, chugging water as if their lives depended on it. I contemplated joining them, but something stopped me. I knew that if I quit now, all the time I had spent training would be for nothing. All the sacrifices I made and all the sacrifices my family made wouldn’t have mattered. I told myself that I could cross the finish line – that I would cross it – and so I kept running.
Days come where I question my abilities as a business owner. I wonder if I’m really cut out for this line of work. I wonder if I should have stayed in my corporate job for longer, until I had more experience. I don’t think those feelings ever go away. But now I know how to react to them. I know that I have to believe in myself more than I believe in the fleeting emotions of self-doubt.
No one said the life of an entrepreneur would be easy. It takes courage, hard work and faith. But the beauty is that you’re creating a life just for you. There’s something to be said for that. Any amount of hard work is worth living the life you’ve always wanted.
What lessons have you learned from your journey as an entrepreneur? What challenges have you faced along the way? Leave a comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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