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The Route – Week 25

Querencia

“A ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what a ship is built for.” – Unknown

Last week, we discussed getting out of your comfort zone.  Recently, I decided that I needed to get faster.  The only way that a runner can get faster is to . . . run faster.  That meant stepping firmly out of my comfort zone, cranking up the speed, and sweating like a wildebeest.  It meant that at least two of my weekly runs were going to be at paces that I have previously reserved for “speed work.”  It meant pushing the envelope and seeing what this Long Island lawyer could do.

Now, stepping outside my comfort zone isn’t exactly safe.  Running faster means that I have a greater potential for injury.  It also means that I’m done sooner.  Over the last couple of months, as the speed increased, I discovered that my new “normal” pace was a full 90 seconds per mile faster than my old pace (and still dropping).  And, I wasn’t working any harder!  Sure, I was going faster, but my heart rate was the same, my recovery was faster, and I was uninjured.

Many runners leave their comfort zone in one act of mad abandon.  Suddenly, they run 10 miles when their longest run was five, or try to run 8 minute miles when their best has been over 10.  Bad idea.  Leaving your comfort zone doesn’t have to be an epic voyage on the scale of Columbus discovering America.  You can, and must, do it deliberately and with a plan.  But, whether in running or in business, leave your comfort zone, you must.

The former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Carly Fiorina explained why:

“In bullfighting there is a term called querencia. The querencia is the spot in the ring to which the bull returns. Each bull has a different querencia but, as the bullfight continues and the animal becomes more threatened, it returns more and more often to this spot.  As he returns to his querencia, he becomes more predictable. And so, in the end, the matador is able to kill the bull because, instead of trying to do something new, the bull returns to what is familiar – his comfort zone.”

Like the bull, there are times when you are threatened by uncertain, difficult, and even dangerous situations.  The pressure to make money, keep employees working, and to grow your business can be daunting.  Failure is not an option.  At those times, experience can be your biggest enemy.  It’s tempting to hide under the desk and do those same well-worn things that you’ve always done rather than move boldly in another direction.  It’s tempting to avoid the discomfort of something new or untried.

Successful runners and successful business owners do not retreat.  They are accustomed to being uncomfortable and intuitively understand that the feeling of discomfort is a sign that they are doing something right and that they are making progress.  They may be small steps, but they keep you moving in a different direction.

So, if you are tempted to sit still, remember the bull.

Cheers,

Anthony


The Route – Week 24

The New Normal

“I’ve always taken the philosophy that you have to dream a little in this sport. If you stay in your comfort zone, you’re not going to do anything special.” – Deena Kastor, 2004 Olympic Marathon Bronze Medalist

When you get right down to it, a runner’s stock in trade is discomfort.  We leave our comfort zone by running faster, or longer, or both.  But leaving one’s comfort zone isn’t always about getting faster or going longer.  Sometimes, it’s about just getting back to normal.

My friend Vince is a much better runner than I am.  He’s done about a dozen New York City marathons and countless other races.  Last year, he had knee surgery and some other medical issues that kept him out of the NYC marathon, and kept him off of his feet and the road for months.  Vince doesn’t like that.  When he started running again a few weeks ago, he was frustrated that his pace was slow and his stamina wasn’t what he expected it to be.  Although Vince favors Facebooks posts that urge us to celebrate and enjoy what we have, when it comes to running, he can’t follow his own advice.

Vince isn’t one of those guys who has a small comfort zone.  In fact, I’m not sure that he has a comfort zone at all.  He pushes himself all of the time because that’s the only way he knows how to be.  Like Steve Prefontaine said, “to give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”  Vince lives by that advice.

You and your business should too.

Whether you are a runner, or a partner in a Long Island law firm, or both, you should always be striving to get out of your comfort zone.  Life is about being uncomfortable.  Was it comfortable when you first learned to ride a bike?  Was it comfortable when you first learned to play piano or ride a horse?  What about driving a car?  Once you left your comfort zone and experienced the unsettling feeling of something new and foreign, what happened?

The discomfort kept you engaged and paying attention.  The discomfort helped you learn, change, and develop.  Eventually, whether it was driving a car, riding a bike, or running a business, you developed the skill to manage your new normal – a life that now included those once foreign activities or skills.  Over time, what was once impossible or difficult became commonplace.  You were uncomfortable for a time and then adapted.  In short, your little foray from your comfort zone helped you to progress.  It also extended your comfort zone where other, different activities or experiences are now just out of your reach.

So, if you want a little adventure and some new experiences, join my buddy Vince in the land of discomfort.  If not, stay out of his way.  He’s back on the road.

Cheers,

Anthony


The Route – Week 23

Aglets and Other Useful Stuff Part II
Or
Nasal Strips and Other Useless Stuff Part IV

“Each person holds so much power within themselves that needs to be let out. Sometimes they just need a little nudge, a little direction, a little support, a little coaching, and the greatest things can happen.― Pete Carroll, Head Coach of the Seattle Seahawks

I love racing.  All kinds of racing.  Track and field.  Formula 1.  NASCAR.  Horse racing.  There is something very elemental about a good race.  Clear winners, clear losers, no Russian judges – Just the competitors working as hard as they can against each other.  Kind of like your business.

Because I promised that The Route would be about running, I guess we should focus on horse racing.  Unless you have been living under a huge rock, you know that, a little more than a week ago, American Pharaoh became only the 12th horse in history, and the first in 37 years, to win the Triple Crown.  Although jockey Victor Espinoza was on board for all three historic wins, it was trainer Bob Baffert who orchestrated the whole thing and brought the best out of his horse.

Baffert is a Hall of Fame trainer who finally won the Triple Crown on his unprecedented fourth attempt.  Including this year, Baffert has won four Kentucky Derbies, six Preakness Stakes, two Belmont Stakes, and two Kentucky Oaks.  Before all that, Bob was winning quarter horse and then thoroughbred races for quite some time.  It’s an understatement to say that he has experience.

In short, Bob Baffert is a Sage.  And, he has everything to do with your business.

The final person that every business needs is The Sage.  Every business, even Long Island law firms, needs a Sage to survive and flourish.  The Sage has been in business for a long time.  She has oodles of experience, can minimize stupid or emotional decisions, and can focus you on what it takes to make your company great.  The Sage has seen success and failure, and has survived both.  When allowed to do her job, she teaches, manages, and mentors.  She brings out the best in everyone around her.  She is a steadying influence who can positively impact the direction of a business and help it find opportunities that might otherwise escape it.

If you are a start-up or a very small business, you need to find a Sage.  As one of my clients says, not only does it have to be someone that you trust, but “it has to be someone who loves you.”  If you are a larger operation, you need to hire the Sage as a manager or consultant.  She will help you drive your business forward and teach you to operate on the next level without her.

American Pharaoh proved that, regardless of whether your business is racing hundred million dollar thoroughbreds on the greatest stage on Earth, or running the local hair salon, a good mentor makes all of the difference.

So, go grab yourself a piece of hay and chew on that until next week.

Cheers,

Anthony


The Route – Week 22

Aglets and Other Useful Stuff
Or
Nasal Strips and Other Useless Stuff Part III

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work.” – Vincent Lombardi, American football player, coach, and executive

For the last couple of weeks, we have been discussing cleaning house (personally and professionally) of the useless or dangerous people and things in our lives.  In fairness, as you went through that exercise, I bet that you found a whole bunch of people and things that were very useful and that deserved more attention.  Said another way, nasal strips are great when you are sleeping even though they are basically useless when you’re running.  Sometimes, even the most simple item or job can be crucial to your business – or getting out of the door for your run.

I promised that this would be running and business blog so here it comes.

As proof, I give you the lowly aglet.

Huh?

The aglet – the plastic or metal tip on the end of a shoelace that is simplicity in the extreme.  The aglet is something we only think about when it’s not there.  Aglets stop the ends of our laces from unraveling, make it easier to hold the laces when lacing, and make it easier to thread the laces through the eyelets.  You only really notice them when they aren’t there and it takes longer than usual to re-lace your shoes.  No crisis there, but point proven.

There are certain types of people who are crucial to your business.  You may know them as John, Mary, Elizabeth, and Bill.  I see them a bit differently.

  • The Center of Attention – At first glance, you might mistakenly label this person as arrogant or rude. In reality, they are just creative. Their minds move quickly and they’re often bored.  They can be a problem if you don’t manage them properly, but when you do, they can bring attention to your company like magnets.
  • The Money Machine – The Center of Attention attracts attention.  The Money Machine attracts – just that.  These people inherently know how to increase revenue and your bottom line.  They are amazing CFOs, salespeople, and overall money makers and you should listen to them.
  • The Master – Masters see the whole chess board.  They are comfortable at the 30,000 foot level and map out successful strategies.  Think Steve Jobs.  If you have one and don’t let go.  If you don’t, find one and don’t let go.
  • The Networker – Networkers are connected to many diverse groups.  Think Mr. Wolf in Pulp Fiction.  They use their contacts and simply get stuff done.  When you are stuck, it’s the Networker that knows who can get you unstuck, fast. (Mr. Wolf – “That’s thirty minutes away. I’ll be there in ten.”)
  • The Gladiator – These folks are fearless.  Failure is not an option and the Gladiator knows how to cut through the red tape and get it done.  If you lack initiative, find a Gladiator, keep her well fed, and stay out of the way.
  • Mr./Ms. OCD  – This person is structured and detailed oriented.  They are usually taken for granted, like the aglet, because they are tacticians who keep the organization running smoothly by paying strict attention to those things that you choose to ignore or wish away.

There’s one more person that we all need in our business in some capacity, but the aglets on my neon yellow New Balance are frayed – so that will have to wait until next  time.

Cheers,

Anthony


The Route – Week 21

Nasal Strips and Other Useless Stuff
Part II

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.  Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” – Mark Twain

So, when last we spoke, you were going to evaluate those things that you were holding onto, and re-evaluate whether they deserved the space that you have been giving to them.  Maybe you’ve decided to trash that old Apple IIE that was a workhorse or your inventory control system.  Maybe you took a hard look at your friends and your personnel.

It’s hard to sever personal and business relationships, but sometimes it’s absolutely necessary.  There are at least 8 types of people that you and your business are better off without.  These folks are, as John Long, contributor to Entrepreneur, called them – toxic individuals.  They distract you from what’s important and create unnecessary stress in your personal and professional life.  Basically, there is no reason to tolerate these folks and the sooner you rid yourself of them, the better off you will be.

They are –

  1. The Contrarian – Judgmental folks whose purpose in life seems to be to criticize everything and everyone and whose opinion is routinely negative. These people provide absolutely no useful feedback or insight in any situation.
  2. The Green Eyed Monster – The envious are never happy for anyone but themselves and are unable to support you in the bad times (because you deserve them) or in the good times (because you don’t deserve them).
  3. The Control Freak – The Ultimate Non-Team Player, the controlling personality only listens to itself and always has a suggestion as to the best way to do everything from needlepoint to neurosurgery.
  4. The Unjustifiably Arrogant – Arrogant people are better than everyone around them (including the control freak) and they aren’t afraid to let everyone know it. They are not simply confident in their abilities, they are usually unrealistic.
  5. The Victim – Some folks are always the victim. They never accept responsibility for their actions and always have an excuse for non-performance.
  6. The Perpetually Negative – There are people in life and in business who never see the glass as half full. They relish negativity and are always declaring that the world will end.  They are not only unsupportive but they don’t know how to be supportive.
  7. Liars – What else can I possibly say?
  8. Gossips – Rumors are toxic and dangerous. They are a fast spreading cancer that can ruin your life and ruin your business by needlessly spreading negativity.

Now, as a Long Island lawyer and a runner, I have experienced both sides of the personality coin.  Although the eight personalities do exist, runners are generally supportive and encouraging folks who are fun to be around.  Lawyers are, well – lawyers.  Sometimes, several of these personalities can exist in a single person.  I don’t have a lot of patience for any one of the eight flawed characters, let alone several of them in one body.  Just like a good long run helps get the toxins out of your body, a good cleanse of your business from toxic people will make it healthier.

Cheers,

Anthony