The Stopping Wish
“Why couldn’t Pheidippides have died here?” – Frank Shorter to Kenny Moore at Mile 16 of his first marathon
There is a psychological phenomenon called ‘The Stopping Wish’ which affects us when we are about 75% through to our goal. In a marathon, that happens around Miles 18 or so. That’s when our mind tells our body we’ve done enough. It’s time to stop.
I ran 18 miles on Saturday. I destroyed my personal records for 5K, 10K, the half marathon and for 15 miles. I would have been happy to stop there but … Pheidippides died at Mile 26 (Mile 25 actually, the marathon became 26.2 miles at the London Olympics in 1908 to accommodate a request from the Royal family). So, I trudged another 3 miles.
Frank, I feel you.
Eighteen miles is a long way and I was satisfied when I was done.
Eighteen miles is also 8.2 miles short of the distance that I have to run on November 1.
Using runner’s math – the bizarre and often complex mathematical calculations that all long distance runners engage in at about mile 16 or 17 – I calculated that 18 miles is about 75% of the way to 26.2. This post is about 3/4’s of the way to the end of the year and this season of The Route.
Three quarters is an odd number. It’s substantially more than half way, yet substantially short of being done. Eighteen miles is when it’s too late to quit and still too far to see the finish line. You have traveled 95,040 feet. You have learned things about yourself that you never knew. And you are about to learn a whole lot more over the next 31,680 feet.
Some businesses are at the starting line. Others, like my 18 miler and my Long Island law firm, are much farther down the road. Those entrepreneurs have run far enough to know that they can never quit. They have learned the lessons taught by the distance yet the finish line is still nowhere in sight. Some may be feeling fresh and ready to go. Others might want to walk for awhile and regroup. Others might just keep plugging away, putting one foot in front of the other. Still others might want to stop and call it quits completely. But, everyone, and I mean everyone, experiences the Stopping Wish in some form or another.
How do you overcome the Stopping Wish?
Assuming that the physical components of your business are working, then soldiering on is a matter of using all of the experience that you have garnered through the long and difficult miles to continue on your business journey. It’s a function of putting aside the distractions and negativity and moving forward in a positive and calculated fashion toward the finish line and success.
As the irreplaceable Yogi Berra kind of said, “90% of [running a marathon] is physical, the other half is mental.”
Yup. And the third half is just dumb luck.
A Change of Direction
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” – Dr. Seuss
Dr. Seuss must have been a runner because he perfectly describes the joy of running outside. But as free as runners seem to be, we are also human, we are also creatures of habit, and we love our comfort zone. We tend to run the same few routes every day, mostly because they are familiar. We know the mile markers, we know the potential bathroom stops, and we know, without fail, exactly where we are.
I have been in a bit of a running funk lately. As you can tell, I have been a bit down on myself because NYC Marathon training isn’t going as well as I’d like it to. This morning, I decided to ditch my “new” running regime of 3 minutes of running to 1 minute of walking and JFR (for the uninitiated that means Just F****** Run). I used to JFR all of the time but, this year, I decided that I would do better in the marathon if I used the run/walk method.
My JFR caused me to clock my fastest 5 miles ever. I wasn’t tired, I wasn’t slow, and most importantly, I wasn’t bored out of my skull and constantly looking at my watch to see when the next interval was coming. Ahhh, freedom.
It’s funny that business works the same way. Sometimes, we stay with something for too long because it’s comfortable and familiar (querencia, remember?). Sometimes, we stay with something brand new that isn’t working in the hopes that it just needs more time. Most of the time, though, we know. We know that the new assistant can’t type or answer the phone but maybe, just maybe, he’ll improve. We know that a product line isn’t selling because it’s becoming obsolete but we hold onto it because “we’ve always sold the analog widget.”
Sometimes, new isn’t better. Sometimes, new doesn’t work for your business. Sometimes, you need to change direction even if you’ve already changed direction. Sometimes, you need to go back to where you started and start again.
My Long Island law firm is about to announce a strategic alliance with another firm that will take place on November 2 – the day after the NYC Marathon. This change in direction has been 2 years in the making and, although we all have high hopes for the outcome, we understand that adjustments are going to have to be made along the way to make it all work.
That’s the message for today. In running and in business. Adjust, adjust, adjust. Follow your feet. They will take you home.
Sometimes, You Walk
“If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.” ― Mario Andretti
I took a little break from marathon training last week. I ran a few less weekly miles, but I still managed to run 15 each Saturday. Fifteen miles is a pretty long way, and it takes a while so I usually have plenty of time to think. Runners usually learn something about themselves on long runs.
I learned that I’m slow. Painfully, agonizingly slow. Slow, as in not fast. At all.
Now, that really isn’t a surprise to me and it really shouldn’t bother me. I’m an
aging getting older Long Island lawyer who was never fast. Ever. So, why is it important to me to run a respectable time at the NYC marathon when finishing will be an accomplishment?
It’s not about pride. And, it’s certainly not about ego. I think it’s about never being satisfied. Runners and entrepreneurs have that in common. It’s never enough. We can always squeeze a bit more speed or profit from our endeavors. We can always get more from our employees, our partners, and ourselves if we just push hard enough. Or, at least, we think that we can. Most of the time, we agree with Mario. We are happiest when we are stressed. We are happiest when we are moving so fast that it seems dangerous and out of control. We feel alive on the edge. Rarely, however, do we stop and think about the cost. Sure, runners are concerned about getting injured, but that doesn’t stop us from pushing. Businesspeople are concerned about a lot of things, but it never stops us from trying to accomplish more.
But the real cost, be it in running, in business, or in life, can be far more. Margaret Atwood, the Canadian poet and novelist explained it the best. “Walking was not fast enough so we ran. Running was not fast enough, so we galloped. Galloping was not fast enough, so we sailed. Sailing was not fast enough, so we rolled merrily along on long metal tracks. Long metal tracks were not fast enough, so we drove. Driving was not fast enough, so we flew. Flying isn’t fast enough, not fast enough for us. We want to get there faster. Get where? Wherever we are not. But a human soul can go only as fast as a man can walk, they used to say. In that case, where are all the souls? Left behind. They wander here and there, slowly, dim lights flickering in the marshes at night, looking for us. But they’re not nearly fast enough, not for us, we’re way ahead of them, they’ll never catch up. That’s why we can go so fast: our souls don’t weigh us down.”
Saturday, I learned that I’m slow. I also learned that it’s good for the soul.