It’s Thanksgiving time, a time that always finds us counting our blessings… this year perhaps even a bit more than usual. It’s also a funny time for us at AAB, as 9 years ago we filed all those business-y paperwork things, just before we headed out of town, appropriately enough, to a wedding. So, in addition to gratitude, I do often find myself reflecting on where we are in work and life at this time each year.
Last week I had the opportunity to run the Philadelphia Marathon. It was a long route to the race itself as I had been slated to run on behalf of the LES Girls Club in NYC before Sandy came to town. A friend, knowing all the work that had gone into the prep, encouraged me to still run a race in 2012 and so I registered for Philly (the amazing people there opened up 3,000 new slots to NY runners displaced by Sandy and raised nearly 200K for Sandy relief in the process). We found out a week before the race that I had spot and so Team Xochitl hit I-95.
In the course of running 26.2 miles for 4.5 hours, you definitely have a lot of time to think. And while some of my thoughts involved “Hey, there is a Dunkin’ Donuts… I could just sit there until this is all over.”, most of my thoughts were a lot more positive including more than a few ‘Ah Ha’ moments about business that I thought I would share. There is no new ground covered here, but it’s all good stuff to remember from time to time.
Here are 5 business lessons I learned while running a Marathon, (shared so you don’t need to bother running one).
1. It always looks easy from the outside. I’ve been watching Marathons as a spectator for years and always thought “I could totally do that”… I of course would see them at mile 8 or 9 and of course, I was also seeing them after months and months of training. Even on the race day, Mayra’s husband saw me at mile 22 and was like “It looked like you were having such an easy time.” It’s common as you grow a business to look at your competitors or your mentors’ businesses and think “Why can’t I be doing what they are doing.” or “They get all the best clients.” Know that for every colleague you admire (or even, dare I say, envy) there are hours of work (training) and prep to make it seem so effortless. And know that for every hour or year that you push through in growing your business, you too are making it seem effortless to someone else.
2. Remember, no one told you to do this. At mile 23 I saw a woman on the sidelines with a sign that said “Remember, no one told you to do this.” I had a minor mental crisis and thought “Geez, I guess she’s right. No one did tell me to do this. Why AM I doing this?” and then I thought… I’m doing it because I can, and because I chose to do it, and I was choosing to finish. And I put a smile on my face. Every business has highs and lows and good clients and “bad clients” and it’s often easy to get mired in a “Woah is me.” But remember, no one told you to start this business. No one tells you to keep it open. You’re here because you chose to be here and so, bask in that choice and the freedoms that choice allows you.
3. Goals are TRULY achieved through small steps. This is probably the most trite thing ever, but progress/ change/ goal actualization is rarely achieved in one large dramatic swoop. In the middle of the race, I felt like it just seemed so…long.. And then I realized in the time I thought those thoughts, I had moved closer to the finish. And each training run was a step closer to being able to run the marathon in the first place. If you own a business, you probably have goals. Don’t let your goals become failings because you haven’t completely realized them yet. Instead, embrace each small step you have taken towards them. If you sent out a Real Wedding and it didn’t get published, don’t see that as a failing. See that as one step closer to having that editor know who you and your brand are (because it’s true… not just a nice thing that I’m saying to make you feel better. I don’t actually say nice things just to make people feel better.) If you are actively taking small steps towards a bigger goal, you’ll eventually get there.
4. Small Failures are preparation for Big Successes. For me, training was miserable. My weekly long run was usually a struggle. I thought of these runs filled with cramps (and worse) and dehydration and missed goals because I conked out… and in the week leading up to the race I did everything I could to correct these errors to make this “long run” the best, easiest that I could. Those failed runs were the best preparation I could have for one big success. And that’s true of the worst clients, the hardest venues, the largest IRS bills or what have you… These small “fails” are your training on how to be ready for the best opportunities that you haven’t met yet.
5. You are your agent of change. I woke up on Sunday and the only thing that I knew was that I was going to finish this marathon. I decided that. And that made all the difference, I think. Too often we see ourselves as being controlled by other things: “If only my clients were less whiney.” or “If only my market had bigger budget weddings.” Those things may very well be true, but what’s also true is our ability to say “What can I do to stop by clients from whining.” or “Could I market myself in an area that has a more affluent clientele.” You are your agent of change.
Isn’t that exciting.
In a final note, this fall has been very hard on New York & New Jersey. We are so amazingly proud of our community and how everyone has come together to help each other.. but we are especially proud of our own Anna Leath who has worked tirelessly with a group of fellow Brooklynites to get people out there. They were profiled in the Times this week and I wanted to share that with you all.
Wishing you a very happy and healthy and joyful Thanksgiving!