(Influential Leadership) The “Running Man” Principle To Deal With Challenges

My Problem with Running

Runner Tying Shoes

I love to exercise and am an avid tennis player. In my younger years I used to run regularly to keep in shape. Not that I loved running, but running two or three miles was always a good way to keep fit and clear my head.


Over the years, running was removed from my exercise vocabulary. I have flat feet and running was painful for me. Although I regularly play tennis, I did not run anymore.


I solved the “flat foot issue” by getting orthotics. So I decided to start running again. But it didn’t work. Why? It wasn’t enjoyable – my legs felt heavy and it was difficult to breathe after ¼ mile. I didn’t feel totally out-of-shape, yet I certainly wasn’t in athletic form.


I became frustrated – I should be able to run 3 miles or so. Why couldn’t I do it? Three miles seemed like too big a goal. I almost gave up – but then I found the answer!


The Solution – How Could it Be This Simple?


My wife, Joanne, told me about a program called “Couch to 5K” . It’s a program that transitions you from being a non-runner to running a 5k in just 9 weeks. The program is pretty simple, 3 workouts a week as follows:

  • Week 1: alternate 60 seconds of jogging / 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes
  • Week 1: alternate 90 seconds of jogging / 2 min of walking for a total of 20 minutes
  • Week 3: jog 90 sec, walk 90 sec, jog 3 min, walk 3 min (two sets)
  • And so on.


You slowly build up to 5 minute, 8 minute and 20 minute runs.


The program starts very easy so you build confidence and stamina. As I did the program I felt stronger and stronger. By week 5 I felt I was ready to go for it and I ran 3 miles! A few days later I ran 4.5 miles!


I conquered what seemed impossible in less than 6 weeks. That got my mind thinking…


The Principle / Application


In business and in life we regularly encounter big challenges. For example,

  • the challenge of getting new clients in a tough economy.
  • Or keeping your staff motivated and productive when the company is downsizing.
  • Or selling five new consulting engagements when your prospective companies are tightening their budgets.
  • Or dealing with your teenager…. Fill in your current challenge.


These challenges feel like huge mountains that must be scaled. From my running experience, I came up with four principles (or action steps) that have been helpful when I’ve encountered these type of challenging situations:


1) Don’t focus on the “Mountain”


Big challenges can feel like standing at the base of a huge mountain that you must climb. As you look up at the massive challenge you must conquer, overwhelm sets in and can paralyze you.


Now you need to look at the “mountain” to get clear on where you’re going. You need to know what your sales goal is, for example. However, if you stare at it for too long, you will be overwhelmed and become paralyzed. So if you don’t focus on the “mountain” – what DO you focus on?


2) Focus on The Next Step


It’s much easier to just focus on the next step. That’s what made “Couch to 5K” work so well. It breaks down a thirty minute run into short segments of walking and jogging. Over time, you add more running into the equation and before you know it, you’re successful.


If you need 10 new clients, just focus on how to get the next one or two. If you need to turn the morale of your whole unit around, start by focusing on how to make the day positive for one individual and build on that.


3) Take Decisive Action


Once you have your focus and a plan for the next step, you need to take decisive action. Having the plan for “Couch to 5K” was motivating, but I had to literally “put one foot in front of the other” to make it happen.


The saying “slow and steady wins the race” is totally true. Taking small steps each day will bring you success in big ways.


4) Build Momentum


Success in business and life is all about momentum. It’s the fits and starts that kill us. You make a little progress, and then you get distracted. You’ve just lost momentum. The hardest part is getting started. Once you start moving, it’s easier to keep moving than it is to stop and start again.


When the running gets tough – like when I’m going up a hill – I resist stopping and just look for a landmark 50 feet away and just try to make it there. Once I get to that landmark, I look for the next one that’s 50 feet away. I keep the momentum going and it gets easier again.


You must keep the momentum going each day. Don’t get discouraged, Keep moving little by little. Eventually, you’ll look around and be amazed at the great things you’ve achieved!!


(Contributed by David C Miller.)

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