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Marathon Mindset: 4 Things My First Marathon Taught Me About Business and Life

Nov 10, 2016

As a healthy lifestyle entrepreneur and owner of a global wellness company, I’ve set many 90-Day Challenge goals over the years. But I’m always looking for something new – something that will test and grow me.

Last December somebody approached me about running a marathon. “I’m not a runner,” I told him, as if that simple declaration perfectly explained it all. I mean, why would anybody want to run 26.2 miles consecutively? It’s crazy – and not for me. And that was my mindset.

My opinion was validated while at dinner with my longtime business partner and friend, Nick Sarnicola who explained that the name “marathon” originated from the Greek legend of a messenger who ran about 26.2 miles from the site of Marathon to Athens announcing the Greek victory over the Persians… and then collapsed and died. Not very motivational!

But as I was in the middle of launching 2016 with a massive new Challenge campaign and inspiring thousands of people to commit to going after their own 90-day health goal, I thought about my own story. The only difference between “I am a runner” and “I am not a runner” was the story I was telling myself.

On January 2nd, I committed to a challenge that would change that story. The new narrative: My non-runner self would become a marathon runner in 90 days.

Making a commitment was just the first step. I researched marathons and chose the only race that fit into my aggressive travel schedule: March 19th. (Only later would I learn that this marathon was considered to be one of the most challenging in the world and consisted mostly of hills!)

I filled out the registration form and created a short video that announced my challenge to the world. Making my commitment public kept me accountable and motivated.

I went from struggling to complete a couple miles, to running over 300 miles collectively within 3 months. HOW? By following the same simple business framework I was taught when I was 19 and still apply to my companies today. It’s called GSA:

Goal –> Strategy–> Action

What I learned while running a race and running a company is that we can apply a marathon mindset to business by setting a goal, creating a strategy and then actually doing it. Earlier this year I spoke on this topic during a keynote at a national company conference in Orlando, Florida.

I explained to the room filled with entrepreneurs how when it comes to improving our personal or business life, we can sometimes get stuck in the story that prevents us from growing. Telling myself I wasn’t a runner was keeping me stuck in the story of what once was – how it used to be. So I simply changed the story and turned myself into a runner.

What story are you stuck in right now? There’s always a way to turn the page and write a new chapter. Present circumstances don’t have to determine where you can go – just merely where you start.

When it comes to health, business and life, however, I’ve learned that making a commitment isn’t enough. Commitment isn’t just about saying you’re going to do something; it’s about doing what you said you were going to do long after the feeling you had when you said it has passed.

I remember sitting down with world-renowned leadership expert and longtime personal mentor of mine, John C. Maxwell when he said: “Blake, your talk talks and your walk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.”

Are you walking your talk in business? In life?

Lately I’ve been focusing on applying what I’ve learned from completing my first marathon to my day-to-day decisions and routines.

Here’s four simple steps that can help you build a Marathon Mindset – in business and in life.

1 – Make a public commitment

Announcing my goal on my social channels prompted my friends and friends to make sure I followed through with my commitment.

I’ve seen time and time again how going public with a goal increases support and accountability. It’s actually the first action step my company’s customers take whenever they start a challenge: set a goal and make it public. It increases the likelihood of achieving it.

2 – Put in the time

Even the best runners don’t just spontaneously sprint a marathon; they design a training regimen, develop a strategy and action plan, and put in the hours every day. In those three months of all that training, I also spoke at company events, attended worldwide tours, oversaw our company operations, and tried to balance life as a husband and new father of a 3-month-old son.

I didn’t have the time, but I made the time. I woke up a little earlier every day. I prioritized my calendar. I didn’t spend time thinking or reading about running – I just ran and increased my mileage every week.

For almost 20 years I’ve worked alongside entrepreneurs – some of whom have started businesses and became frustrated only a couple months in because they didn’t do as well as they wanted.

But progress and success always come down to putting in the time. I agree with what Malcolm Gladwell said in his book Outliers: The Story of Success in that it takes around 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in something.

3 – Keep going

I’ll never forget the feeling that came over me on race day when I hit mile 13 – that’s where I hit the wall (metaphorical one)! And although it was on the only flat part of the entire hilly course, my body started shutting down. I could barely move my legs. And there was a moment – one awful sweaty and exhaustive moment – when the fear entered my mind for the very first time: I might not actually finish.

I realized I had to control my inner conversation. Although I couldn’t see the finish line, I had to have faith it was there. I focused forward on the tangible mile markers, with each one feeling like a victory.

Starting a new business or project works the same way. There might not be a tangible finish line, but we can still have a vision: a picture of the success we want. Failure happens only if you quit.

I learned the value of perseverance at age 19 when a previous company I was a part of went out of business. At that time, I had every reason to stop, but I kept going. Later the 2008 recession collapsed my current company, but I kept going to turn it into a successful global lifestyle brand. When others said we were financially done, we put all our money back in and kept going.

My partners and I were willing to go through the problems that others weren’t. When in doubt, just keep going.

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4 – Run your own race

When I announced my marathon challenge on my social channels, I asked people to share any relevant advice. Somebody commented on my post: “Blake, when you go in, run your own race.” Those words particularly resonated with me.

I followed that advice. I knew there would be people who would pass me, and hopefully there would be somebody I would pass. But my success would not depend on comparing myself with anybody else. I set out to run my own race at my own pace, and conquer the hills one step at a time, one mile-marker at a time.

Every person – whether it’s in business or in life or on a dirt path – will face hills, challenges, and ups and downs. There will be times when they’ll slow down or speed up. If we focus on those who are running past us, we’ll be tempted to look at our own selves and feel bad. Instead of cheering them on, we will diminish ourselves.

It’s easy for us to get caught up in what others are doing and get lost in comparisons. But I believe that comparison is the thief of happiness. Competing against others gets you bitter; however, competing against yourself gets you better.

During my race there were some people who passed me on mile 12, but I passed some of them on mile 19. The important thing was that I ran my own race. I conquered my own challenges, which made my rewards even that much greater.

Watch the video recap of my Marathon journey here.  Feel free to comment and share.

In this adventure called life, whatever race you are running and whichever finish line you are focused on, always remember to run your own race!

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About the Author: Blake Mallen is an Entrepreneur, Angel Investor, Philanthropist, and the Co-Founder & President of ViSalus, a global healthy lifestyle brand. Blake has been featured in industry publications as well as speaks at national conferences and international events on the topics of social marketing, brand building, organizational culture, entrepreneurship, leadership and personal growth. Connect with Blake at https://blakemallen.com/contact/.

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