Tuesday, December 1, 2015

From 5k to Marathon: Taking Practical Steps

I want to note right away that I have not run a marathon. I have not even seriously considered running a marathon. What I have done is tossed around the idea of running a marathon someday. 
Similarly, I know many young, entrepreneurially-minded folks who want to start their own business someday, but feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all.

Surely, doing either is a daunting pursuit that requires an immense amount of time and energy. However, as with my thoughts of running a marathon one day, budding entrepreneurs are best served by taking small, practical steps to reach their business goals.

Unfortunately, taking small, practical steps is not always exciting. Perhaps this is because such steps are often not as glamorous as the end result. Telling your friends “I ran one mile today” is not nearly as awe-inspiring as stating that “notwithstanding the return of plantar fasciitis in my left foot, I completed 26.2 miles in the grueling heat.” Similarly, as an entrepreneur, telling your friends that you developed a business plan is not as compelling as stating that an angel investor has committed $2 million to your company. 

Notwithstanding the lack of razzle-dazzle, according to research conducted by Harvard Business School Professor Teresa Amabile, small, attainable goals are what keep people motivated. 

This past May, I ran my first 5k. I did it as a Mother’s Day gift to my mom, who is a runner. (She has run marathons, coaches for an elite AAU track club, runs outside during Minnesota winters, etc.) My family participates in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure every Mother’s Day, and we typically walk the 5k. But this past year, I secretly trained for about two months, and when it was time to register, I proudly told my mom that we would be running the 5k. When I first made the decision, I was a bit nervous. I had never run more than one mile, and the last time I had done that was in high school, and it was not because I wanted to! However, after finding and beginning a training routine, I felt more confident. By focusing on the individual workout I had to complete each day, I not only started to amass daily wins (“I’m not as out of shape as I think I am!”), but I also got more excited about running. 

This process is similarly helpful for young entrepreneurs who are starting a business for the first time. Starting a business can feel intimidating. A business plan needs to be created, an entity needs to be formed, capital needs to be raised, business ideas need to be protected, etc. With the laundry list of considerations that go into forming and running a business, fixating on the end goal probably does more harm than good. Instead, entrepreneurs should work to “see the trees through the forest.” That is, they should remain cognizant of the big picture, but concentrate on creating and working towards practical goals. For example, utilizing resources such as this can help identify the relevant issues that need to be considered and integrated into an entrepreneur’s task list as she works to start her business. 

All in all, taking small, practical steps when working towards accomplishing your business goals may be critical to your success. My mom and I just ran our second 5k together (a Thanksgiving Day 5k), and we have thrown around the idea of running a marathon together. While I am not mentally prepared to seriously consider running a marathon yet, completing a 10k does not seem out of reach….

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