How a Marathon Can Teach You About Business

Daniel Chapman on 25 November, 2009

Participants in a marathon

Every year some friends and I participate in the Nagoya Marathon, well at least the 10 km fun run section.

Usually I do a little bit of training in the months before the race and as a result I usually finish in the top 20% of runners. This year though, I was really busy with various things and did basically no training, resulting in my worst ever time and putting me just inside the 70% mark.

While running the race this year, I noticed something very important - the flow of the race. Anyone who's done a lot of racing in scenarios with a lot of participants probably knows what I mean. It's the average pace of the race as a whole, and is very easy to spot once you know what you're looking for.

If you want to spot it, just ask yourself are most people moving away or towards you?

I never really paid attention to the flow before this year, because I was previously always moving faster than the flow, but it suddenly became very apparent to me when I was moving slower than the flow. Even though I was passing individual people, every time I lifted my head I had a sinking feeling from all the people who were pulling away from me.

Just like the marathon, in business you are either moving faster than the flow, equal to it or slower than it.

When you look at the backs of your competition are they coming towards you or moving away?

Also like in the marathon, winning small victories over some of your competition doesn't necessarily mean that you're moving faster than the flow. It's only when you can take into account everyone in your industry, even if not direct competition, that you can start to gauge how well you're doing.

At Ninja Forge, it sometimes seems as if we are beating the flow, we've been releasing lots of updates and products and adding new team members, and indeed our income has been slowly growing over time. We have even bought out a couple of competing sites and extensions in the past. However if I have a look at how fast some of our successful competition has grown, and how fast the Joomla community itself has grown, I get that same sinking feeling that I had during the race. The feeling that we are not keeping up with the flow anymore, even though in the past we had been a leader.

Also, just as with a marathon, one of the best ways to improve your performance in business is through training and study, and more importantly application of that study. You can learn all you want, but it doesn't do you any good until you use it.

Luckily however, there are some important differences between business and a marathon. The most important of which is that you can improve your fitness and performance at any time in business. Once you start the marathon however, you have to finish with the same fitness level you began with.

I've had a lot of free time lately as I have been unable to work for long periods (the reasons for which I will go into another post) and after some study and introspection I found a lot of things that both myself and Ninja Forge haven't been doing as well as we could and the team and I have started implementing some changes. As a result, we should have some exciting developments for you all over the next couple of months, and I intend to put us back firmly in front of the flow as we have been in the past.

As a bonus for you our community, I will also be posting some reviews of books and other information that I found useful in my studies, in the hope that some of you will find them useful as well.

I can't possibly stress too much how important constant study and ongoing development and improvement is to business success. We no longer live in the 1960s and 70s, and if your business isn't already preparing today to meet the needs of tomorrow, then you are almost definitely behind the flow or soon will be.

What about you? When was the last time you read a book about your business area? or at the very least, what about an insightful blog post or article (and not just a "top 10 best XYZ" list)? When was the last time you took stock of your business and yourself and how you are performing compared to your competitors?

Just keep in mind, that like me with the marathon this year, if you aren't doing something to improve your business fitness, how can you possibly ever be successful?

Your Response

  • Good post.

    I got busy this year, too, and skipped my local Marathon completely after running 4 in the top third of my group.

    I miss it. I am determined not to let it happen again.

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