Last week, the Wall Street Journal published an article ‘Secrets of ‘Ultra Geezer’, America’s Fastest 70 Year-Old Distance Runner”. The article references Gene Dykes, a 70 year-old runner who recently ran a world record sub-three hour marathon in a time of 2 Hours, 54 Minutes, and 23 Seconds. For mere humans, running one 6:39 mile (Dyke’s average for the 26.2 miles) is an accomplishment – the type of thing that would qualify one for lower insurance premiums in one of those internet special life insurance ads. In addition to being an inspirational story, there are some important business takeaways from this story.
Dykes admittedly was not a star at an earlier age having been a mediocre track runner in High School and in College. Later, he ran as a hobby and not necessarily to get faster – but just to stay fit.
According to the author Jason Gay,
“What makes Dykes’s rise to record-setter so striking is that he was, by his own admission, a very average runner until he got a coach in his mid-60’s.”
Lesson 1: It’s never too late to get a coach, someone who can help you define and execute upon your personal or business objectives. Often when you are in a trap, doing the same thing day in and day out, it might be that you are doing right thing with the wrong focus. Someone who shares your vision and who can challenge you in the right direction is invaluable.
Dykes did something extra valuable, he hired a local trainer named John Goldthorp, and told him he wanted to win his age group in the Boston Marathon.
Lesson 2 Engage in transformational goal setting. Without clear objectives neither you nor your coach will fully benefit from the work you do together.
In the process of his preparation, Dykes added two important components into his plan. The first was competition. He began racing and according to Dykes, “There’s a big difference between racing, and just going out there and jogging for the fun of it.” The second component was to take himself out of his comfort zone and pushing himself – but also to take the adequate time to recover between challenging activities.
Lesson 3 Be mindful about pushing your entire organization to higher levels of performance… sales, productivity, innovation, efficiency, community outreach… but at the same time allow for taking care of the business at hand. Push to improve and be careful to preserve what you have. Create a balance.
Dykes has distilled his resurgence and elevated training regimen into a simple, easy to communicate mantra – “Just Run”. He understands that there are many nuances to his training regimen and his competitiveness but if he obsesses on the minutia, he will likely miss his objective.
Lesson 4 Keep it simple. Focus on the importance of the big blocks in your strategy and it will be easier to include the details into you execution.
Finally in Dykes’s “Just Run” philosophy is something far more important and that is connecting to his purpose. Dykes in his desire to win his age group at the Boston Marathon is finding an important vehicle that defines his life. When, in the New Year, you target competitive strategies like Customer Centricity, Digital Transformation, Internet of Things Strategy, Innovation focus, New Sales and Service Paradigms, or other important transformations, know that the process in its execution will define your business.
Woody Allen is famous for his quote “80% of success is showing up”, an important lesson that whatever you seek for creating better outcomes for yourself and all of the stakeholders in your business life, it is important to show up and get started. Many will agree that as stilted, contrived, and sometimes uncomfortable as family and friend conversations seem to be around the Holidays that the outcome generally is extremely valuable. These conversations result in better connectedness and understanding and more meaningful relationships.
Lesson 5 Important transformation requires you to start and consistently try. It may feel uncomfortable and messy, like a holiday dinner, but if you can commit yourself to being there and working on your initiatives – not keeping them locked up in your own special place – you will be much better for it.
So, as Dykes reminds us that we should endeavor to age slowly, we should also be assured that in our business life, things can get better and better every year, if you commit to making it happen. Just Run!
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