Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Two Life Lessons That I Learned From Two Half Marathons

I had the privilege to run 2 half marathons (21.1 Km) on back to back Sundays. Samarpana Run (Run with Jawans) in Bangalore on 24th-Mar and Punjab Dailyworld run in Mohali on 31st-Mar.
Each moment of life teaches you something but life's learnings are magnified excessively if you are participating in as highly intense event as a marathon. Though I didn't run full marathon time, the experience before and during the run did teach me some valuable lessons that I intend to share here:

1. You get what you ask for:

My trip to Chandigarh was planned at the last minute and I had no intentions to run there. After I had boked my tickets, I happened to see a tweet from Mr. Munish Jauhar, an entrepreneur and an avid marathon runner himself. He was pacing for 4:30 full marathon timings at the upcoming
Punjab Dailyworld run. His message called out to sign up for marathon and said it's the last day to register. Somehow I missed the last day part but I did inquire about the full marathon cut off . As I had put it in my task list to register, when I clicked the registration link after a couple of days (casually assuming I had all the time in the world!), I was a bit disappointed to see the run being sold out. I was quite keen to run but my pre-registration actions didn't match my keenness.

My quest to find ways to sign up made me to tweet Mr. Munish to check if I had a chance. He asked me to DM and put me in touch with one of the race organizer, Mr. Avii who has super helpful in getting me to register out of the way.

This experience reminded me of a little story I read in the entrepreneur Alok Kejriwal's book- 'Why I Stopped Wearing My Socks'. Alok narrated a story of his early stints with entrepreneurship with his grand father. They had recently won an contract of supplying drinking water via a tanker to
ONGC. While driving the tanker into ONGC, he seemed to have casually spoken to Security Incharge. The Incharge had gotten miffed and put all sorts of roadblocks for Alok to succeed in his venture. He was in despair for many days at lack of progress when a chance conversation led him to contact Mr. Ruia who had a stake at ONGC. Though Alok's issue was seemingly minor for a high flying executive to allocate time to, but still went ahead and asked for his help. And eventually, his issue was resolved. Alok shares his learning on the book-

'The more significant lesson I learned was that the busiest, most successful people in the world are available to help others if approached. All that one has to do is ask! Entrepreneurs thrive best when they regularly connect with accomplished people who can mentor and guide them. There are mentors out there waiting for you to ask them for help.'
This is exactly what my marathon sign up experience taught me, if I hadn't asked, I wouldn't have run and that would have robbed me of glorious experience and the high of finishing a half marathon.
In my experience at work, one of the most unlikliest of reasons for have seen people not achieving the success they otherwise deserve is that they hesitate to ask for help. It is difficult to show vulnerability that comes with asking for help, but in a longer run, it is worth an effort. Being comfortable with our own vulnerability is a bridge one must cross when in quest of glory.

2. Your chances of success grows proportionally with no. of people cheering for you

One thread that binded both the half marathons that I ran was the energy of support staff.
Running a long distance event can be a lonely business. The road towards finish line is often arduous and painful- both physically and mentally. During the course of the run, you don't have a luxury of coaches, the comfort of your friends and family- all that you have is your solitude and the will to take the next step.

Most long distance runs have aid stations that provide water, some sources of carbs and energy. In my experience at Samarpana run and the Punjab Dailyworld run, the energy and enthusiasm provided by volunteers at the aid stations mattered a lot. The folks manning these stations selflessly served the runners and regularly pumped up the runners with their words.
Their words and selfless gesture of serving the runners in the heat and dust helped to keep the energy levels unbelievably high during the course of tough route towards the finish-line
In my mentoring sessions with people, one of the things that I often say is that your chances of success amplifies if you manage to form a group of people who help plot your success behind your back. Any authentic positive feedback shared about you goes out a long way in ensuring your success in the organization.

How does one create a network of cheerleaders? One simple way is it becoming a giver (like the support staff of both these runs). Embracing a mindset of giving (and not necessarily expecting something in return) eventually help create a group people who find you dependable and hence would feel compelled to help you. There may be rare exceptions to this but Adam Grant's book- Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success provides a data-oriented perspective on the subject of giving in the context of organizations.

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