It started off as a crazy thought. But in November 2009, drawing inspiration from my CEO who had just run the New York City marathon, I decided to run the Philadelphia City half marathon. Later in 2011, I went a step further and also completed the New York City marathon, one of the most challenging courses on the world marathon circuit. From the time I first started training to run the marathon, the lessons that I learnt and the parallels I drew gradually strengthened my conviction that the marathon is a compelling metaphor for our arduous corporate life. It was a discovery that was too momentous to keep to myself, and I felt I had to share it with others.
The Marathon Mindset
The first lesson I learnt was that anyone who wants to run a marathon must re-programme his or her thought processes and attitude. Believe it or not, a marathon mindset is a sporting, yet intense mindset that allows us to focus on finishing well rather than ‘winning’ the race. That is not as preposterous a concept as our conditioning might lead us to believe, for being a winner is about much more than just coming first. Ask any marathoner, and you will be told that the key is to relax your body, put your mind at ease, and keep running. But most important of all, it is enjoying what you do. Likewise, the key to success both in the corporate world and in life is to do well by staying united with the others around you in a spirit of comradeship and enjoying the run.
This takes me back to a strange incident that took place when I was in danger of losing steam during the New York Marathon. Just a few yards before the Queensboro Bridge, probably the toughest part of the course, I was slowing down to a walk. ‘You don’t want to slow down here,’ said a voice that was loud and clear enough to penetrate my ears even with my iPod earphones in them. I turned and saw a beautiful woman striding alongside me. ‘The bridge is just around the corner. Come with me.’, she said with a smile. Till we crossed the bridge, she kept pace with me, and then she raced ahead. We had never met and it is unlikely that we shall ever meet again, but that little act of extending moral support to someone competing in the same race epitomises the true spirit of a marathon runner. Everyone who crosses the finish line is a winner. Till then we are all fellow cheerleaders!
A marathon mindset will not only make you successful but also bring meaning, joy and contentment by defining many aspects of your life. You do not look at everything from the perspective of whether you’re winning or losing, but imagine that you are running alongside others in the larger race of life. Only in a marathon does a fellow runner egg you to keep going.
In a world that places utmost emphasis on winning, even if it is by trampling over others, can running the race really be as important as winning, if not more so? And will such a ‘paced’ approach – that is, a long-term view of your work – help you achieve your goals at all?
Look at it this way. Such a shift in your perspective would radically reposition you for long-term success without your ending up all frazzled and burnt-out in a hyper-competitive environment. Can’t imagine how that is possible? Well, believe me, it is! My own life is a powerful affirmation of this. Through the pages of this book, I shall be sharing with you the secret of living life holistically on your terms, holding your own and actually emerging a winner even in the frenetic environment of today, without losing your mind or your health.
I have distilled more than twenty years of work experience all over the world to offer this alternative, for work was never meant to be a drudgery. It ought to be a compelling expression of all that you are passionate about and a true reflection of yourself. In this chapter, we shall be looking at what the marathon mindset is all about, and later go on to explore why it is unique and how you can adapt it not just to add a special dimension to your life but to change it altogether… and emerge from your ‘cave’. So what are some of the unexpected discoveries you will make when you go for that paradigm shift from a sprinter’s mindset to that of a marathon runner?