Making Sense of Leadership, Teamwork, and Professional Life

Prepare for the Worst, Hope for the Best

Running Shoe

Every race means a new goal and a new challenge.  I’m not always ready for them.

I have been training to run a 5k for the past few months.  I set a pretty aggressive goal time for myself, and I prepped like crazy to hit it. Unfortunately, as the race got closer I saw my hopes of achieving my goal slipping away.  My times were improving incrementally, but I wasn’t nearly fast enough.

In the week before the race I made peace with the fact that I wasn’t going to hit my goal this time, and I grudgingly set a more realistic goal for myself.

Race day came and I ran with no real pressure.  Amazingly, once I got close enough to the finish line to see the official time I realized that my pace was way ahead of schedule.  I sprinted to the finish line like a madman and finished 4 seconds faster than my original goal.

PREPARE FOR THE WORST, HOPE FOR THE BEST

Ironically, preparing myself for the worst took the pressure of “failure” away and improved my performance.  Seeing my final time flash on the clock was extra thrilling because I had mentally prepared myself not to achieve it.  It was a real “I can’t believe this!” moment.

DO THE WORK

I enjoyed my training sessions, but I was discouraged after many of them because the times weren’t what I was hoping for.  I didn’t realize how even these “slow” sessions were bringing me closer to my goal.

My training took over on race day.  I ran in a relaxed state, admiring the sunny day and the autumn colors of Upstate NY.  I gave no real thought to my time until the very end of the race.  But I had trained diligently enough that I was on “auto-pilot” and didn’t realize how fast I was running.  Do the work even if you don’t see immediate results.

FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL – THE PROCESS, NOT THE RESULTS

Four seconds.  One, two, three, four.  In a race of 3.1 miles, that was the difference between me being overjoyed that I met my goal or being disappointed.  That’s a razor-thin margin for achieving happiness.

Interestingly, right after the start of the race I had to pause because my right shoe became untied.  It probably took me 10-12 seconds to stop, tie my shoe, and rejoin the race.  What if it had happened again?  I wouldn’t have met my goal.

Would that have meant my race was a failure?  I don’t think so.  I controlled what I could, and circumstances in this case allowed me to hit my goal.  Either way, ultimately the next steps are the same for me: Regroup, reflect, revise strategy if necessary, and get started again.  There’s always another challenge coming.

PS – Many thanks to Meggan at roadwritten.com for inspiring this post with her fantastic article “Don’t Expect Anything”.  Check it out.

2 Comments

  1. Meggan on November 7, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    Brian, I love this! I think the best way to summarize it all, like you said, is to focus on the process. *That’s* where the reward should be, every second that the process is taking place. And if we’re finding reward in every second, well, that’s a lot of reward–ha! Especially glad to have read this as I’ve had a little fitness slump lately, so it’s helping me remember not to focus on results 🙂

  2. Brian Rollo on November 8, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    Nice summary – thanks Meggan!

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