Monday, February 2, 2009

What I learned in grad school, I could've learned in the Kaiser half

Running always gives time for thinking. This weeks half marathon gave me lots of time for thinking (1:39 to be precise) and again my mind turned to work. I find it ironic how many ties running has to the workplace. Why the irony? I run to turn "off" of work - to give my brain a break.

Winding through the streets of the Golden Gate park and around the Ocean, my mind wandered to workplace politics and I found some interesting ties with races.

These aren't necessarily the lessons I'm going to teach the twins - I want them to experience and learn for themselves. That said, I am going to try to help them start in the front - I'm starting that now with a healthy pregnancy diet. I'm also going to encourage them to "be great" - I think I have two amazing people cookin!
  • Those who start further up, have a better chance of finishing first
I started the race with Linz and Brett - we started at the 8-min per mile mark because we weren't planning on sprinting out in the beginning and we knew we waned uneven splits (slower in the start, faster in the end). After the gun went off, it took a good 2-minutes to even cross the starting line - because we started in the middle of the pack, it was a slow start and seemed to slow down all the way to the starting line - then the crowd picked up. Apparently people don't think the "race" starts until you cross the starting line. Because of this slow start we had to weave around groups of runners and walkers who clearly did not plan to run 8-minute miles thus stalling our races even more.

(Side note, even though I started with the 8-min group, I ran 7-7:30s. Not too shabby.)

In the workplace, if you're lucky/smart/good enough to negotiate a good job and salary right out of school, it's easier to "move to the front of the pack" in the work place. You can negotiate better "jumps" when you switch jobs in both title and salary. You're automatically looked upon as a "higher up" which gives many advantages including having an easier time running meetings and managing up, down, and side to side.

  • Backup plans can hold you back - running with money in your shoe hurts!
Not wanting to deal with a 50-minute bus ride to the start of the race, we taxi'd over to the start line. Having no pockets and no-where else to put my cash, I stashed it in my shoe. Matt was going to pick us up (he did) but I wanted extra money in case he forgot or didn't make it. Hence, the backup plan in my shoe. BIG mistake! 3-miles into the run the cash wad was rubbing the skin off my foot. 6-miles into the race my foot was a bloody mess. I wonder if they'll still accept the cash when I go to purchase shoes?

In the workplace, if you're always thinking of an "out" or a backup strategy, you're likely not going to execute on the job at hand as well. There are many examples of this but let's take the careers in general example - if you're always looking for another job for a "backup" you're likely not focused on the job in front of you. Even if you are focused, you're either a scared nilly and not performing to par because you're second guessing, or you just don't care as much as you should. Work doesn't have to be the passion in life, but it should be something you enjoy and aren't always second guessing.
  • Don't run someone else's race - it slows you down
The last 4-miles of the race were painful - after emerging from the park's shade and beauty, we ran along the ocean. Two miles up the ocean towards the zoo, then 2-miles back. The back leg was the WORST. I kept looking at the oncoming runners wondering where my friends were, how the other runners felt, what our times were, how people trained - you get the picture. Then I saw a man collapse coming in the oncoming runner traffic and I nearly stopped in my footsteps. He had a crowd around him and an ambulance came in minutes, but I started feeling so much for him that I forgot my race.

(Side-note - I think helping people is more important than winning. But when the ambulance is there, there's not much else you can do).

In the workplace, if you're constantly helping others complete their job because they can't or they have some reason that you need to help, you're "running their race." On the same point, if you're always looking at someone else's job and thinking "I want to do that" you're both a) not doing your job as well as you could, and b) not going to "do that" because you're not proving you can do what was already tasked for you. Believe me, I've seen it happen.
  • If you think you can go faster or do better, go faster and do better
In running we all try to pace ourselves or hit certain mile or race marks. I was shooting for a 1:37, which I unfortunately didn't get, but I was shooting for this because I've hit it before. The first time I ran a half marathon I was going for a 2:00 - about 4-miles in I thought I could go faster, so I did. Low and behold, I nailed a 1:37. The point is, don't slow down or stick to a slower pace because you think that's what you're supposed to do.

In the workplace the same rule applies - namely, if you're trucking along just getting "good enough" done because that's what's expected, but you know you can do "better than great" - then do it! Don't hold yourself back because other peoples' expectation is that you can't do better - prove them wrong.
  • If you're a walker, don't get in the runners lane - same thing goes for the other way around
The one thing that always kills me in races is walkers in the runner's lanes. I know, this sounds like it's going against the point above but it's different - often people "walk" races - just to walk them, not for time. These are the "walkers" who are supposed to be on the right side of the race lane and they're not thinking of going faster, trying to go faster, or wanting to go faster. They're walkers. As such, they should stay to the left - otherwise, they're putting the races of all those around them in peril just because.

In the workplace, there are people who think "good enough" is OK and who just want to slide by on this logic. That's fine! It's not for me, but it's fine. That said, if "good enough" is OK, don't push it on co-workers. Don't try to hold them down to "good enough." This staying pattern doesn't excel companies, doesn't excel individuals, and certainly won't get you to an IPO or bought (not that I'm wishing or anything).

Curious how I learned all this in 1:39 during Kaiser? I started with the wrong group and got held back from the get go. I ran with a backup plan and got a bloody painful foot because of it. I dodged walkers nearly ripping my groin (again!). All in all, though, I had a good time.

No comments: