When I was younger, I used to love to run. I started by running 10-kilometer races, and then I graduated to 10-milers, moved on to half marathons, and before I knew it, I was running marathons. People would ask me: “What’s it like training for a marathon?” I’d always have the same answer: “You have to be willing to do some running in the rain.” I’d smile to myself because I knew most people had no idea what I was talking about. For me, “running in the rain” has always been a metaphor for something much greater.
To help you understand where I’m coming from, let me tell you how a person typically trains for a marathon. A race of 26.2 miles is not something to be taken lightly. Most people on this earth cannot just show up and run a marathon, and yet, almost anyone can complete one. How can that be? You just need to have a commitment to train properly. That commitment involves your nutrition and setting goals for yourself. The most important part of the puzzle, however, is the dedication to run a certain number of miles each week.
For me, I made a commitment to run 35 miles every week. I typically liked to break those miles up into five different runs, and each run was a certain distance. No matter how many runs I planned or how long each one was, the weekly mileage total was nonnegotiable. Depending on my travel schedule, family obligations, weather, and personal mood, some weeks were easier than others, but I never missed getting my 35 miles a week in.
Notice I put an emphasis on the word, “never.” That’s because I have always been suspicious and untrusting of the word, “usually.” There are too many things that can affect something we “usually” do. I could fall prey to the voices in my head that were masterful at providing a litany of excuses as to why I didn’t have to run that day, or that week. There could always be extenuating circumstances, which really meant that I just couldn’t fulfill my 35 miles that week.
Now, I don’t mean that I didn’t have my fair share of Sundays with a mileage count that was behind where it should have been, and some of those Sundays were pretty rainy, but out I went. I had no one to blame but myself. I was the schmuck you saw running in the rain.
That philosophy has served me well in business, and in life. When I wrote my first book in 1993, I didn’t have a mentor and I knew little about how to tackle a project like that. What I did know was this: To me, it represented a marathon of sorts, and I approached it in the same way. Instead of a weekly mileage count, I created a weekly page count.
It has also served many others I work with well – including a good friend of mine who is writing a book. I have encouraged him to set a page count he must adhere to each week, and he has never let his busy and challenging life get in the way of achieving the page count he committed to. He still has some unpleasant “Sunday nights,” when he is doing his own kind of run in the rain. He has to stay up very late to write those pages he promised himself he would. He is also on his way to becoming a published author, and it is mostly because he has allowed nothing to get in the way of the writing of his weekly number of pages.
We all hear the same voices in our heads that whine: “It’s just not your week; you’ll get ‘em next week for sure!” Breaking the task down to nonnegotiable, challenging, and realistic bites allows us to never falter. The voices don’t disappear; but they are reduced to whispers because they know we won’t listen.
You don’t have to be training for a marathon, or trying to write a book, to connect with this message. We all set goals; some are immediate, and some are long-term. It’s those long-term goals that require those nonnegotiable, short-term commitments. Sometimes we may hit some cold and rainy Sunday nights, but we still have to lace up those shoes and run.
The next time you pass by a shmuck running in the rain, perhaps you’ll see someone else. If you take a real close look as you go by, you may see what I see; someone with a sense of pride along with a wry smile that says, “next week, I’m going to run in the sun!”