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3 Things Running Can Teach You About Being a Better Business Owner

An out-of-shape, 50-something entrepreneur takes up long-distance running and learns some seriously important lessons about business.
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Health and good business, we all know, go together. If you're sleep deprived and running on junk food and adrenalin, you're probably not only badly placed to make optimal decisions about your company, but you're not even very likely to go on making poor ones for very long--catastrophic burnout will disable any decision making at all very shortly.

But while we're all (rightfully) bombarded with practical reasons to look after our bodies in service of our businesses, perhaps there's a more intellectual reason to hit the gym (or the track or trail). According to a thoughtful article by 50-something entrepreneur Mohit Satyanand on Quartz recently, taking up running can teach you some incredible valuable lessons about how to start and maintain a business.

Slow and Steady

Before you look down at your less than rock hard abs or peek at your gray hairs in the mirror and dismiss this post as only for the younger and fitter, know that Satyanand was far from a health nut when we began his running habit. Spurred on by a desire to impress a pretty woman at a party (and invent a reason to see her again out on a run), he took to ftiness very, very slowly.

"My first jog was 100m long. My second, two days later, was two stretches of 100m each, separated by a two-minute walk. Surfing the net, I found this training schedule that mimicked my instinct. Using it as a rough guide, I took six weeks to hit my interim target of 2km," he reports. Over the course of two years he managed a half marathon.

Satyanand's transformation from couch potato to runner may have been slow and steady (and clearly mimicable for most people), but just because it wasn't the stuff of late night fitness equipment infomercials, doesn't mean it wasn't just as transformative. While Satyanand didn't become a matinee idol overnight, the process of becoming a runner taught him some seriously valuable lessons about his business, he claims.

1. Beta Test

The only way to learn the best way to run, is to experiment. Same goes for your business. You'll never know what truly works unless you test things out and closely monitor the results. "Listening to yourself is key. In the early days, I experimented with different ways to run--longer strides and shorter; on the mid-foot and the front-foot; lots of arm action or not. I was mindful of how I held my lower spine, watched how other runners held theirs," Satyanand reports.

The same goes for your work: "It's like experimenting with different business models and delivery systems for a new business. The most successful--especially in the digital space--have beta tests going all the time."

2. Keep Your Form

Know what works? It can be tempting to push yourself to keeping running even after you disintegrate into less than optimal form, Satyanand found. Resist that impulse whether you're training or executing on your business plan. If you're not working at your best, don't work sloppily and slowly. Take a rest.

"In the second half of a long run, especially if you have a target time, you're most liable to drop form--allow your limbs to splay, your head to roll, try to compensate with the rest of your body for the tired muscles that have been driving you for hours. STOP. Take a break," he urges. "There is only one best way for you to run, and engaging these other body parts is not going to help. If you break form, you're liable to crack. We fashion ourselves, our lives, from awareness of self. When we lose that awareness, to ambition or greed, the results can be ugly."

3. Pace Yourself

Business, like the kind of running Satyanand took up, is along-distance sport. "Every few minutes, as the rhythm builds and the endorphins flow, I'll find I'm running ahead of myself. 'Slow down before you're out of breath. After is too late.' If you pace yourself well, you'll be running most strongly at the very end. And if you can cross the finish line with grace and a smile, well, that's the way to live life," he concludes. It's a beautiful note to end on and a thought-provoking one.

Looking for more insights on where and how entrepreneurship and fitness inform each other? Plenty of other business owner/athletes have shared thoughtful insights. Check them out here and here, or have a look at the science on how exercise improves work-life balance and makes your a better boss.

Last updated: Jul 29, 2014

JESSICA STILLMAN

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.




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