I had two night-and-day Boston Marathon experiences: One before the bombs hit, and one after.
The 2012 race was grueling; I barely finished it. But two years later in 2014, I ran the race of a lifetime.
So what was the differentiating factor?
It wasn't fitness or technique. Nor was it effort, attitude or determination.
It's something you can use to boost your performance: managing your energy, rather than engagement.
Boston Marathon 2012
Allow me to explain.
In 2012, Boston Marathon organizers warned it would be a warm day. They even gave us the opportunity to defer to 2013. But I had trained hard, driven for almost 10 hours, and paid a handsome price for my hotel room. I was going to run that race regardless!
Unfortunately, my run was a grueling four hours and thirty minutes. There were times I thought I'd have to quit. Through sheer grit and engagement, I was able to grind it out to the end.
But it wasn't pretty. And I told myself I'd never run a marathon again.
And then, in 2013, the bombs went off.
Boston Marathon 2014
I watched the television in horror as I discovered that many of the bombing victims lost their legs. As someone who loves--no, lives to run--I felt something rise up within me: solidarity for those victims.
"I am SO running in Boston next year. I will NOT be intimidated by this senseless act of terrorism!"
With little time to prepare, I ran a qualifying marathon. When I received my acceptance letter, I was ecstatic. Now I would have a chance to show my love for Boston: its victims, runners, and fans.
Unfortunately, training for 2014 was full of struggles. I ended up with a hip injury and tried physiotherapy, chiropractic--every way to heal that you can imagine.
This race meant everything to me, but would I be able to run it?
I decided to go anyway. "Even if I can't run," I thought, "at least I can cheer my fellow runners on and be part of the great crowd. And who knows? Maybe my body will find a way to finish the race, injury and all."
My body cooperated, but not because of grit or determination.
Brady loves Boston
I ran the marathon wearing a shirt to demonstrate my love for Boston, the victims, fans, and BAA: featuring a Canadian flag with the message "Brady Loves Boston" on the back and front.
I never could have predicted the sort of response my Brady Loves Boston message would evoke. I was only minutes into my run when I began to hear the cheering. Not general cheering, but very personal cheering of "Boston loves you right back, Brady!"
I was shaken and amazed. When a complete stranger reaches out to you and says (with feeling) "We love you"...well, it does something to you. I confess: I LOVED it.
By the halfway point, I was in a lot of pain and feared I might have to give up. But the moment I'd think that, someone would shout out, "Boston loves you, Brady!" and my energy surged.
The energy I felt was like nothing I'd ever experienced in my life. I never stopped--I ran, fuelled by the energy of the crowd I felt so connected to.
I had the time of my life. And what's more: I ran three quarters of an hour faster than in 2012.
In the days and months that followed, I compared my "grind it out" Boston Marathon of 2012 to this freakishly energizing Boston Marathon of 2014.
The only thing fueling me in 2012 was a sense of compulsion, obligation and gritty perseverance--toxic fossil fuels that did nothing to sustain me. But in 2014, I burned the renewable fuel of passion, purpose and connection, which both engaged and energized me.
Interestingly, I see a similar dynamic regularly playing itself out in many workplaces. Many employees are technically engaged--that is, they are loyal and committed, they have a strong work ethic and will soldier on no matter what. But too often, they also feel overwhelmed and inadequately fueled.
Without energy, focus, vigor, and that vital sense of passion and purpose, employees may get stuff done--but this approach is simply not sustainable. That's because engagement is not enough. It's energy that fuels high performance.
In short, wherever you see high performance, you will see the efficient management of energy. So switch fuels. Stop burning the fossil fuels of grim effort and determination--and begin burning the renewable fuels of passion, purpose and connection.