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Anyone who has spent time with me since I joined the company has had to endure listening to me speak about a passion of mine: running–and in particular, long distance running. But it’s important to understand that while you don’t immediately start out by running marathons, you do have to start somewhere. That starting place for many of our employees this year it was the Desk to 5K wellness program.

We all know walking and running have obvious health benefits, but it’s also taught me a number of life lessons from the trails that go far beyond fitness. I hope some of these lessons resonate with you, and that you’ll leave your comments below to add any other lessons you may be learning on your running journey.

I can’t finish if I don’t start.

This seems obvious, but I found out early on that the major impediment to reaching my running goals was simply not running. There always seem to be better things to do early in the morning, especially sleeping! It transfers to work, too. I know that it’s often difficult to know where to start with a project, but fight the urge to procrastinate and start today. Trust me, you finish sooner that way, on the field or in the office.

Being prepared doesn’t just happen, it takes preparation.

Just as I can’t expect to run a good race without having trained, I can’t expect to succeed at work without ample preparation. It takes having an objective, developing a plan, maintaining meaningful skills and knowledge, and then implementing the plan.

Break down large goals into small ones to succeed.

When I ran my previous marathons, I thought of the 26.2 mile race as a 26 mile race plus a little bit extra (two tenths). I could also think of a 5K race (3.1 miles) as a 3 mile race with a few extra steps to the finish line. This allowed me to stay focused on the task at hand without becoming too overwhelmed by the overall objective.

This same principle can be applied to our business objectives. Sometimes the overall project can just seem too large to accomplish. But if we break it into smaller, well-defined goals, then before we know it, we are well on our way to success.

Only forward progress reduces the distance between me and my goal.

The key words here are forward and goal. I’ve learned that I need to understand my ultimate goal and keep working toward it. An activity is meaningful only if it helps me reach my ultimate goal. It’s the same at work. Activity doesn’t necessarily always mean results, or even progress. It’s important to understand the difference and focus on those activities that help you reach your goal.

Failure doesn’t mean it’s time to quit attempting to do more.

A bad day—in training or in business—is not a reason to quit. If something goes wrong, own the failure, assess the situation, and revise the plan accordingly. I’ve found that small setbacks can help push me to greater success.

Success also doesn’t mean it’s time to quit attempting to do more.

A good day is also not a reason to become complacent. We should always take time to celebrate our successes, but just remember there is always more that can and should be accomplished.

 I am responsible.

No one else can train for me. I am responsible and accountable for preparing for success. Others can help me, but ultimately it is up to me to reach my goals. It’s the same way in business. We are each responsible for our role in preparing ourselves or our teams for success. We can and should seek out support but success ultimately depends upon each of our contributions.

 Helping others succeed is rewarding.

“I am responsible” does not mean I should train alone. I have found it to be incredibly rewarding to mentor other runners to meet or exceed their goals. Whether I’m mentoring by sharing my experiences, providing running tips, or tracking mile times, seeing others achieve their goals refreshes my energy and keeps pushing me to achieve my own. This principle applies outside of running as well. Building each other up is a key way that we reach not only individual but team goals as well.

I hope these lessons help inspire you, too. What keeps you going? What life lessons have you learned from running?

Mitch Perry

About Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry is Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. He is responsible for treasury, investments, financial operations accounting, financial reporting, business planning, and tax compliance for the company. Mitch has more than 25 years of broad financial management experience in the insurance and energy industries and in providing financial consulting services to various industries.