Finish What You Start

The dashboard thermometer steadily rolled up as I drove. I watched it. Upon reaching my destination, it had rolled up 6 degrees… Now 98 degrees–perfect for a run, right? My pores already opened up. I was sweating and I hadn’t even done anything yet. I just drove… and thought about how much I was about to actually, really sweat.

I didn’t have a choice about this, though–about being here in this heat. I had to take on this heat, at this time, and in this place. I said I would do this, and that meant everything. So I drove myself to the greenway in preparation of running another 10 miles.

26 days before this, I proclaimed to the world that I was challenging myself: I would run 150 miles in 30 days. It didn’t seem a herculean task at the time. 5 miles a day felt quite do-able. And for several days it was really do-able. During that first week of the challenge, I even got ambitious and tacked on an extra mile here and there. Then I got cocky, and I took a day off here and there. I felt it was OK, because I was getting extra miles on a few of my runs.

Then vacation happened. I ran a couple times during my family’s summer sojourn. I thought I had things handled. But when I returned home I did the math: In order to meet my challenge goal, I needed to run 81 miles in 10 days.

Still do-able. Except that first day upon returning I got stuck catching up at work and at home and didn’t run. So the next day I faced a steeper challenge of running 81 miles in 9 days.

STILL do-able, right? Ultramarathoners must do that kind of thing all the time, right? The nagging thought in my brain was, of course, that I am not an ultra-marathoner. It’s been 7 years since I was a regular marathoner. AND, when I did the research, ultramarathoners, in the high point of their training, are not stringing together several days of training like this. They run and rest… like regular people.

Now this: 98 degrees, 90% humidity, and miles to go before I rest. My body sweat from the tension of facing this challenge. And my legs were tired. They were fatigued from my run two days, and wasted from the run the day before.

What if I didn’t do it? Would anyone else actually notice?

Sure, people would notice. It just didn’t seem likely they would care. But could I be someone who could be trusted if I gave up?

In the early days of Starbucks’ rapid expansion, they faced a supply crisis. A large frost killed or damaged a significant portion of the coffee crop. As a result, the price of coffee beans rose nearly 300%. That represented a huge increase in cost for Starbucks’ growing business. The company faced a decision: buy drastically inflated beans, or buy cheaper, lower-quality beans.

They assessed that a majority of their customers would likely not notice if they bought the cheaper beans. But they sucked it up and bought the high-quality stuff. Why? Because the company people would know the difference. They would know they had compromised their quality and not met their mission of serving the best-quality coffee. 

The key to Starbucks success was allowing themselves to believe they were worthy of success. They did that by sticking to their convictions and mission. They would serve only the highest-quality coffee.

A lot of us fail on the promises we make to ourselves. And on the 98-degree day, I was on the verge of allowing myself to fail on another promise, too. Let’s face it: it’s easy to let ourselves off the hook, isn’t it? 

Well, sort of…

Starbucks could have switched their beans and likely gotten away with it. But they would have felt compromised. They would have told themselves they were cheaters instead of an organization of integrity. When we rationalize our way out of self-promises, we face a similar issue of integrity. The true issue I faced in continuing my challenge wasn’t really about whether or not my readers and listeners could trust me. The issue was whether I believed I was actually someone who should be trusted. 

In my own heart, do I believe I will do the things I say I will do?

Being able to answer “yes” is huge. So I ran. And it was ugly. I had to take walk breaks. I ended up breaking my runs into shorter segments–doing a few miles at lunch, several more after work, and closing my day with another mile or two. I averaged 10 miles a day for the last several… and I did not lose weight (which was the initial inspiration for the whole challenge).

Apparently, besides making your legs ache, a lot of running makes one incredibly hungry. Like All. The. Time. Hungry. I’m still hungry. The whole thing built some kind of Pavlovian response, where if I think about running, I get hungry.

On July 18, I finished. 150 miles exactly 30 days after I started the challenge. I did what I said I would do. And because of that, I believe in myself a little bit more. 

I’m a guy who gets things done. I’m an accomplisher. 

Belief in those statements is key to actually being a person of action. And I think it’s important to address how we set ourselves up to foster our belief in our ability to accomplish our individual missions. When you begin do you believe you will finish? What would it take for you to be able to answer “yes”? How can you set yourself up for success right now? What achievable challenge could you start now and finish?

Me? I’m going easy for a bit. BUT, I still have to finish losing some of this weight…


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