Monday, June 11, 2012

A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step . . .

I stared at the digital clock on my car’s dashboard anxiously for the fifteenth time. I had a meeting with my boss in five minutes. In five minutes, my life would change irrevocably. I would become someone else.

I reflected on the twelve months I had spent preparing for this moment. I’d moved out of my one bedroom apartment and into a glorified dining room in an effort to downsize. I’d erased all my credit card debt. I had socked away $15,000 in case of an emergency.  

I’d seemingly done all the practical, rational things one could do in preparation for leaving their job, but was I really ready for this?

I had spent just a hair over five years working for Gap Inc. I had been promoted, seen my salary increase, but I was miserable. The truth is, it wasn’t Gap, it was me. I didn’t belong there and I grew weary of acting like I did. The real me was dying a slow and painful death.

If you have to take Zoloft and Ativan just to get through the day, something is a bit wrong. It was during this time that running became my refuge, as it had been when I first discovered it (or it discovered me), fifteen years ago.

Fifteen years ago, I was an angst-ridden teen. Rather than drink, party, and rebel, I ran. When I was stressed, I ran. When I was scared, I ran. When I was sad, I ran. It had always provided solace. 

It had always helped me when I was in trouble. When the world was falling apart around me, I had running. Fifteen years later, starting at the digital clock on my car’s dashboard, I felt like running.

There were countless unknowns in front of me. I had no business plan. I had no experience starting my own business. I did not know how tough it would be. While I was committed to leaving, I did not have all the answers.  

I did know that I could not invest any more time in an endeavor that made me feel ineffectual and disconnected. I didn’t like my work. I didn’t like many of the people I was working with, I didn’t see a future, and I didn’t like the me I was becoming.

During those last five minutes, my mind raced to find the one thing that would finally put all my lingering doubts, fears, and imagined disasters to rest. Finally, the one thought I needed bubbled to the surface.

The thought was, “if I don’t do this, if I don’t at least try, I will regret it for the rest of my life.” I couldn’t live with this regret. I had to at least try something bold, jettison the conventional path, and stretch beyond what I thought I was capable of doing.

This is what running is all about. You have to step into the unknown. You have to challenge your perception of what you are capable of doing. There really is no other way to approach running. Having a touch of the crazy is also helpful.

Jettisoning the comforts of a decent, if not bland, corporate gig to launch your business requires all of the aforementioned . . . particularly the crazy part. I had been a runner for over ten years and I knew on some level the lessons I learned as a runner would come in handy for my business endeavor, which I called “Marathon Matt-Personal Coaching for Runners.”

As I got out of my car and walked towards my office, I realized what I was doing wasn’t just about creating a business, it was about pursuing a higher calling. Any lingering doubts I had drifted away with each stride I took towards my office. I wasn’t running away from something, but that I was running towards something that could change people’s lives.

I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do it, but I knew my passion for the act of running was as intense as anything I’d ever felt. I would find a way. Running would be the vehicle.

The best runs I’ve ever had have often involved some element of the unknown. The knowledge that unknown challenges lie ahead forces me to be alert, creative, and quick on my feet. I thought similarly of my fledgling business – if I stayed alert, creative, and quick on my feet, I’d likely survive.

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