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It's Still a Lot of Work For a Free Banana

It’s worth planning and pushing to reach your goals.

At age 54, I run my first marathon. While my goal was to complete it in under 4 hours 30 minutes, instead I finished in 5 hours and 10 minutes.

But was it worth it?

Starting the race

Each race has three parts: Training, running, and finishing. I know of runners who set out to run 100 mile races, and did not finish because they didn’t finish their training. I had to continually remind myself:

Trust your training. A reminder from the organizers of the marathon. Like running, as entrepreneurs we must mentally and physically prepare ourselves in order to accomplish the goals we want to achieve, or the impact to which we’re called.

Defining your goal: What does winning look like for you? What does success look like? Is it a first place finish, or is it having the discipline and courage to finish?

For me, it’s the finish. I entered the race not to win, but to finish. And finish I did!

Running the race

Early into the race, not 100 yards from the starting line, a child sat on his father’s shoulders, dressed for the chilly early morning, holding a sign up high. It read:

This seems like a lot of work for a free banana!

Early in the race, I appreciated the humor. 13 miles in, at the halfway mark, I appreciated it even more.

Do you ever ask yourself a similar question in your business? For the entrepreneur, small business owner, and leader of any organization, does it seem like a lot of work?

In business, as you lead your team and guide your organization, do you ever ask yourself “Is it worth it?” What are your goals? What is your motivation?

Most importantly: What is your purpose?

I ran with a goal: to complete the race, and prove to myself that the destination was proof that I had the strength and courage to finish.

I knew I wouldn’t win, but I ran like I could win. I had trained for 5 months, for five hours of grueling monotony. It was a marathon, not a sprint. There would only be a dash to the finish for those who paced themselves, with energy reserved for a strong finish.

To my right, early in the race, I watched the elite marathon runners pass me as if they had just started running. Those athletes were completing 26 miles in less time than it would take me to run 13.1 miles. Their destination was the same, but their goals were different. My goal was to finish; their goal was to win. I was determined to run my own race.

Whose race are you trying to run?

When you set your own goals, you set yourself free from the expectations others place upon you. When you cast a clear vision and share it with your team (or embrace it yourself), you are free to lead well, and run your race as you see fit.

My purpose in running was for the sense of accomplishment I could have in completing the race, in reaching my goal. My time was good, but it wasn’t great.

After all that training, and preparation, was it worth it?

A few years ago, I realized that while I’ve been moderately successful in business, it wasn’t enough. Success is fleeting, and you have to keep chasing it—like a runner who constantly pushes himself, training harder, to achieve a better time—measured often in mere seconds.

Success is temporary; significance endures. I want to leave a legacy; to do work that matters, to have lasting and meaningful impact in my family, my career, my community. I want to live a life that matters, and make the story of my life a story worth telling.

Since I first wrote this, my thinking has evolved, and my goal has changed:

I want to have impact.

Several times in the New Testament, (particularly in the book of Philippians, and in 2 Timothy 4:7), the Apostle Paul makes reference to running a race:

Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy. (Philippians 2:16-18, NLT)

To have impact means we do not live our lives in vain, and that our work is not useless. Our work as leaders, designers, business owners and entrepreneurs is often marginalized by the church as if it’s not spiritual enough—but it’s our generosity and our abundance to which the church often looks to, and from which God provides resources to advance the Gospel.

That means I can rejoice as I pour out my life to advance God’s Kingdom and serve his purpose for me in the way that he has called me to.

For you that means you will have greater impact in life and for the Kingdom when you focus on doing the good works God created specifically for you to accomplish. You are God’s masterpiece. He created you, completely new in Christ Jesus, so you can do the things he planned for you long ago (from Ephesians 2:10).

Finishing the race

Near the end of the race I was cheered on by a friend who has run 18 marathons, including a 100-mile ultra marathon. He had already finished the race, encouraging me as I continued my journey toward the finish.

I had prepared and trained, I was running as strongly as I could. My friend recognized it, and reminded me that I could finish strong.

I’d like you to share this perspective with me: to work with purpose, and to seek significance.

Deep down, you know what you're good at. Don't be afraid to run with it and lead with your strengths. Stick to your purpose; stay focused on your goals.

Every day, remind yourself: I’m running my business as if I will win the race. I have prepared, and I will push myself to reach my goals.

Surround yourself with encouragers, who will cheer you on when you feel like you’re the weakest.

We don’t all need to win, but we all need to finish.
You may not win the race, but you will finish strong.

If all you are going to settle for is the equivalent of a free banana, then it won’t be worth it. If you work with a sense of purpose, you’ll achieve significance. If you’re just simply working, you’ll struggle without a sense of purpose.

Finish Strong.

My last quarter mile was the strongest. I was sore; I was tired. As I crossed the finish line I was handed a medal… and a banana.

It was a lot of work. But it was worth it.


Dawn wrote: How much do I love this? So much I am sharing it. And I will probably re-read it. Repeatedly. The ultimate compliment! Thu, November 19, 2015 @ 3:29 PM

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