As 2016 comes to a close and we enter into the holiday season, we know that both in work and life finishing strong is essential. Success in life as a man is not measured where you start; it is where you finish.
About 12 years ago and approximately 15-20 pounds ago, I was a college soccer player for an elite program. Fitness was always a huge priority for our team, and we always joked that we were one the best “track teams” in college soccer. Even though we didn’t have the best talent, we always seemed to have a team with a lot of depth, and we could outlast teams physically and mentally. One of the ways our mentality was developed was in the tradition of the 5 Minute Mile. Every player was challenged to try to make that time, and it was an “unofficial” gauge of our overall team fitness in preparation for the coming season.
Our coach would repeatedly tell us, “Guys, anyone can start strong, but very few finish strong. Don’t bleed into the finish.”
“Don’t Bleed into the Finish. Finish Strong.” became a tagline for our team and something we would repeat over and over again until it was ingrained in our minds. I was never an exceptionally talented runner, so during the summers, I would spend time on the track several times a week to be ready to make the time. The first night of training camp we would report to the track for 5 Minute Mile. Little did I know that it would become a framework on how I viewed nearly every challenge to persevere and finish strong.
We would all start together, and there was a general sense of excitement, but also nervousness for the coming 5 minutes of pain ahead. We would line up and hear our coach saying “Ready, Set, Go!” And off we went. The key in the first lap is finding a comfortable pace that would allow you to find a rhythm and stay the course. Run too fast, and you risk burning up all your energy and blowing out. Run too slow, and you would put yourself in a position that was too far back and you would likely not be able to regain the pace as your legs would tire later in the run.
When you start to undertake a big challenge requiring endurance, make sure you prepare appropriately and operate at a pace you can maintain. Often in a work environment, the first quarter is marked by a lot of planning and lofty goals. Being able to achieve those goals and break that down into small steps is essential to finishing strong. Don’t overdo it early on.
On the second lap, it became more apparent how our legs were feeling and whether or not you ran the first lap at the appropriate pace. The second lap was a time to make adjustments and if you are smart, finding someone you could follow that would help you maintain that right rhythm. As you round the turn back home to complete the second lap, we would often begin to be able to know if your preparations paid off, or whether the next two laps were going to be an exercise in agony.
As you find yourself in the middle of a challenge in the year, make sure you pick your head up and align yourself with people that can help you stay on track with your goals. Self-assess and be aware of what you can physically and mentally do. While there is a lot of inspirational quotes out there about pushing as hard as you can all the time, the reality is that a UNCOMMEN man knows his limits and manages his energy appropriately. Youthful energy is nice, but it is fleeting. Maybe the second lap for you requires holding back a bit to be able to maintain the pace to the finish.
They say it’s the hardest lap of the mile. Lactic acid starts to build up in the legs, maybe you start to get some tightness or cramping, or maybe you feel great. But for most of us, it was time to face the music. You are halfway, but you are starting to pay the price for the pace. Self-doubt would often creep in and thoughts like “Can I do this? My legs are on fire” or “Maybe it’s time to slow down or quit.” Now is the time to persevere and put yourself in position for the final lap. Counter those thoughts of self-doubt with encouragement and truth.
Throughout the year or even throughout your day, you are faced with setbacks and moments of self-doubt. For me, I find myself in a few of these seasons throughout the year. The key is meet self-doubt with the truth about who you are and where you want to go. Remind yourself of why you are doing it, and often you will find the motivation to press forward in the face of adversity. Push through.
Entering into the 4th lap is when gaps seemed to open up between individual runners. Some of my teammates seem to kick it into another gear, while others pace appeared to slow or even completely drop off. The 4th Lap was the time to let it all hang out. We had all worked this hard to be here, and it was a decision to push through with everything we had to cross the finish line. What always amazed me was that certain guys would make their final lap their fastest. They had left enough in the tank so that when others were too tired, that is when they would make their move.
As you come into the final lap of 2016, be encouraged that regardless of where you started the year or whether you achieved all your goals, to push hard through the finish. Give it all you have. It will do as much for your final result, as it will for your character.
Be UNCOMMEN. Finish Strong.
About the Author: Sam Casey is the Managing Partner at Banyan Creative based in Matthews, NC. He wishes he could still run a 5 Minute Mile, but doing his best to finish 2016 strong.