I think one of the key things that separates successful people from unsuccessful people is simply the ability to GET STUFF DONE.
My years of project management experience taught me the fundamentals and logistics of how to get stuff done and manage numerous other people working toward the same goal, but nothing taught more about getting stuff done than a half-marathon I ran back in. . . well sometime in the late 90’s.
I was in my early 20’s and that’s when I feel like my character really started to take shape. I was struggling through college and not really having any sort of feeling of accomplishment. I was, like many people that age, drifting from one thing to another, never finishing anything, never putting my all into anything. For some reason, I identified the need to FINISH SOMETHING and I knew it needed to be a challenge.
I HATED running. I had tried it a few times, but just found that it simply bored me, I got winded and tired and could not stand it. But, for whatever reason, I decided to run a half-marathon. I think I gave myself about eight months to get ready. I drove down a rural road near my apartment and noted landmarks at various mileage intervals. I knew there was a farm at 1/2 mile, a school at 2 miles, etc. All the way up to about 10 miles.
Not really knowing how to train for something like this, I just did the best I could, putting one foot in front of another (kind of literally!). I knew I would have to build up to it, so I just started running a few times a week, starting with a half mile, then a mile, then 2 miles, etc. I think just over 10 is all I actually ran before the half-marathon.
Then the day came. I ran that sucker in something like 3 hours. Horrible time for a half marathon! But it didn’t matter. The important thing was that I finished it. I finished it and it taught me a very important lesson:
I could do it.
I finally accomplished something.
It was really a great feeling even more importantly, it was a great lesson. There was no reason to believe that I couldn’t or that I did not have the skill or ability to do things. It taught me that I had it in me all along. It was a challenge and I was able to rise to it.
It was a huge turning point in my life. I think that may be when I got addicted to getting things done! I loved the feeling it gave me so much that I went on to do several more things like that.
After a few races and cycling events and eventually a triathlon, I shifted away from accomplishment for the sake of accomplishment. I still do things like that, but not just for the sake of accomplishment. I now try to ensure that my smaller accomplishments are leading me in the direction of my larger aspirations and use things like running and cycling purely for enjoyment. Yes, I actually love running, now!
I also won a trophy for that first half-marathon. Even though my time was abysmal by any standards, I took second place in my age division (I think it was 19 to 24 or something like that).
Some would say I just got lucky. I prefer the position that while my time was abysmal…
I’m the one who finished.
Let me know in the comments below how finishing something has affected your life.