I went for a jog with two good friends the other day. A very long jog. A half-marathon, in fact.
Mark Paper, a friend since childhood, and Bobby Eldridge, both very successful businessmen, joined me for the second straight year of P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in Phoenix in late January. These are two guys who know about going the distance. They push me when I need it, and I am grateful.
You've probably heard me repeat one of my favorite aphorisms: They don't pay off on effort; they pay off on results. Of course, there is no result without effort. A 13-mile jog takes plenty of effort. Finishing it is an awesome result.
And if I ever need more motivation, I think back to my first New York marathon, which I ran in 1986. Of the 20,000 runners who started, the most amazing was a Vietnam veteran, who finished last — in 4 days, 2 hours and 47 minutes. He covered the 26.2 miles with no legs. He ran on his hands. When my daughter Mimi and I saw him in the early part of the marathon, his example convinced us that we could finish that grueling race.
Marathons, half-marathons, even 5K races are all great tests of accomplishing your goals. Who says you aren't tougher, smarter and harder-working than your competition? If you believe you can do it, and prepare yourself properly, you will have results you can be proud of.
I am committed to taking care of my physical health because I believe that it has a positive effect on every other facet of my life. I don't compete for money or medals. I participate because I win rewards that no outside organization can offer. I want to achieve my personal best.
I have been running for more than 40 years, and have completed 10 marathons, including the 100th Boston. Two hip replacements have meant a change to my regimen, but I can't give up trying. I even get a rush out of watching other runners compete. I've been attending the summer Olympic Games nearly as long as I have been running, and I always watch the marathon enviously. I know I will never match these athletes' superhuman times, but I admire their determination and dedication. They inspire me to keep pushing myself.
What does any of this have to do with business advice? Plenty.
There are obvious parallels to perseverance in tough business cycles, dedication to going the extra mile for customers and determination to seeing a job through to the end. Setting goals and doing what is necessary to achieve them, always trying to improve your performance, and a commitment to be your absolute best are always on the minds of top performers in business and marathons.
Around this time every year, all those New Year's resolutions about getting more exercise and taking better care of our bodies start to fade. Too often, we fall back into bad habits and decide it's just too hard to stay with a new routine.
But now it's time to refocus and recommit. A study by the National Academy of Sports Medicine finds that "Maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle helps increase productivity and diminishes health care costs. Employees involved in a corporate wellness program tend to miss fewer days and have fewer doctor visits. Exercise has many positive benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease, cancer and Type 2 diabetes."
I can't argue with any of that. I know that not everyone has access to a corporate wellness program. How about starting a walking club during your lunch hour or after work? Exercising with friends provides great motivation to continue.
Start with a reasonable goal of 15 minutes, and work your way up from there. If you break exercise into manageable segments, you are more likely to stick with it. You realize that you can make time to take care of your body without compromising your other responsibilities. But really, shouldn't one of your greatest responsibilities be taking care of yourself?
Mackay's Moral: Stop running around in circles — take care of your health.
Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.