Thursday, March 1, 2012

Of Marathons and Careers

By Challa Rama Phani

I am always very fascinated with marathons. In my younger days, I used to do a lot of long-distance running. The more I think about a marathon race, the more I am convinced that it is very similar to how our careers pan out.

In a marathon, there is a start line, a finish line, and a goal to be achieved. How well you perform depends on how you prepare for the race, and how you run that race. And at the end of the finish line when the marathon is over and done with, along with the sheer joy of completing the marathon, we all start to look forward to another marathon—just like we do in our jobs. 

The warm-up: As I see it, preparing for a marathon is like preparing for a career. There is a lot of learning, a lot of rigor, lots of discipline, and not to forget, a compelling reason to excel. I have also learned that it is important to run the race because you’re committed to running it, and not because you have to win. 

When you join an organization, it’s almost like preparing yourself to run the marathon. You finish your education and get ready to begin your career. 

The start: As the race starts, you can see an apparent commotion and jostling for space as people try to get ahead of each other—oftentimes at the cost of your co-runner. But I’ve seen that the people who’ve really run a good marathon, are people who pace their race well, allow for people to pass by yet keep to the running. So, in real life, planning and pacing a career is more important than getting a good head-start. 

In a marathon, just because someone, who started with you, is ahead of you by a few hundred meters, does not mean much! And if you’re ahead of someone, it again means nothing! It’s a long, long race!

The middle: I remember a boss of mine, Daljit Singh. Wonderful man. I was running this mini marathon on a crisp winter morning, and was wanting to give up somewhere in the middle, when he came by in a scooter and exhorted me to keep running and used some gentle words of persuation. Words that i dare not print :). I found a renewed energy and started to run hell bent for leather. It was a pleasure breasting the tape as the winner. The trophy was special, all owed to Daljit. He had no need to be there with me. Yet he came to cheer me. In your career you will find a lot of Daljits. Their only intention is to support you and in a selfless way.

The final leg: The final leg of the marathon is perhaps the most difficult part of the race. There are two things that happen to you— either you almost give up or you experience a tremendous surge of energy that takes you through. You’re not distracted by anyone, but keep going on and on and on … and right yonder you see the tape. There may be others who may have already breasted the tape, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’ve now finished the race. Even as you’re huffing and puffing, you realize that you have finally found your own edge, your own winning formula.

The end: When you finish the race, amongst a lot of cheering and applauding, there comes a great sense of satisfaction: “I have made the marathon.” The marathon is complete because you’ve achieved your goal. You recognize that completing a marathon is a big deal in your life, and when you start to walk back slowly toward your home, your mind is already made up that you will, for sure, run another marathon.
Discovering your true self: A part of our lives is about goals, about how we achieve those goals, and how we move things around it. As we embark upon running a marathon on a cold winter morning, we know that the 26 miles 385 yards will take a long time to cover. But, so are careers—it is really long-distance. It tests, among other things, your patience, perseverance, and discipline. There is a certain cheer and camaraderie as there are lots of people running the race. It is very enlivening because it helps you to discover your true self—about who you are as a person.

Just like in real life, in a marathon too, there are highs and lows. Sometimes when you believe that you are too worn out to take another step, someone gently nudges you and says, “You can!” Discovering yourself in the course of a marathon of a career becomes your ultimate gain. A Daljit comes your way !

I love marathons. It helps me be human. It is not just about winning but also about how run the race. And I also truly believe that the only person you compete against in a marathon race is your own self. Careers are no different. I hope you too see it this way. Now go run one or at the very least, cheer those who are running one. 

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