Break Through the Menacing Middle Miles
Originally published: 09.01.15 by Daniel C. Steenerson
If you've been in business any length of time, chances are you've "bonked" — a phenomenon that happens to marathoners around mile 20 that's otherwise known as "hitting the wall."
Succeeding in business is much like a marathon: the start is exciting with the thrill of anticipation swelling as you toe the starting line. You know where you want to go and you're committed to getting there. The end is equally exciting. Actually seeing the finishing line in the distance brings on a surge of adrenaline. It's much easier to finish the race when you've got the end in sight.
But between the excitement of the start and the rush of the finish is the toughest part of all: the middle miles.
Those requisite, unavoidable middle miles can be a desolate wasteland or they can be the most productive miles of the race — it's how you deal with them that determines if and when you cross the finish line, and in what kind of shape. Winning in business is no different.
It's no wonder that during a business middle mile there's a huge temptation to quit.
This is the often
The middle mile is the stuff in between, where the real work gets done. It's the time in your business or career journey where you burn the most energy, deal with fatigue and hopelessness, work through budgetary and employee concerns, embrace setbacks and do your best to overcome burnout.
It's in this period when there's a huge temptation to quit. Lack of discipline, poor implementation and failure to simplify are the three primary reasons, but beneath all of those symptoms is the underlying failure: Losing sight of the finish line. You have to keep your eye on where you ultimately want to go.
You didn't get to the middle mile without effort. You've put in hard work, but suddenly, the work you've done is not advancing you nearly as fast as you want it to. This critical time is when the best athletes trudge forward with new training methods, harder work ethics and a stretch of their imagination and willpower.
Committed professionals don't quit during the middle miles. They also don't settle for "good enough." They realize good is the enemy of great. The bad stuff often doesn't keep you from succeeding; the good stuff does, because it allows you to settle. You've achieved some success by making it to the middle mile, so now it's time to move out and move on.
During the middle miles, it's particularly important to have the discipline to do something productive every day in working toward your goal, sacrificing things you'd like to do for those tasks you need to do.
Discipline is the foundation upon which all success is built and is the bridge between wishing and accomplishing.
The formula is pretty simple. Have a no-nonsense attitude, work hard and improve every day. Arrive early and stay late if that's what it takes. Many professionals get stuck in the middle for the simple reason they don't work hard enough to get out of it. Don't be one of them.
No one needs to convince a distance runner to get up early, lace up running shoes and get those training runs in. If you want to be successful, you must have the discipline to do what others don't want to do. Have a plan and work it every day; whatever it takes.
Good intentions aren't enough. How many times have great ideas gone nowhere? How many deadlines have been missed, promises not kept, to-dos never followed through on? It happens a lot. In fact, most entrepreneurs aim to do right; they just fail to pull the trigger and finish the job.
Barriers to implementation might include practicality, manpower and financial or technical limitations. The act of deciding to implement may be a barrier in and of itself. The key to implementation is to identify these barriers at the outset and design a strategy that limits their impact on your achieving success.
It's important to keep your business simple and streamlined. Why take a dozen steps to accomplish something if you can get it done just as effectively in only three or four? Like marathoners, achievement-minded professionals need to figure out how to achieve maximum results with the least amount of effort.
Working hard is important but, deploying and leveraging resources in the most effective way possible is even more important. Simplifying processes whenever possible makes it much easier to accomplish more in less time.
Simplicity will get you through the middle miles faster. During the middle miles, details that don't bring about improvement or advancement can bog down professionals. It's important to get rid of time-wasters so you carry less weight, make fewer mistakes, move faster and trudge up that proverbial hill.
At the beginning of the race, it's easy to remember why you're there — to get to the finish line. When you're starting a new business, your goals are fresh in your mind. As the weeks and months wear on, however, it's easy to get lost and forget what inspired you in the first place.
The key to getting through the middle miles is to look at your goals each day and remind yourself why you started your journey.
Distance runners know the best way to make it to the top of a long, steep hill is not with huge, bounding strides but with smaller, forward steps. Those bounding strides will burn up the energy you need to keep going and will likely cause you to take a misstep that will send you tumbling back to the bottom of the hill.
The smaller steps are a much more efficient use of your energy and will help ensure you make it to the top and beyond. Smaller steps help you take the time to focus on what you need to accomplish here and now to achieve your long-term goals.
Be meticulous in executing activities that result in success. Have faith the steps you're taking now and the time you're investing will ultimately pay off.
Remember, marathoners don't sprint — they know how to pace themselves. There are times when you'll need to make an extra push and times to keep steady. Measure your progress toward your goals every day and adjust your pace as needed.
Daniel C. Steenerson imparts his success, wisdom, principles and philosophies through his proprietary "Science of Visioneering" approach to help companies, entrepreneurs, executives and other professionals realize business greatness. For additional information, visit www.dansteenerson.com.
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