Originally published on Inc.com
Every Saturday morning, I wake up at 4:30am. I drink some water, pack up my running vest, lace up my shoes, get in the car, and drive to the mountain to wait for the gate to open.
Pinnacle Peak is only a few miles north of my house in Scottsdale, Arizona. Half of the time, I drive the 11 minute ride in silence, just forgetting to put on the radio.
And every week, I’m thinking about one thing. Break my record.
Back in January, after an embarrassing first attempt as a non-runner, I set a goal to run up, down, and back over the Pinnacle Peak in under 40 minutes.
But in trying to break my record, the mountain has occasionally broken me, and I’ve learned a lot about setting goals (and achieving them) in the process!
Here are my favorite dawn discoveries from my favorite weekly workout:
1. Don’t chase competing goals.
As a new runner, I downloaded the Strava app and fell in love with tracking absolutely everything. In business, I’m a metrics guy. I’ve tried every KPI dashboard. My P&L is an always-open tab. So, when I found out I could track dozens of segments inside a longer run, I lost sight of my larger goal.
I wanted to win at everything. So amateur.
For instance, if my goal was to hit a personal best on some short segment mid-way through the race, I would probably save up all of my energy until I got to that point in the race. Then, I would use every ounce of energy for a few minutes, and walk the rest of the way.
But, if I wanted to achieve an overall time goal that required a consistent pace, I wouldn’t sprint at all.
Similarly, I’ve fallen into the trap of pursuing too many goals in business. In the same month, I’ve tried to write a book, disconnect for a family vacation, and rebuild my project management system.
Those efforts require very different mental muscles, and I’ve found it impossible to tackle them all at once. So, be clear on what your primary goal is, and stick to it.
2. Walk where you’re stopping.
Each time I run Pinnacle Peak, I tend to run the gradual inclines, walk the steepest climbs, and stop entirely a few times when I’m out of breath.
As I tried to improve my time, I realized that the trick wasn’t to run where I was running, faster. I needed to find a more sustained momentum.
The sharpest improvement came when I simply started walking through the spots where I used to stop (something my brother, Jonathan, taught me). I could still catch my breath while continuing to cover ground.
So walk where you used to stop, and run where you used to walk. This is where you have the most to gain.
6 months ago I wasn’t doing any marketing at all. I was stopped. For me, walking was starting to post more regularly on Instagram and Facebook through daily stories. As I slowly produced more raw, unfiltered content, I got better at sharing. I picked up my pace.
Now, I’m much more confident promoting posts and “running” my marketing, because I ramped up over time.
Think about where you’re not making any progress, or where you’re moving the slowest, and make an effort to push yourself in those areas.
3. Embrace your competition.
In Arizona, the summer heat makes running almost unbearable. So, athletes get out before sunrise to avoid dehydration.
But, as the mountain is less trafficked by casual winter and spring tourists, I’ve found it harder to keep my pace.
The truth is, seeing someone 100 feet ahead of me on the trail was an extra incentive for me to pick up my pace and run past them. I want to catch up. I want to pass them. And that competitive force is just as important in business.
I used to get weary of competitors, and a highly trafficked industry would keep me away. But, just like on the mountain, more people means more opportunity to build momentum each time I pass someone else.
Use your competitors as fuel, and your pace is likely to improve.
4. Don’t forget to enjoy the view.
I try not to stop on the mountain anymore because I’m winded. But, sometimes when I come around a corner and see the sunrise peeking over the mountains, I can’t help but stop and take a picture.
In business, I don’t think we stop to appreciate the summits we climb as often as we should. Each time we achieve a goal, we set a new one.
So, don’t forget to reflect on your progress. Don’t forget to glance at how far you are from where you’ve come. But don’t get comfortable. The clock is ticking.