February 16, 2016
I’d like to think I learned a lot about hustling from The Roots and Jon Acuff (in different ways). I've been reading Jon Acuff’s blogs since Stuff Christians Like, and I recommend Quitter as my favorite (non-idealistic) guide for moving on to your next big thing (which may not be quitting your day job). I also want to stay on his good side in case I need an endorsement for a future book. That being said, I didn't really internalized the hustle until I signed up for my first 15k.
Here’s a quick summary of me before signing up for my first 15k which I finished last weekend (at the beginning of February):
- I had just started working out again in July after 15 years of steadily putting on weight.
- I mostly lifted weights and did “fun” cross-training like jogging with a ruck and boxing on a heavy bag.
- I was not a runner, and I did not enjoy running.
- I normally maxed out at 5 miles without stopping.
- I averaged a 12:00 min/mi pace (not great).
- I was obviously overly optimistic if I thought I could run more than 6 miles, much less the 9.3 miles required.
Despite all of this, I saw people signing up for the Hot Chocolate 5k/15k and thought (1) I should challenge myself and (2) I could already run 5k, so it was not challenging enough. So, I signed up in November, kept working out like normal, and, in January, started a real training program. I cut out non-essential cross-training and ran four days a week. I never skipped a run. I woke up even earlier. I monitored my diet before every long run to learn what worked and what didn't. I ran extra-long on Saturdays. Basically, I had to hustle every day to meet my goal.
I realized by the end of January that I had been working hard before, but I had not been hustling with a goal to hit. Hustling meant setting a goal where I would be judged on how much I had worked up to that point. It meant temporarily giving up the fun, productive things like boxing and cross-training so that I could carve out more time to train for my real goal. It meant going to bed early, so I could wake up even earlier with energy to run. It meant running when everyone else was asleep or relaxing with friends and family. It meant never skipping a scheduled run (even when that meant running trails at a bed and breakfast during vacation). It meant measuring my results week-by-week by keeping track of my times, and it meant pushing myself extra hard to run 10 miles on Saturday mornings. It meant I finally internalized the hustle.
What I learned applies to any area where I have to hustle to be successful (running a race, starting a business, growing a business, etc), and these are my takeaways (in no particular order):
- I need to hustle towards a goal. I don’t believe in exercising for the sake of exercising. That doesn't motivate me to try harder. I believe in training. Training has a final goal, and it’s something that I can get closer to through my own efforts. My goal was to finish a 15k in under 1:45:00 (I finished in 1:30:12). In business, my goal has been to bring in more qualified clients and grow so that I can help more people grow (which I'm doing, but I still have some open slots available for new clients).
- I need to track my progress. I'm hustling towards a goal, but that goal might be a ways out and I can’t just blindly train or work hard without knowing if I'm doing the right things to make progress. I tracked my average pace on every run, and I quickly adjusted variables (normally my diet or water intake) when I saw the numbers go in the wrong direction. If my goal is to land fifteen new clients by the end of the year, I need to be aware enough to change things up if I only have two new clients in July.
- I need to have a clear idea of what I can control and what I can’t. I learned about Stoicism while studying at the Air Force Academy, and this always stuck with me. I can’t control how well other people run or the fact that many of them have not gotten out of shape since college, but I can be responsible for how often I run and what I eat. I still can’t change other people’s budgets or priorities, but I can control how well I present myself and appeal to their needs. I can’t hustle my way around all the factors that affect the outcome, but I can take complete ownership of everything within my control.
- I may have to sacrifice (some normally good) things to hustle. I had to give up sleeping in and eating fatty foods, but I also had to give up training that didn’t help my running and seeing a lot of friends that were on “normal” schedules.
- The focused hustle is not a permanent state of being. I hope I always work hard. I think I always have. This sort of hustling, though, needs to be a very focused period with a beginning and an end (when I reach my goal). I'm giving up some good things to get a little further. I'm also burning away with less recovery. All of that is okay, though, because I know that I'll reach my goal. Then, I can recover and start thinking about the next goal (like a GORUCK Challenge, which means changing my routine and hustling again).
- I need to be judged at the end. Just like I know I need a goal, I know I need some skin in the game and I need to be ready to be judged based on how well I hustled up to that point. I might be judged pass/fail like completing a GORUCK challenge or making enough money to go independent with a side-project, or I might be judged by how fast I was or how many new clients I brought in. Whatever it is, I have to have the opportunity to fail at the end, or I won’t work my tail off to do better.
Final cautionary note: After basic online research, I am now aware that almost everyone recommends spending more than four weeks preparing for your first 15k (possibly more like 16 weeks). Obviously, that is helpful information that I did not have in January of this year when I started training, but I thought I should pass it on in case you get inspired and don’t want to injure yourself.