Finish the Race



In the midst of crisis, many find their strength. Sometimes that strength takes surprising forms.


There’s been plenty to worry about during this pandemic: health concerns, economic and job security, stressed relationships, running out of toilet paper, or worse… Nutella.


If you’re lucky enough (like me) to have lived in affluent country for most of your life, we are used to a world where everything works.

Stores shelves are always full. We can have nearly any item sent to our home in two days. In accordance with our means, we can travel where we want, when we want, and with whom we want. Now, those things are uncertain. Many of us have never faced uncertainty like that in our lifetimes.


Times like this tempt even the most confident and anti-fragile among us to despair or succumb to the paralysis of fear and anxiety.


However, the opposite also happens.


I’ll share the same thing with you that I recently shared with a group of incredible graduate students in a masters-level capstone course that I co-teach at the IIRP Graduate School. They, like you, have balanced the COVID-19 related disruptions, all while managing work, leadership, taking care of loved ones, and moving toward fear.


You and your work matter. Each of you who keep showing-up and refusing to quit, are helping your families, communities, and organizations through this time and prepare for what comes next.


As you push toward the finish, I’ll share something from one of my favorite books on long distance running (and life), Relentless Forward Progress. The basic idea of the book is that whether you're the fastest person in the race or at the “back of the pack”, simply finishing a 26+ mile run is a victory. It’s something that most people wouldn't even attempt, and if they did, most would quit due to the effort and suffering required to finish.


The "secret" that the author shares is that everyone who runs a distance like that is tempted to quit at some point - even champions. What all of the finishers have in common is that each made a decision to make it to the end no matter what.


Some will sprint across the finish. some will walk, some crawl (literally, it happens). The point is to make relentless forward progress. Run your race. Whether you’re sprinting or limping, never stop moving forward. It’s literally the only way to get to the finish.

Few people are at their absolute best right now. That’s an unrealistic goal during a crisis like this.


Now is not the time for perfectionists. It’s the time for people with the grit to show-up and keep showing-up even when they are not at their best. That’s who finishes.

Keep putting one foot in front of the other no matter how you feel. It doesn’t have to look pretty. It rarely does. Just keep going. And, no matter the distance, finish the race.


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