How to run your own race

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Photo: ABC News/Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Have you been obsessed with the Olympics? I am exhausted after staying up until 11pm every night this week, but I just cannot get enough of the games.

The gold medal finishes are so exciting. Who doesn’t love the flair and fun of Usain Bolt? The joy of the USA women’s soccer team? The tears from Misty and Kerri in beach volleyball?

But I am most fascinated by the reaction of those who do not win.

Losing sucks. Or does it?

Martha Beck, my friend and coaching mentor says:

“Your relationship is not supposed to be perfect all the time, your business is not supposed to do well all the time, your soufflés are not supposed to raise perfectly all the time. Everything is designed to go wrong so that you can gain the skills of rediscovering your tracks, even in difficult or frightening circumstances. Especially in difficult and frightening circumstances.”

How can you put your entire being into a big goal, and not be jealous of others if you do not win?

I believe in full-contact living. We have one spin around this life, and we might as well set big, audacious goals and push ourselves to be the very best that we can be.

One reason why top spots are so coveted is that there are so very few of them. When you are competing with the best and brightest, all with the desire to win, it is impossible for everyone to finish first.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself

My friend Susan Hyatt, whom I love and adore, shared a picture of herself in Oprah’s studio in New York City, as she was getting primped for an exciting feature in O Magazine and the OWN network. I was so happy for her, since she has worked so hard over many years to get there.

And then, I admit, I had a stab of jealousy.

I wanted to be in that studio, getting ready for my own photo shoot.

I had the same ecstatic joy/jealous pang when friends Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project) and Jenny Lawson (Let’s Pretend This Never Happened) hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

“They DID it!” I thought. “It is a victory for blogging authors out there, but especially female blogging authors, who happen to be moms.”

They deserve every bit of glory from all of their hard work. They are both whip-smart, kind, funny and generous people. They made it happen.

But still, dang, I want to get my book on the NYT bestseller list!

Then, at the gym the other day, I was doing a chest press and happened to look over at the most perfect pair of well-toned legs I have ever seen. The owner of said legs was about my age (45) or a bit older. She was in totally fantastic shape.

“Damn, girl!” I thought. “Way to win the leg lottery!”

Thankfully, my  green with envy moments passed with some deep breaths and a bit of reflection. And I realized a hidden jewel in my moments of pettiness:

It is possible to achieve these goals.

People close to me have achieved these goals.

When you really get this, then you can ask yourself the first set of questions:

  • Do I want these results as badly as my successful friends?
  • Am I willing to put in the hard work and sacrifice to attain these results?
  • Do I have the talent and/or genetics to attain similar results?

What happens if you shoot for the goal and come up short?

Once you are clear that you want to pursue your goal and you have the capability of winning, ask yourself:

  • Is it worth the sacrifice?
  • Will the pursuit of the win bring purpose, mastery, contribution and meaning into my life?
  • Do I want this for my ego, or for my heart?

If you answer yes to these next three questions, then go for it.

When asked if she was going to compete in the Rio Olympics in 2016, fourth place winner Lolo Jones said:

“Now that I’ve had two bittersweet Olympics, I’m like, ‘Man, I don’t know. Every time I come here, I get burned.'”

You know what Lolo? If the pursuit of the goal is not going to be worth it to you, regardless of the outcome, it may not be worth the effort.

But if it is?

Pursue your dreams. Go for the gold.

And if you hit #322 on the New York Times bestseller list instead of #1, or sell three copies of your program instead of 3,000 , turn to the winner in your race with an open heart and big smile and say:

“Your dedication, talent, smarts, strength and drive are a thing of beauty. Thank you for setting such a great example.  I will use it to kick your ass next time.” And give them a big hug.

Stay in your lane.

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20 Responses to “How to run your own race”

  1. This is a truly amazing post Pam. A lot of us can truly relate to this story and it inspires me once again to life life to the fullest.

  2. […] How to Run Your Own Race (Escape From Cubicle Nation) While I’m generally happy with my life, I can’t help but feel a bit of envy when I see someone doing exactly what I’d like to be doing. This article is a good reminder that this is MY race, and I need to stay in my own lane. […]

  3. […] And finally, from Pam Slim, is one last Olympic post.  (And yes, I am getting help for my Olympic habit.)  I appreciated her reflection on how important it is to remain focused on our own goals, to run our own race. […]

  4. Eleanor says:

    This post deserves a gold medal!

  5. Great article, a lot of honesty, which we can all relate to. Especially when you’re in business for yourself, I’ve found it’s so easy to distract (and detract) from your own goals and accomplishments by turning your head constantly and looking at what your peers are doing. No one finds success emulating someone else’s model. But it’s tempting to try. Great message!

  6. Tina says:

    Pam – love this! Your honesty and your writing are inspiring to me xxx

  7. Val says:

    So glad you wrote what lots of us experience. What came to mind for me is that we are not all meant to be in the big spotlight; some us ARE the light that shines for others to step into. You are bringing south light for others into the world. Your inner light is so bright!!!! I adore you!

  8. faisal says:

    While it does demotivate, it keeps you on the back burner.

  9. […] How to run your own race | Escape From Cubicle Nation Your relationship is not supposed to be perfect all the time, your business is not supposed to do well all the time, your soufflés are not supposed to raise perfectly all the time. Everything is designed to go wrong so that you can gain the skills of rediscovering your tracks, even in difficult or frightening circumstances. Especially in difficult and frightening circumstances. […]

  10. sherold Barr says:

    Pam – what a great post and yes all of us are so proud of Susan Hyatt. She has worked long and hard keeping her eye on the goal and she won a gold. And there are many of us that think you also won a gold with your fan base, book and your heart that is so wide open with love. Thank you for writing this.

  11. Yolanda says:

    This really helps to prioritise the difference between the ‘have to’ and want to’ with the love from our intuitive heart and bypassing any yucky, OLD self judgements.
    Thanks so much – love your blog, have never seen your legs and from this part of the world a sincere and supportive thank you – a big whopper ‘every success’ to you.

  12. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in the comparison trap, when in reality, we have NO idea what’s really going on behind the scenes in the other person’s life. If we’re not comparing apples to apples (in EVERY sense of the word), then the comparison isn’t fair.

    And in truth, your situation can never be 100% exactly like someone else, because you aren’t 100% exactly like anyone else on this planet. Period.

    Yes, we can have similarities and even a few stereotypes and generalizations that work most of the time. But the more time we spend comparing ourselves to everyone else, the less time we have to get to the top of the heap.

  13. Daryl says:

    Nothing wrong with being fourth best in the world, even if it means you didn’t get a medal. Very few people even get into the race. You don’t need to be #1 to be a winner in my book.

  14. Allison says:

    Or as my advisor once shared with me, “If you really want to be a concert pianist, then the long hours of pain and practice are worth it. If you don’t want to be a concert pianist, then it’s just pain.”
    Thanks, Pam, as always, for your insightful questions.

  15. Susan says:

    Thanks for this honest and real post! A great reminder to us all that we have our own race. Thanks, Pam!

  16. Whenever I am envious of everything, I remind myself that I got to see Jerry Garcia live nearly 400 times. What more can I ask? 🙂