business lessons

This Is What My High School Track Career Taught Me About Business

When I was in the 7th grade, I joined the track team.

I wasn’t given an event for our first meet until another girl dropped out. My coach asked if I wanted to take her place in the 1,600-meter relay and I agreed.

The gun sounded and I just ran. I had no idea what I was doing. I finished the lap, handed off the baton, and moved to the side. My coach was elated.

Apparently I had done well.

One day at practice, my coach suggested I run the 800 meters to improve my time in the 400. I don’t remember what my time was (on a gravel track, no less), but I do remember my coach going crazy with his stopwatch, telling me I had to run that race.

So I did.

For the remainder of my middle school career, the 800 meter run was my race. Schools ran boys and girls together and I would beat everyone, every single time. My best time was a 2:32 (yes, I still remember) and the feeling of being so good at something was an absolute high.

I had struggled with bullying throughout my middle school life, but once I became a “track star,” that changed. Others respected me. I had talent.

My high school track career didn’t start out as great as I wanted it to. Instead of running my two best races, the 400 meters and the 800 meters, I was given the mile, a race I wasn’t as good at. I still remember having to run in the top heat in an invitational and struggling not to finish last. I hated having to run that race and it wore on me.

The sport itself was fun, though. I made wonderful friendships. I learned how to play Euchre during the long invitational days, spending time with the upperclassmen I genuinely got along with. The girls’ team won our league that year, meaning we moved up a level our sophomore year. That separated us from the boys’ team and we began traveling separately.

business lessons

We won our league meet when I was a freshman.

In addition to that change, I gained weight my sophomore year and my times suffered. Combined with not being able to spend time with my male friends and competing against more talented individuals, my love for the sport declined. Running had always been a painful endeavor. The 800-meter run is no joke. It’s nearly a sprint (at the highest level, it is a sprint) for a half mile. It hurts.

As soon as the overall experience stopped being fun and I wasn’t getting the payoff of winning, my motivation waned. I hated practice. Hated the meets. My anxiety level around running rose.

I made the decision to quit after my sophomore year. It was a difficult choice to make – it had become an identity for me. It was what I was good at. But the sacrifices outweighed the reward. My parents were crushed. They loved seeing their daughter excel at something and walking away early was a tough pill for them to swallow.

Now, almost 36 years old with three kids of my own, I look back on my decision to quit with mixed emotions. I know it was the best decision at the time, but I do wish circumstances had been different.

I wish that I had been able to find fun in those days and that my stress levels hadn’t resulted in weight gain that hurt my performance. I’m actually in better shape now, post-kids (I have a better diet and a regular yoga practice) than I was my sophomore year of high school, which creates regret that I didn’t keep myself in better shape to capitalize on my talent. Who knows? Maybe I could have run in college.

Ah, what could have been.

Looking back on this experience provides a valuable case study that pertains to business, however. There are three things I can pull from my track career that apply to my life as an entrepreneur:

1. Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

The yoga I practice is hot vinyasa, which challenges me every single session, pushing me out of my comfort zone. It is so easy to let my mind talk me out of staying in a pose while my body is on fire, especially since no one is forcing me to stay.

But the benefit of learning how to shut my mind voice off and find a way to be calm in an uncomfortable situation translates to all areas of my life.

Finding a way to be comfortable in the uncomfortable means I can push through projects I don’t want to do, engage respectfully with people who aren’t the friendliest, and continuing doing things for my business that don’t have an immediate payoff.

2. Find a Payoff

Speaking of an immediate payoff, it’s important to have at least one. As the things I loved about track fell off, one-by-one, enduring the pain of running became less and less tolerable.

This is true in business as well. So many entrepreneurs push way further than they should without allowing themselves something fun or gratifying from their businesses.

This results in burn-out.

Mike Michalowicz talks about this in his book, Profit First. He suggests putting a small percentage of earnings (as low as 1%) in a “profit account” each month and then spending it on yourself at the end of the quarter.

This improves morale because it means the business is working for the entrepreneur. It is critical to receive a payoff for all of our hard work, even if it’s a new outfit or a night at the movies.

3. Do What You’re Good At

Winning was an amazing feeling … even when it hurt like hell. Why? Because I was good at it!

Focusing on what we’re good at keeps us in flow. Even if it’s boring (or it hurts), doing what we’re good at has a special sort of payoff. In business, it pays with money and confidence.

So often we focus on bettering ourselves in areas we aren’t good at while avoiding what comes easy. In fact, for a long time, I felt guilty charging for what came easy to me.

The truth, however, is what comes easy for one person doesn’t come easy for most, which is why we should actually be charge more for what comes easy to us!

Left in the Past

I still run in the spring, summer, and fall months (you won’t find me running in the snow or freezing cold), pushing myself to get better.

I have found a “happy place” with running, averaging 3-to-5 miles at a time and listening to my favorite podcasts or audiobooks during my runs. I used to run with my kids in jogging strollers.

I time myself from time-to-time, getting “competitive” to prove to myself I still have talent. I do, but I haven’t run competitively since I hung up my cleats in high school. I’m afraid that I’ll push myself to the point of massive pain in an effort to win, and I’m not up for doing that just yet.

Maybe in another 10 years.

About Chrissie Wywrot

Chrissie Wywrot is a LinkedIn specialist who works with passionate entrepreneurs and professional athletes. To learn more about her services, visit her LinkedIn profile or email her at chrissie@chrissiewywrot.com.