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Nearly 13 years ago, my husband, CPT John Hallett, was one of four soldiers killed while returning from a goodwill mission in Southern Afghanistan. With a 3-year-old, 1-year-old and 3-week-old baby who would never meet her father, I had to find a way to survive and make it to the next day. So, I turned to the coping mechanism I had leaned on throughout John’s military career: running.
I ran to the corner. I ran around the block. I ran a 5K, a 10K, a half-marathon and a marathon. And when that was no longer enough, I found new challenges — trail races, ultra-marathons, double marathons, the IRONMAN, and up next, the Leadville Trail 100 Run, a race that extends across a whopping one hundred miles of extreme Colorado Rockies terrain, from elevations of 9,200 to 12,600 feet.
Running helped me process my grief, and I realized I wanted to help others do the same. So, I co-founded wear blue: run to remember, and the national non-profit has grown more than I could have ever imagined as a community of support for our military, veterans and their families.
Training was hard, but starting a nonprofit was even harder. I woke up early to run and even earlier to work. There would be days when I would put the kids to bed, bring the baby monitor to the porch and spend an hour running up and down my eight-house street. But if you want something enough, you’ll fight for it. I was hungry to not only have personal success but to create something that had a positive impact on the lives of others. Here are four lessons I’ve learned from running in races while running a business:
1. Approach your business like a race
You can’t run 1 or 100 miles at once — you can only do it one step at a time. The same holds for starting a business. It’s taking one small step at a time, working your way from the start to the beginning. You just have to start moving, and the rest will follow. All it takes is a vision, a plan and a million tiny steps.
2. Don’t be the expert, find the experts
You don’t have to be a professional marathoner to start running. Anyone can learn the tips and tricks from others to work their way up to endurance distances. Likewise, in business, you don’t have to be an expert in every subject matter to succeed. You can take something good and make it something excellent by bringing in others with talent and expertise. Be transparent, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. It can be hard not to feel imposter syndrome set in, but surrounding yourself with a system of people to learn from is a strength. Always remember that you’re not alone on this journey.
3. Reframe failure as a growth opportunity
Complacency and comfort do not push you to become better. In running and in business, you’ll have moments where you feel in over your head, but that’s a good thing and an indication that you’re pushing yourself and your business forward. We should constantly be improving. You might feel like you’re failing when really it is an opportunity for growth.
5. Don’t overlook military talent
Military spouses and veterans bring a wealth of experience, flexibility and knowledge. They know how to work hard; they’re gritty and have had diverse backgrounds. Not only have they lived around the world, but they’ve interacted with various individuals and cultures while also navigating the challenges of a life of service. This leads to a richer, more diverse and more powerful team.
When you go out for a 20-mile run, and you hit mile 13, you’re tired. You’re sore and maybe a little bit angry — and that’s the point when you want to quit. The problem is, if you quit at mile 13, you’re stuck. And you’re usually stuck in the middle of nowhere. It’s the same when starting and growing a business. If you are not constantly fighting for the best version of tomorrow, then you are not better than you were yesterday. To truly succeed, you need to find and scale the next peak.