Too wild for this world: essential rebellion in ultrarunning and entrepreneurship

 

Image from Buzzfeed http://www.buzzfeed.com/peggy/31-inspirational-style-quotes-to-live-by#.egapJPrOj
Image from Buzzfeed

Working for yourself is scary and challenging. This past week, I’ve interviewed a couple of young, creative entrepreneurs who are either in the process of, or already have taken the plunge into self employment.

Speaking with these guys, I was inspired, impressed, and most of all, struck by how similar entrepreneurship is to ultrarunning.

Passion to devote hours of time to something just because you love it. Strength to crush fear and self doubt, if only for a moment. A competitive spirit.

These thoughts have been resonating with me, not only because of the interviews, but because I, myself, have recently taken the daring leap.

That’s right! Starting this week, I’m officially (returning) to freelancing as my primary source of income.

Exciting! And terrifying.

As I was confessing my worries to one of my interviewees, the 27-year-old owner of a rapidly-growing IT business in Mount Shasta, he leaned forward and told me this:

Without the worry… without the risk… without the sacrifice… what would your success be, anyway?

Obviously, my mind went straight to the final stretch of a race, and that sharp flash of bliss that always kicks in when the finish is in sight.

Then I realized, this dude totally gets it. He may have never run a race in his life, but that vital force is still there. I’m totally not making a Star Wars reference, but you can take it that way!

I often thought my ability to be my own boss stems from the same core element that drives me to train for endurance races. Getting to know other people who are doing the same makes me think there’s a pattern here.

We’re all the same kind of rebellious, stubborn and arrogant punk-ass.

I mean that in the kindest way.

Here’s some examples of common traits found in entrepreneurs and ultrarunners:

Challenging the status quo 

When I made a suggestion to my boss on how to improve the efficiency of some office tasks, his response was, “It’s been done that way for 30 years.”

I want to point out that this exchange was NOT the reason I packed up my yoga ball and left. This is only an example of resistance to change that I see so much of. And yes, part of the reason I set out on my own is the belief that I can do a better job by following my own rules.

Entrepreneurs don’t apologize for innovation. Similarly, the thrill of distance running lies in pushing boundaries. For me, the physical and mental transformation that occurs during training is as much of a motivating factor as is the sense of achievement.

Competition!

Whether setting my place in a pack of runners or sitting at my laptop in a virtual world of freelancers, knowing there are tons of other punks out there who want it just as badly as I do really keeps me going.

Unshakeable committment

I am one of the most stubborn bitches I’ve ever met. The upside of this? If I set my mind to something, whether that be selling articles or running ultras, you better believe I’m going to do whatever it takes to make it happen.

Example: The apple story

When I was 8 years old, my girl scout troop had a Halloween party that involved bobbing for apples. Anyone who’s actually participated in this ridiculous activity already knows how tough it is. Unless you can snag a solid stem between your teeth, it’s damn near impossible.

I watched the line of young brownies get frustrated and give up, walking away from the tub fruitless and forlorn. Something stirred inside me. I wanted that apple.

When it was my turn, I stepped up to the side of the tub. Following the example set by the other girls, I chased apples around, trying to get a hold of a stem. Obviously, it didn’t work when I tried, either. The slippery round apples kept ducking into the safety of the water they floated in.

I had to get serious. I targeted one piece of fruit as my victim. Taking a deep breath, I braced myself by holding on to the sides of the tub and plunged my entire head and shoulders into the bucket of water.

I can still remember the fight to corner that plump little beast at the bottom edge of the tub, and the sweet crunch of victory as I sunk my incisors into the prized apple.

My vampire wig fell off, my face paint turned the water a disgusting shade of grey, and I was soaking wet.

It was totally worth it. I won. The apple was mine.

Okay, that story doesn’t have to do with running or writing, but it demonstrates perseverance, and I figured you might be tired of hearing about that time I ran 9 miles on a broken foot just to finish my first ultra.

 

And with that, I shall return to my old habit of leaving you with a song. Much love!

They’ll have to come and take us
With the force of ten trains
‘Cause it’s no life worth living
If we don’t hold the reins

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2 thoughts on “Too wild for this world: essential rebellion in ultrarunning and entrepreneurship

  1. beatthemtodeathwiththeirownshoes says:

    Great piece. I think the comparison works – when you strike out on your own, that’s it, you’re on your own. No looking back. No buckling under the stress and strain. Love the apple-bobbing story. And you did it within the rules set out. I, unfortunately would have tipped the tub over and taken all the apples… because Im a psychopath. :)

    Like

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