Lessons from a 4-mile race

On a whim, I ran a 4-mile race today. It was the first time Redmond had organized a "Poultry Predictor". You predicted your time at the start of the race, and the person who guessed best would win an 18 lb turkey ("and salmonella!", a wag added). Of course, no timing devices were allowed.

The morning was cold, as Redmond goes. Nearly 34 degrees, with frost and black ice on the trails. I ran the 4 miles in 47 minutes - not too bad, given it was uphill at least half the way. Here are my thoughts on some lessons I learned about work and life from this run:

1) The prize for first place is a turkey. So enjoy the journey.

One of the fun things about this race was the fact that the prize for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place was a frozen turkey. One week from Thanksgiving, grocery stores are flooded with the gobblesome beasts. Very few of the runners, if any, actually wanted to win this prize. This made for an interesting dynamic - people were just in it to have fun. Some people even stopped in the middle of the race to enjoy the scenery (or maybe they were just catching their breath ) I thought this was an interesting parallel to life - you can work really hard all of your life, but you have to remember that the big promotion or multi-million dollar cash-out are really just turkeys. The real fun is in the race itself, and what comes along the way.

A question for myself: in my every day work, what's the turkey? And what can I appreciate along the way?

2) Bring your friends and family along for the ride. It will be more fun.

One interesting factoid - at least 60% of the participants were women. And many of the women brought friends. They were high-fiving each other along the way, and cheering each other as they finished. They just had a lot more fun than people like me who were running alone.

A question for myself: how can I involve my friends and family in my work? How can I have more fun along the way, with people I love and care for?

3) Question the rules - but stay honest

**There were at least 50 people running. I was the only one with headphones on and listening to music along the way. How did this happen? Everyone else just followed the rules ("no timing devices"). I asked one of the organizers about the rule, and she said music players were an exception. So I rocked on to "Eye of the Tiger", while many other people couldn't listen to their favorite tracks. Of course, I had to be honest and not cheat with the clock on my phone.

A question for myself: how can I question the rules and conventions we take for granted? While breaking rules, how can I make sure I do right by other people who are in the same race?

4) Uphill sucks. But remember it's downhill on the way back.

Halfway in the race, the trail turned steeply uphill. I had not looked up the elevation profile before the race, so I was surprised and had to work harder to make it. One thing kept me going strong - it's uphill now, but it will be downhill later. I think many of work challenges are the same way - you may think shipping this iteration is awfully difficult, but it's actually building up muscles which you will use in the future.

A question for myself: when I am working really hard, how can I keep perspective of the future? How can I make sure I'm building the right skills and muscles which I can use later?

Happy Turkey Day!