“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” – Albert Einstein
I am a runner. To grossly oversimplify: I run because it makes me happy. There are a lot of other reasons too, that are pretty well summed up in this post from a fairly new runner with great perspective.
For me, running is a joy, a break from real life, a way to achieve. I set goals, and pat myself on the back when I accomplish them: “I ran 35 miles this week” or “I ran four miles in 30 minutes!” Besides me, nobody is paying attention, and the rewards for my big races are Finisher’s Medals and cotton, race-logo-emblazoned t-shirts I’ll never wear. My kids, since learning to talk have asked me “Are you gonna win, Momma?” followed by: “But… then why are you running?”
My aching body echoed those questions recently as I slogged through the Boston Run to Remember Half Marathon. It was wretchedly humid, and around Mile 10, there were a lot of fellow racers who stopped running.
I thought to myself in that Mile 10 moment (actually, I had to yell to my own brain to get a thought heard over the Foo Fighters screaming in my ear asking “is someone getting the best of you”… you really can’t make up this kind of irony): why should I keep going? My legs hurt. I have a dehydration headache, but I’m so sweaty my sunscreen is sliding into my eyes and blinding me. A lot of other people are stopping.
You can see why I love running long distance races. Who wouldn’t pay to feel that way? But wait, there is a point coming.
For me, that Mile 10 moment is an object lesson in how to deal with those times in life and work when what you’re doing seems very nearly impossible. Public relations is rife with Mile 10 moments: the blogger event has more action items than your team can possibly handle; you can’t get a prospect to come on board as a client no matter how perfect your agency is for them; a reporter just doesn’t think the story you’re telling matters; your client’s Facebook page has become a full-on weekend job for a hard-working team of bright, capable people who really should be able to have a life and you don’t know how to make it better without jeopardizing the program. Those moments happen, and when they do, unless you are made of iron, you probably think about finding an easy way out, about finding a way to stop. Just like in a distance
In races when I’ve hit my low point, the way I hit reset is to imagine the regret I’d feel the next day if I quit. Twenty-five more minutes of running will NOT feel worse than the nagging, unrelenting regret I’ll have about quitting, and so I find the strength to keep going. The reward may only be a fake medal, but inside, I feel like anything is possible after doing what I thought I might not be able to do.
In PR, persevering through Mile 10 moments can lead to similar feelings of victory, and also to breakthroughs in the way we work. When we hit the wall and find a way to keep moving forward creatively, we become better at asking, at telling our clients’ stories, at managing events, at finding effective social media management strategies. Perseverance pays off in that moment, for our clients, and for us as PR professionals, it pays returns throughout our careers.