Monday, February 27, 2012

Of Marathons and Careers

I am always very fascinated with marathons. In my younger days, I used to do a lot of long-distance running. The more I think about a marathon race, the more I am convinced that it is very similar to how our careers pan out.

In a marathon, there is a start line, a finish line, and a goal to be achieved. How well you perform depends on how you prepare for the race, and how you run that race. And at the end of the finish line when the marathon is over and done with, along with the sheer joy of completing the marathon, we all start to look forward to another marathon—just like we do in our jobs.

The warm-up: As I see it, preparing for a marathon is like preparing for a career. There is a lot of learning, a lot of rigor, lots of discipline, and not to forget, a compelling reason to excel. I have also learned that it is important to run the race because you’re committed to running it, and not because you have to win.
When you join an organization, it’s almost like preparing yourself to run the marathon. You finish your education and get ready to begin your career.

The start: As the race starts, you can see an apparent commotion and jostling for space as people try to get ahead of each other—oftentimes at the cost of your co-runner. But I’ve seen that the people who’ve really run a good marathon, are people who pace their race well, allow for people to pass by yet keep to the running. So, in real life, planning and pacing a career is more important than getting a good head-start.

In a marathon, just because someone, who started with you, is ahead of you by a few hundred meters, does not mean much! And if you’re ahead of someone, it again means nothing! It’s a long, long race!

The middle: I remember a boss of mine, Daljit Singh – a wonderful man! I was running this mini marathon on a crisp winter morning, and was wanting to give up somewhere in the middle, when he came by in a scooter and exhorted me to keep running and used some gentle words of persuasion. Words that I dare not print :). I found a renewed energy and started to run hell bent for leather. It was a pleasure breasting the tape as the winner. The trophy was special, all owed to Daljit. He had no need to be there with me. Yet he came to cheer me. In your career you will find a lot of Daljits. Their only intention is to support you and in a selfless way.

The final leg: The final leg of the marathon is perhaps the most difficult part of the race. There are two things that happen to you— either you almost give up or you experience a tremendous surge of energy that takes you through. You’re not distracted by anyone, but keep going on and on and on … and right yonder you see the tape. There may be others who may have already breasted the tape, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’ve now finished the race. Even as you’re huffing and puffing, you realize that you have finally found your own edge, your own winning formula.

The end: When you finish the race, amongst a lot of cheering and applauding, there comes a great sense of satisfaction: “I have made the marathon.” The marathon is complete because you’ve achieved your goal. You recognize that completing a marathon is a big deal in your life, and when you start to walk back slowly toward your home, your mind is already made up that you will, for sure, run another marathon.

Discovering your true self: A part of our lives is about goals, about how we achieve those goals, and how we move things around it. As we embark upon running a marathon on a cold winter morning, we know that the 26 miles 385 yards will take a long time to cover. But, so are careers—it is really long-distance. It tests, among other things, your patience, perseverance, and discipline. There is a certain cheer and camaraderie as there are lots of people running the race. It is very enlivening because it helps you to discover your true self—about who you are as a person.

Just like in real life, in a marathon too, there are highs and lows. Sometimes when you believe that you are too worn out to take another step, someone gently nudges you and says, “You can!” Discovering yourself in the course of a marathon of a career becomes your ultimate gain. A Daljit comes your way!

I love marathons. It helps me be human. It is not just about winning but also about how run the race. And I also truly believe that the only person you compete against in a marathon race is your own self. Careers are no different. I hope you too see it this way. Now go run one or at the very least, cheer those who are running one.


  1. This is Great, superbly written sir..

  2. Let me first congratulate you on the great Article you wrote! Thank you for sharing!

    I completely agree with a lot of statements.. esp. "It's a long long race and it helps to be Daljit to some of the co-runners.. it helps the co-runner and it helps you too. It does not matter who is ahead or who is behind, at the end of the day it matters how well we enjoyed the race and how I made it worth for somebody else!
    Thanks again for the great thoughts

  3. Its a very nice article. Excellent message. The correlation between the various stages of a marathon and career has given a powerful impact to the message. Thanks for posting it!

  4. Hello Sir,

    Its very inspiring and I could see all your experience you had articulated with examples. Very true. Thanks for sharing it sir.

  5. Its only Nathan's way to speak big in simplest way.Thanks Nathan

  6. Fantastic one yet made so SIMPLE!!! It is indeed very Inspiring and like to THANK you for sharing it across with everyone of us!

    Boss, Have a great day ahead!


  7. Very well written and Said Nathan.
    Im glad you mentioned a Daljith , many times in your career you just get lucky to be someone's Daljith , however how do we keep going when you dont find one around and feel helpless.. Self motivation just becomes a tough challenge when you try .. and when things seem to be unfair to you .. you feel like killing the system ( literally :) ) did you go through a phase like this ? and if yes , how could you pass thorugh ?
    Will wait for your suggestions....

  8. Excellent Message delivered, Nathan.
    Relating a marothon and a career was great; however Marathons are conducted once a year similar to DPME(our career), but the outcome of each of it differs a lot.
    I would say that Career is a never-ending marathon. we need to keep on updating our skills to achieve.

  9. HI Akhila,

    It is possible to find a Daljit in your life...we just have to search harder. And at all times, you dont have a Daljit who will come to your rescue. So, you have to delve deep into your own self and call upon your reserves to survive the moment. remember, it is a moment only. Things are not always as bad as they look. Faith is a matter of battling urgency with expected outcomes. And all of us, do have the reserves.

    I have gone through some tough times and i have found that what wins for me is a positive thought that keeps telling me that 'even this shall pass' !! Things will get worse to get better. Like every storm. Be well, my friend.

  10. People say u r a great leader.But I dont find such thing in u. You are not the person outside as u r inside