Lessons from lacing up: What I learned from Mr. Not as Lean, Not as Mean…

Many years ago, I gained an entry into the Marine Corps Marathon. I had only been running for a little over five months when I laced up to run that epic race. I was a very naïve, newbie runner who had only felt the upswing of my performance as I trained.

For the first half of the race, I was nervous but feeling good. About mile 13, I noticed the back of a t-shirt of a runner in front of me with “Semper Fi”, the number 70, and a line underneath that read, “Not as lean, not as mean, but still a Marine.” I stared at this shirt for miles as I tried and failed to pass him. Then toward the end of the race, it dawned on me that this runner, who was outperforming me, was twice my age at 70 years old.

I have thought about that race and runner, who I now refer to as “Mr. Not as Lean, Not as Mean”, often in the years since. As we lace up for the 2023 strategic planning season, here are a few lessons from running to help as you plan:

  • Keep at it – Over the years, I have not been able to run as much as I would like. Life just gets in the way. But I keep lacing up, putting in the miles when I can- never wavering from the strategy that by doing the work, I will be able to perform. This lesson applies to business as well. Set your strategies for growth and realize it’s going to take time to get there. The projects and work you do day in and day out should be aligned with your strategic direction and will allow you to succeed if you keep at it.
  • Listen to your body – Over the last decade, I’ve started to experience little aches and pains as I run that are annoyances like a bruised toe or sore feet. These annoyances are my body telling me, you may need to slow down or take a rest. I shouldn’t abandon my training or goal altogether, but rather be patient and readjust. Apply this sentiment to your strategic planning at your credit union too. Keep your focus on your overall goal, but understand when you need to pause, reassess and be patient and deliberate with the process.
  • Power of purpose – As most runners will tell you, ¾ of the way into a race you are thinking, “Why am I doing this? Everything hurts! I don’t know if I will see this through to the end.” And then you cross the finish line and despite everything, you feel like a complete rock star. You did it! You kept your purpose constant and finished the race. When contemplating a new initiative at your credit union, understand the power of purpose. Start with the why. Ask yourself, “Why are you doing this and how does it relate to your core purpose?” If it doesn’t align with your strategy and long-term goals, don’t do it. But if it does, give it what you’ve got and work through the pain points knowing that purpose is one of the most powerful tools you have. In the end, the achievement will stand on its own.

Fast forward to 2023 and I am a good 12 years past the Marine Corps Marathon and am firmly planted in middle age. Despite these hurdles, I decided I would run my local half marathon last spring. I used to love running this distance but had not competed in over five years.

Even with some setbacks along the way, I ran the second fastest half marathon of my life, just a minute and 30 seconds slower than my personal record (PR) from over a decade ago. Proving to me once again, that “Mr. Not as Lean, Not as Mean” had it right all along – there’s a lot more to success than simply being energetic. Persistence, patience and purpose win in the long run.

Bryn C. Conway

Bryn C. Conway

Bryn C. Conway, offers more than 15 years of experience as a former credit union executive with extensive background in strategic planning, brand development, member experience, retail delivery and public ... Web: https://strategiesbeyondcreative.com Details