This Seems Like a Lot of Work For a Free Banana

This guest post is by my dear friend, Brian Sooy, who helped me raise my voice when I started on my own.  His voice is powerful. So please read this post and his book, Raise Your Voice: A Cause Manifesto, if you want to change your business...and yourself. 


Why It’s Worth Planning and Pushing to Reach your Goals

At age 52, I ran my first half marathon. My friends who are marathon runners said my time of 2:14:34 was respectable. I surpassed my goal by over 15 minutes.

But was it worth it? 

Early into the race, not 100 yards from the starting line, a child sat on his father’s shoulders, dressed for the chilly early morning, holding a sign up high. It read:

This seems like a lot of work for a free banana!

Early in the race, I appreciated the humor. 11 miles in, at the beginning of an uphill climb to the finish, I appreciated it even more.

Do you ever ask yourself a similar question in your business? For the entrepreneur, small business=owner, and leaders of any organization, does it seem like a lot of work?

In business, as you lead your team and guide your organization, do you ever ask yourself “Is it worth it?” What are your goals? What is your motivation?

Most importantly: What is your purpose?

I ran with a goal: to complete the race (walking as little as possible), and prove to myself that the destination was proof that I had the strength and courage to finish.

I knew I wouldn’t win, but I ran like I could win. I had trained for 5 months, for two and one half hours of grueling monotony. It was a half marathon, not a sprint. There would only be a dash to the finish for those who paced themselves, with reserved energy for a strong finish.

To my left, on a different part of the course, I watched the elite marathon runners pass me as if they had just started running. Those athletes were completing 26 miles in less time than it would take me to run 13.1 miles. Their destination was the same, but their goals were different. My goal was to finish; their goal was to win.

When you set your own goals, you set yourself free from the expectations others place upon you. When you cast a clear vision and share it with your team, you are free to lead well, and run your race as you see fit.

My purpose in running was for the sense of accomplishment I could have in completing the race, in reaching my goal. My time was good, but it wasn’t great.

After all that training, and preparation, was it worth it?

A few years ago, I realized that while I’ve been moderately successful in business, it wasn’t enough.Success is fleeting, and you have to keep chasing it—like a runner who constantly pushes himself, training harder, to achieve a better time—measured often in mere seconds.

Success is temporary; significance endures. I want to leave a legacy; to do work that matters, to have lasting and meaningful impact in my family, my career, my community. I want to live a life that matters, and make the story of my life a story worth telling.

Near the end of the race I was joined by a friend who has ran many 26-mile marathons, including a one hundred mile ultra marathon. He ran with me for a couple of hundred yards, encouraging me while I continued the uphill climb toward the finish.

His encouragement was enough to spur me on to run the last mile faster than I had ran the previous 12—a full 1:30 minute per mile faster.

I had prepared and trained, I was running strong. My friend recognized it, and reminded me that I could finish strong.

I’d like you to share this perspective with me: to work with purpose, and to seek significance.

Deep down, you know what you're good at. Don't be afraid to run with it and lead with your strengths. Stick to your purpose; stay focused on your goals.

Every day, remind yourself: I’m running my business as if I will win the race. I have prepared, and I will push myself to reach my goals.

Surround yourself with encouragers, who will cheer you on when you feel like you’re the weakest.

We don’t all need to win, but we all need to finish.

You may not win the race, but you will finish strong.

If all you are going to settle for is the equivalent of a free banana, then it won’t be worth it. If you work with a sense of purpose, you’ll achieve significance. If you’re just simply working, you’ll struggle without a sense of purpose.

My last quarter mile was the strongest. I was sore; I was tired.  As I crossed the finish line I was handed a medal… and a banana.

It was a lot of work. But it was worth it.

Brian Sooy is the author of the book Raise Your Voice: A Cause Manifesto, (RockBench, 2014), a framework for understanding how an organization's purpose, character, culture, and voice can connect mission and audience more effectively.  The 12 strategic, inspirational, relational, and aspirational principles of the Cause Manifesto empower leaders to create purpose-driven culture and communications, share their story more powerfully and effectively, and align their culture and communication strategy to the outcomes they are working to achieve.

Brian is an entrepreneur, design professional, volunteer, donor and nonprofit board member. He is the principal of Aespire, the design and marketing firm that empowers mission-driven organizations to create purpose-driven culture through positioning, design, marketing, and web site development.

Twitter: @briansooy