Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Failure IS an option

One of the best learning experiences you can have is to fail at something. This is when you really find out who you are and what your made of. I love to read business books. One pattern that you start to see when you study the people who build successfull business's is that they almost all failed first. The difference between these people and most is that they didn't give up. What some call a failure others simply chaulk up as a mistep on their way towards accomplishing the big goal.

When I started my business I remember certain people being taken aback when I said that if it failed I would simply start a new one. In the business world it is commonly said that failure is not an option. I believe it IS an option, but that doesn't mean that you give up.

In October of last year I had one of the biggest failures of my life. Me and my friend John Lacroix set out to run across New Hampshre, all 124 miles of it...non-stop. I had absolutely NO doubt that I would finish that run. What I didn't know was that at about mile 60 my right foot would start to hurt. Hurt badly. Like, new type of pain that I haven't experienced before. By mile 70 I was done. It wouldn't have been so bad except that John and I had done a ton of promoting this run. Our goal was to raise $10,000 for the New Hampshire Make-A-Wish foundation and the best way to raise money was to let a ton of people know about it. We were in newspapers, on the radio and on the local news.

John went on to finish the run. It was an incredible experience for him and it was terrible for me. I was very proud of him, but extremely dissapointed in myself. I'm not used to not accomplishing what I set out to do. The next few weeks were tough for me. Every time I saw another article featuring John and hardly mentioning me I got more upset. I later found out that I had stress fractured my foot, but I couldn't help feeling that I just wasn't being tough enough. I know that its not rational as the doctor told me that my foot would have simply cracked and broken if I had continued.

At first I didn't want to talk to anybody about it. I had so many people who were incredibly supportive tell me how proud of me they were and what a good job I did. After all, they said, you did run 70 miles!! But for me, it was an absolute failure, pure and simple. I tried to be gracious to everybody, but I'm not sure I did such a good job. I just didn't want to talk about running.

I can't say that I have fully recovered from my dissapointement. One thing I do know is that now my foot is mostly healed and my training is going well. My love of running is as strong as ever and ultimately that is all that matters. I am driven to try a longer race (150 miles) and run faster at the Vermont 100 this year. It will only be a matter of time before I achieve a new triumph and feel on top of the world and the bitterness of the run across NH fades away and is replaced with the joy of a new triumph.

At that point I am sure I will be thankfull for failing, because that is what pushed me to try harder and succeed.

Listen below to Public Radio's "Weekend America" report on the run.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dream big

When I ask who I am, I come up with many answers. I am a Husband, a Dad, a Boss, a Runner, a Snowboarder, a Motorcyclist, an Entrepreneur. The harder question to answer is, who do I want to be? The problem is that I believe that I can do anything. Actually, I believe that anybody can do anything that they want to do if they decide to do it. I have actually had arguments with family members who don’t believe it. For them, there are always scenarios that will limit somebody’s potential. I tend to be an optimist. I don’t think that I am better than anybody else, but I believe that I can do anything in the world that I want to do. Some people feel that is arrogance. The thing that they don’t know is that I feel the same way about everybody.

Somehow I know that what I really want is to inspire people. I don’t want to inspire them to be like me or do the things that I do. I think that inspire might be the wrong word. I want to help people realize that the biggest obstacle in their life is probably themselves. It has to start with an actual belief that you can do it (anything you decide on). When I tell people that I ran 100 miles in less than 24 hours the almost universal answer is “I could never do that”. And that is exactly the reason why they never will. Running 100 miles doesn’t take any special talent. It starts with a desire, then a belief, then an unwavering dedication to making it happen. The desire can be there but without a belief that you can actually do it, you wont. Guaranteed.

I seem to see potential in people around me that they don’t see in themselves. The other day I was talking to a man in my shop that was looking at bikes with his boss. His boss is a successful business person whom he obviously looked up to. He told me that he (his boss) owned a big piece of property and that he was in his 70’s and still going strong. He was bragging to me about how successful he was. He obviously admired him a great deal. I asked him what his position was and he said “Oh, I’m just his maintenance guy” like he was embarrassed or somehow his life wasn’t as important as his boss. I had to do everything in my power not to say to him, “Don’t you ever say that you’re ONLY his maintenance guy”. I can’t stand it when people do that to themselves.

When I started National Powersports I quickly realized that it had huge potential. It wasn’t long before I had this mental image of what the business looked like when it was finished. I didn’t dream of your ordinary motorcycle shop. I pictured a huge warehouse like Home Depot filled with motorcycles. I pictured where the cruisers would go. I pictured where the sportbikes would go. I pictured how the salespeoples desks would be positioned. I pictured how the signage would look. I pictured how the new bikes waiting to be worked on would be laid out. I pictured how the lighting would be set up. The type of detail that I allowed myself to picture formed exactly that, a picture. This was when I was selling bikes out of my garage. Fast forward to my current shop, where many of those images have been realized. I hear many times from people who have done business with me for years, “I bet you never pictured this when you started?” Well, actually I did. I don’t think that I would have grown as quickly if I had not. All I’m doing is following the image that I have painted in my head. Its just connect the dots!

The first step in changing your life is to allow yourself to dream. Every one of us can picture ourselves doing something special with our lives. But we seem to have lost that ability that we had as a kid that allowed us to believe that we can actually do it. Tonight when you go to bed, fantasize about something great, and then picture it in your mind as if it was real. Let go of all the reasons that you can’t have what you want and immerse yourself into the feeling of having what you want. Believe that you can have it. Don’t worry about the how, just believe that you can.

Great things happen once you change “I could never” to “I can”.