Lessons Learned from Marshmallow to Marathoner

Hi Friends, now that the marathon is over, I’m a bit surprised that I never did lose those few pounds I was hoping to lose as a result of training for and running the marathon.  In thinking about why, I realized that in life, some things are just true, whether we like it or not!

Take my efforts to lose some weight.  There is a law of nature that governs how we gain or lose weight.  In spite of what we want to believe and hope (yes, in my day I’ve tried several “easy” diets) it’s really just a simple formula: If Calories Eaten > Calories Used, you gain weight.  And the opposite is also true, if you use more calories than you eat, you will lose weight over time.  This isn’t a piece about dieting, so I’ll leave it at that… As much as I wish it were different, I didn’t lose weight because in training I needed fuel for my runs.  The longer and more challenging the run, the more fuel I needed.

But this got me thinking about other things that I’ve found to be true that I figure are worth sharing.

1) A 2-year-old won’t ask to be prioritized

I learned this lesson the hard way, but I’m grateful I did.  Like most of you, I have had periods in my career when I have worked a lot.  Maybe even too much.  Fortunately for me, I had my sweet wife by my side to help me wake up.  During a particularly busy season, I wasn’t spending much time with my son.  I rationalized by saying to myself, he knows I love him… and I remembered all the things that we had done recently and that I’d hope we would do again soon.  I figured it was just a busy season, and then it would fade.  But as the weeks dragged on, I kept telling myself the same lines.

Anyways, it was clear to my wife that I wasn’t seeing things straight, and she told me to step up and be a dad.  It struck me when she said it, “A 2-year-old won’t ask to be prioritized, it can’t fight for your attention.”  Kids are so adaptable, and they look up to you so much, they let you get away with anything because they don’t know better.  And as much as he may have been ok, I was failing at being a dad, and I was kind of miserable.  But then and there I decided to change, I came home earlier (even if it meant I needed to get back online later) and we’ve had a blast ever since.  Maybe he won’t remember, but because I was there, I can remember.  Kids are only 2 once, and if you miss it, you can’t catch up when they are 3.  You need to be there all along the way.

2) Be happy, by helping others.

Life really isn’t as complicated as we make it.  And yet, as we grow we develop a hunger for things… things to do, things to learn, things to possess.  But along the way we often overlook the people in and around our lives… people to meet, people to serve, people to love.

I’ve seen it first hand on the beautiful tropical island, Bora Bora.  While I was serving there as a missionary I met with the poorest of the poor, the humble people who cleaned luxurious over-water bungalows.  I also met the impressive and often extravagant occupants of those bungalows.  I talked with all of them about life and asked them, what made them happy? What did they hope for?  In spite of all the outward differences, they were essentially the same.  They had different things, but the same treasure—the people they cared for.

I’ve found when we free our lives of things and give each other time instead of trinkets, we connect with each other in powerful and meaning ways.  We find that we are happiest when we try to make others happy too.  It’s true, give it a try and you’ll see what I mean!

3) You feel bad when you do something wrong.

It’s true, we’ve all felt it.  Some things are right and some things are wrong.  In spite of what we’ve learned at HBS, it isn’t as grey as we think.  When we do what is wrong–even if we don’t get caught– we feel bad.  We sometimes get desensitized to it, but we know we should do the right thing, and sometimes we just don’t.  Whatever our rationalizations, let’s not ever believe that we can’t control our actions and respond to our circumstances.  I believe that one day we will all have to face the decisions we have made along the way, I hope I can reach that day and be proud of what I see.  Trying to always do what is right will help you feel good.

And one last one quickly,

4) You always do exactly what you want to do.

I know you may be thinking, like I did, “No way!  If that were true, there’s no way I would have written that paper, paid that parking ticket, or worked through the weekend!.”  But the truth of the matter is we wanted to do exactly that.  Only I can decide what I do with my life; choice is a precious gift.  So, though we may not like it in the present moment, we believe somewhere that working through the weekend or paying the parking ticket will get us something we actually want, like a raise or integrity.  We do what we think is best.

It’s important to remember this, because it reminds us that we are in charge of our life.  We decide what to make of each and every day.  If we don’t like what we see on our schedule for the day, or week or month, we can change it.  This becomes increasingly important when the trade-offs are more significant, like time with loved ones.  Be careful what you want and prioritize, because you will likely do exactly what it takes to get it.

So, go forth and be great.  Don’t worry about doing great things, I believe that if we just try to be great people, great brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers and friends, great things will happen to us.  Oh, and if you want to lose weight, eat less and exercise more.  I bet if I try that, I’ll be less of a marshmallow!

Have a great day!