Personal Success: A Marathon or a Sprint?

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Look, we know what you're thinking. This is going to be a puff piece where we tell you how to make a mixture of short and long-term goals to keep up your path to professional success. That would be very boring, not particularly insightful, and pretty run of the mill. We won’t do that, promise. This blog is about how Advisors can help you decide when to pace yourself slow and steady, and when to go as hard as you can—all with the handy dandy metaphor of running because we've focused a lot on other pop culture categories in this blog and now it's Usain Bolt's turn!

 You Gotta Train (For Both)

Here’s the thing about running, as long as you have two functional legs, you can do it…but to do it well, sustainably, and healthily you have to train your body, preferably with a coach. Sound familiar? Oh yes, this is the point where we relate it back to your own personal path and building a core group of Advisors who can help you on your journey. Sure, you can go after goals blindly and without a game plan. It might get you some success occasionally, but if you really want to achieve consistently, you have to train, and you must strategize.  

Ask any runner, and they'll tell you—training for a marathon is much different than training for a sprint. The first takes hours (fun fact: the shortest time a marathon was ever run was 2:02:57 in 2011 in Berlin) the second is over in seconds (fun fact: the 100 meter sprint world record is 9.58 seconds.) See the difference?

A sprint is short, fast, and over quickly. If you had to, you could probably get up and run 100 meters now and not keel over. You can do it, but if you had some time to plan for it, warm up a bit, and wear the right clothes, you probably could have done it better, especially if you had a coach on the sidelines watching you, giving you pointers on how to improve. Compare that with a marathon. You train for months if not years to be able to run a marathon— many people hire coaches to help their progress along the way, and make sure that they’re not learning poor form that could sustain injuries to themselves in the long run. Hmmm, makes you think, right?

As much as we're rooting for you, if we asked you to go run a marathon right now, we'd be highly surprised if you were able to make it even halfway through.

More on that in a minute.

It’s All in The Timing

So, there are things you want to achieve. You know it. We know it. Your Advisor knows it. That's great, goals are essential! Before you move forward, you need to ask yourself the following two questions:

  1. How long will this reasonably take?

  2. How much time can I devote to it?

Sprint Goals

So what is a “sprint” in relationship to goals? They’re the opportunities that arise out of the blue that won’t take up a lot of time to go for it, and if they are achieved, will happen fairly quickly. They're typically time sensitive, short-term, and require a burst of energy to accomplish. To make them, you have to run as hard as you can.

To prepare for a sprint, the best thing you can do is have Advisors you trust that can quickly help you assess when to put gas on it and just go for it. They’ll help you formulate the strategy needed to put all your effort into the goal, and cheer you on when you’re giving it your all. Advisors can also help you decide when not to sprint for a goal. Remember the second question you have to ask yourself—is the time worth it?

Sprints are great for getting a short-term gain, but If all you do is sprint, you’re operating at an unsustainable pace. Your Advisor can help you recognize if all you’re doing is sprinting, and work with you to formulate longer-term goals. When you sprint, you’re going to get to where you’re going 100 meters at a time. That’s great for a quick win, but in the long term you’re going to burn yourself out at that pace—Usain Bolt doesn't run 100-meter races every day of his life. After each one there's a rest and recovery period so he can perform at his optimal level.

Marathon Goals

So we get to the marathoning, and yes, the training. The beautiful thing about a marathon is that it's measured in miles, not meters. You can really go the distance with marathon-level goals, but you have to pace yourself. If you run hard and fast in the first mile (out of 26.2), you're going to burn out and not be able to finish the race, meaning that you won’t achieve your goal.

As far as we know, nobody wakes up one day and just decides to run a marathon that afternoon. You consciously choose to run a marathon and then you train. That's decidedly different than the short-term, more urgent nature of a "sprint" type of goal developing. Those opportunities pop up and you either take them, or they go away. Marathons are planned years in advance, both from the organizer perspective and the runner’s.

Marathon type of goals require more thoughtful consideration, and a systematic approach to working to achieve them, as well as benchmarking your progress along the way. Guess who can help you plan it all out? No. Not Usain Bolt, he’s a sprinter, we’re talking about your Advisors! They’re there to help you break up big, long-term goals into manageable actions you can take to get you where you want to be. It can be pretty daunting to think you have to run 26.2 miles, but running one seems alright, doesn’t it? Your Advisors help you break down your goal one mile at a time, so that by the end, you’ve run a marathon, and you were able to do it without burning out.  Pretty great, right?


Whether you have a long-term goal in mind or an opportunity that you want to seize, your Advisors are here to help you. They can help you assess whether the opportunity is worth your time, and work with you to figure out what you’ll need to do to achieve it.

Remember, not all opportunities are created equal or worth your time and effort. We suggest determining what type of effort (sprint or a marathon) is needed when assessing an opportunity or goal and working with your Advisor to figure out how to achieve it.

Agree, disagree, want to remind us about the Olympic sport of race walking? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!