Management Consulting and Ultrarunning: A Happy Couple!
As an ultra runner and management consultant, I often get questions about how the two relate.
When I’m busy with work, people often ask if my training provides me the discipline to keep my head down and crank out tasks. When my work is challenging, friends wonder whether my experiences slogging out miles on the trail gives me more strength to find the solutions. The answer, unsurprisingly, is yes - training for ultramarathons requires many of the skills and efforts as I use regularly in my career as a management consultant.
What’s not as obvious, however, is how my consulting profession helps me as an ultramarathoner. Many of the skills I use regularly with clients are critical in helping me execute a successful race. To have some fun and illustrate this relationship, I’ve created a table using the the common project life-cycle phases as categories:
In addition to the similarities with the different phases listed above, there are two other critical elements that are required for success in both my career and running:
Balance - with consulting and with running, striking the right balance between work (both training and consulting) and life is critical to ensuring a healthy mindset and preventing burnout. There are times when work hours are long, or I have to skip a dinner to complete a long run, but those need to be the exception, not the rule. If balance slips, then the result is a one-sided approach that is destined for failure.
Physical and Mental Health - to perform well as a professional and an athlete requires a healthy lifestyle so I can always bring my best. This includes eating well, getting enough sleep, listening to my body, and surrounding myself with fun, positive people. If I’m sick and tired, I simply cannot keep up with what I expect of myself, and I end up falling behind, making it harder to reach my goals.
FUN! - One of the core values at my firm is FUN, and I love it. Work and ultras are not always going to be easy, but if you can make a tough situation into something fun, you'll be a lot happier. Whether it's good music and food when you are working late, or singing a silly song at mile 45 - you can't take yourself too seriously, and need to make it fun!
So that’s my short and fun comparison of my favorite hobby and awesome career. What activities do you participate in that helps your career? Does your career make you better at your hobby?