By Scott Millman, president of Bean Steel Company, a service center with a focus on steel sales and steel processing.
As a busy entrepreneur, sometimes you need to blow off steam to regain your perspective on things. Some people relax by sailing, playing sports or watching movies. For me, I find my calm through ultra running, racing at a distance greater than 26.2 miles. It’s an extreme sport that pushes you to the limit, forces you to learn from your mistakes and encourages you to take risks … all of the things I do in business every day.
Here’s a preview of what a typical race is like: It’s 6 a.m., and outside it’s dark and humid. I take off into the darkness with several hundred other runners, competing in a 50-mile adventure through the woods. It sounds chaotic, but there is a peace that exists during these types of races. Over the next several miles, the participants will spread out, find their own pace and settle down from the fast start. In these early hours, it’s great to catch up with old friends as I run, and sometimes I make new ones in the process. We share experiences with our peers, hear one another’s stories and discuss how we overcame our challenges and fears. It’s cathartic, and it’s one of the best things about competing in these races.
I’ve been participating in this extreme sport for the past 20 years. It started simply enough. I woke up one day and wondered how far I could push my body and mind. Eager to find the answer, I started to compete in adventure racing, covering the miles by bike, foot, boat, rope, horse, mule, camel and any other non-motorized means. After my adventure racing days were over, I looked to trail running. It seemed like a perfect fit, with its long distances and beautiful scenery. Each mile brings uncertainty and the possibility of getting injured or lost. But I don’t focus on that. When I’m racing, I’m in my own little world, thinking about life, business and the challenges that lie ahead. Racing affords me the opportunity to solve some of my most pressing issues, both personally and professionally. I always tell people ultra running is more about battling the voice in your head than it is about the trails, long miles, river crossings, cuts, bumps and bruises. It’s about the experience, and what that experience means to you.
All in all, ultra racing has taught me how to forget my mistakes, correct them and move forward. This is especially useful when it comes to running my business. After a recent rash of poor hires while I was trying to expand my sales team, I reminded myself that trying and failing isn’t as bad as not trying at all. I eventually corrected the bad hires, found new replacements and started to move forward again. I could have worried about my mistakes, but instead I focused on the end result and kept myself on pace for success. Whether in business or life, I’ve learned you can accomplish anything with the right preparation and training. I haven’t always finished my races, and sometimes my body or other elements prevent me from crossing that finish line, but I always look forward to the next opportunity, as an athlete and an entrepreneur.