I officially started running in seventh grade when I joined the Ruckel Junior High track team. I loved it. I loved it mostly because I was a sprinter, and I really didn’t run that much or for very long at one time. In between running sessions, I could do what I love to do, which is tell stories and connect with people. In my mind, the running was just the official reason for the gathering, but it really served as an interruption to my agenda.

I ran cross-country in the fall. More chances for socializing was my reason for joining the team. I had no intention of being a super star. On the first day, Coach Erickson said that we would be building up to seven miles. “That’s nice for those real runners,” I thought with the full intention of never running seven miles. Two or three miles? Sure thing. Seven? That was for crazy people.

That first day, we ran what Coach Erickson called an Easy Mile. There’s no such thing. I hated it. My heart was pounding, my breathing was audible to everyone, and my head was full of, “Why are you doing this?” and “This is no fun. Don’t you want some ice cream?” Coach Erickson wouldn’t let me quit. It’s as if he knew those voices were screaming over the sound of my breathing. He ran with me all the way to the end of the mile and told me that he couldn’t wait to see me the next day. I couldn’t quit after that.

I returned the next day for the Two Mile Fun Run (his words), and again, my first mile was awful. Every part of me was screaming, but by mile two, my breathing was coming at regular intervals, my legs felt strong, and my head was clear. I started to understand why Coach Erickson had called this a fun run. I stuck with the team, ran those seven miles with Coach Erickson by my side, and ran every race that season, generally finishing in the middle of the pack, which is more than I thought I would do when I started.

I’ve been running ever since, and the first mile still sucks. However, I’ve developed a response so that I can ignore those voices that encourage me to walk or to quit altogether. I remind myself that one mile doesn’t take very long, and if I can just hold on for the first mile, I’m going to feel better for the second and third miles. I do this every single time I lace up my running shoes, and I’m 49 years old. That voice of the quitter is persistent, but the voice of experience and faith in myself has grown even louder.

That voice of the quitter can be just as loud in school leadership. Preparing for your public speaking event, writing a newsletter, and leading a meeting is going to suck. Every part of you will be screaming not to do it. You’ll hear excuses. You’ll think of more attractive things to do with your time, but just hold on. Tell yourself that it’s just the getting started that is painful. Once you dive in and commit to doing your best, you will get to work and create a clever and welcoming presentation, include all the essentials and convey welcome in your newsletter, and write an agenda that is relevant and forward moving. Practice, practice, practice.

Serena Williams has been on everybody’s radar lately because of her motherhood, her catsuit, and her tennis tutu. Those headlines are confusing the real point: She’s a winner. She is a winner because she’s built winning routines. She says, “Repetition is the mother of skill.” Set up a routine and stick to it. You will evolve your skill set by learning as you work.

As much as I dread lacing up my running shoes, I know that I will feel better after I do it. I become a better runner every time I run, and I am well aware of the fact that I don’t improve on the days I decide not to go.

My husband recently told me that when he was a dive coach for elementary kids he used the Nike slogan, “Just Do It”. This was well before Nike had coined the phrase. Well telling me that he came up with a phrase that has made Nike’s millions after the fact is about as helpful to our family wallet as his almost-but-not-quite investment in Apple before the iPhone was released. Even though he had the money, he had my support, and he knew it was the right time, he did not make the investment. Instead, since then he has calculated how much money he would have made had he invested that money. That does no good for us today. If he would’ve followed his pattern of save money, research companies, and invest when the time is right, he would’ve reaped the reward. Instead, he gave up right as he was reaching the one mile marker. (He’s a successful businessman, so don’t you worry about him.)

Instead of talking yourself out of an investment of time, energy, and other resources, invest in yourself, your team, and your students by just doing it, whatever that “it” is. Are you concerned about your School Report Card grade but are avoiding addressing it head on? Just Do It. Do you need a better plan to address the number of chronic absences at your school? Just Do It. Do you need better intervention strategies? Just Do It. Do it even if you know for a fact that’ it’s going to suck.

You improve endurance and reduce breathlessness by increasing capacity. As a runner, capacity is increased through intense training. As a school leader, you build capacity by hiring and leading a capable, enthusiastic, and trusting team, delegating to them, and staying in your strength zones. What do you need to do today to reach your goal set for tomorrow?

This blog was written by Katy Ridnouer, Leadership Coach, Speaker and Trainer with Leaders Building Leaders. If you found this content valuable, please share it.

If you want to explore the benefits of a leadership coach, then reach out to Katy at Katy@Leaders-Building-Leaders.com for a complimentary discovery session. You create the agenda; together, we’ll forge a path forward together.

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