As I looked through the break in the trees, I could see that the path went two different ways – slight left and back dramatically to the right. I had a choice. Both had blue and yellow markers on the trees. I stopped running and looked closer at the trees. How could both trails have the same trail markings? It didn’t make sense.
Either that or I couldn’t make sense of what I supposed to do.
I had been running for a little over four hours by now. Running over 2,400 feet in elevation and sliding through deep mud that tore my shoe off my right foot. Right now I was in 2nd place. Out of about one hundred runners I had worked my way all the way to the front of the pack. And I was just five minutes behind the leader.
But now I was confused. The trail instructions I had written on my arm earlier with a Sharpie were faded and caked with mud. As I wiped my arm, I noticed the “B” for blue. I was standing here looking at trails that went two different blue directions. My mind was hazy and I was growing frustrated obsessing that other runners might be catching up with me.
I turned left and started running. I was alone. But I had been alone for the last few hours. That’s how ultrarunning is. You are on your own.
But suddenly I wasn’t alone any more. Running right at me was another runner. A runner I had passed more than an hour earlier. “Ohh noooo”, I gasped, shaking my head. I had been running back the way I came from.
Without another word, I turned around and ran frantically in the opposite direction. Five minutes. Then ten. Then thirty. Finally, I found myself standing back in the position where the trail turned. Now, looking at the pointers in the trail it was clear which way to go.
I had been looking in the wrong place for the way to go.
And it cost me.
Another hour and a half later I crossed the finish line — in fourth place. The two people who were more than thirty minutes behind me had placed second and third, less than five minutes ahead of me. I had wasted more than an hour getting lost. But learned a big lesson.
After slapping hands with the other runners at the finish line, I pulled myself together and headed back towards home, with a brief stop at Waffle House first where I told my boys and Sara about my morning.
Business success is a lot the same way. Just because you are tired and have been running for way too long doesn’t mean that “doing more” is the right answer. You’re probably just running in the wrong direction.
Unlike me on a muddy trail, you have people that you can call to get answers.
You’re probably just as tired and banged up, frustrated too.
But you don’t have to do this alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Quit pretending like you know what you are doing.
It’s no fun being lost. But sometimes, you just need to stop running around and look for success from someone who isn’t inside your head.
Find someone to be accountable to. Hire a coach. Find a mentor.
All the signs point to where you need to go. Through the haze, you just might not be seeing what is right in front of you.