Marathon Man

The New York Times has a piece up on Eliud Kipchoge, the world’s best marathon runner.

I read it with interest yesterday as I like to think of startups as marathons and I am always on the lookout for ideas and insights that can help entrepreneurs and investors.

Eliud is an impressive person and, as you might expect, he is extremely disciplined.

He says in the piece:

Only the disciplined ones in life are free. If you are undisciplined, you are a slave to your moods and your passions.

That rings so true to me.

It is true in investing, where I like to have a framework and stick to it and not let my emotions get in the way.

But it is also true in building companies.

Being focused on the long game and what you want to achieve is the best way to get there.

I see many teams looking around at what others are doing and it makes them crazy.

And I see a few teams heads down, executing their plan, and it makes them calm.

In the short run, it can often seem like nothing is getting done, and your competitors are passing you by.

But, like the marathon runner, it is never the sprinter that wins the race, it is the dogged and determined that is there at the end with the trophy in hand.

Eliud just broke the world record in Berlin today. He finished in 2 hours, 1 minute and 39 seconds.

He’s an inspiration to all of us.

#entrepreneurship#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    Just read it. What an inspiration he is. But he is a professional. It takes a while to become a professional at something.Startups don’t always start with that type of maturity, but those that have it or evolve into it are the ones that stand out.I loved Elud’s formula:Motivation + Discipline = ConsistencyAcquiring a given process and sticking to it is easy once you figure it out, but getting there is the hard part 🙂

  2. jason wright

    is it safe?

    1. Girish Mehta

      “Yes, it’s safe, it’s very safe, it’s so safe you wouldn’t believe it.Is it safe?No, it’s not safe, it’s…very dangerous, be careful.”

      1. kenberger

        like pulling teeth !

      2. JLM

        .Charlie Chaplin, famously, used to do his own stunts. In those days the use of stunt men by actors was not prevalent.He used to painstakingly practice his stunts.One stunt had a brick wall with a big warehouse door falling as he walked past it. He was to end up in the opening untouched with a cloud of dust around him.It is said he practiced that stunt almost a hundred times. First he did it with cardboard, building it up until they did it with bricks, but with a dummy. Then, he did it. First take winner.Afterwards he is supposed to have said, “It’s not a stunt if you know what you’re doing.”Discipline, practice transform other people’s stunts into hohum events.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. LE

          Afterwards he is supposed to have said, “It’s not a stunt if you know what you’re doing.”Interesting but that (if he said it; you said ‘supposed’) contradicts the definition of stunt (today at least; could have changed) which is:an unusual or difficult feat requiring great skill or daring; especially : one performed or undertaken chiefly to gain attention or publicitySo all of these are true for what Chaplin did:a) unusualb) difficultc) require great skilld) daringe) performed chiefly to gain attention or publicitySo it is a stunt even if you know what you are doing. Chaplin gets credit for perhaps a humble brag. Of course it’s a big deal. If not why do it a hundred times?…

          1. JLM

            .I think the point is that CC practiced and made the degree of difficulty manageable and less daring thereby requiring less skill.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  3. Matt Zagaja

    Training for my first half marathon in a few weeks. After I finish my coffee I will be doing the “simulated” half marathon of ten miles. Going to be tired the rest of the day.By far the hardest part of the marathon in my career life is being surrounded by so many sprinters. It is hard not to try and run faster when you have the energy now. It’s going to be hard starting this 10 mile run off slow in a little bit. But I know that to run with endurance, it’s going to be a more relaxed pace than I am used to.

  4. kenberger

    The marathon runs right past our balcony here in Mitte, Berlin. Here’s a pic from last year (weather was much better this year): https://uploads.disquscdn.c

  5. Tom Labus

    Pretty warm too for that time! I remember when 2:10 seemed impossible.I re read “Into Thin Air” every few years. Amazing story of discipline for survival and how we respond under very stressful conditions.

  6. kenberger

    2 other golden quotes from him in this article:- “To be precise, I am just going to try to run my personal best. If it comes as a world record, I would appreciate it. But I would treat it as a personal best.”- And: “The best time to plant a tree was 25 years ago. The second-best time to plant a tree is today.”[re the 2nd quote, someone in crypto last summer said something very similar to me about buying bitcoin ! 😉 ]

    1. JLM

      .Tree quote is a Chinese proverb.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  7. Rohan

    Jocko Willink, a former Navy Seal, has a great note on discipline = freedom —“Discipline equals freedom.” Everyone wants freedom. We want to be physically free and mentally free. We want to be financially free and we want more free time. But where does that freedom come from? How do we get it?The answer is the opposite of freedom. The answer is discipline.You want more free time? Follow a more disciplined time-management system.You want financial freedom? Implement long-term financial discipline in your life.Do you want to be physically free to move how you want, and to be free from many health issues caused by poor lifestyle choices? Then you have to have the discipline to eat healthy food and consistently work out.We all want freedom. Discipline is the only way to get it.”—Thought it’d resonate given this post. 🙂

    1. Girish Mehta

      Good to see you writing here after some time.

      1. Rohan

        Aww – thank you for that note. very kind. 🙂

  8. kidmercury

    In SixerNation we call this #TrustTheProcess #ttp

    1. LE

      Interesting I was going to comment that Marcus Lemonis must be a Sixers fan but then in the ‘process’ of research found this:…Here is the trademark:…Actually what this roughly translates to ‘listen to Daddy you young whipper snapper’.

  9. DJL

    Thanks for this. A great read.A dear friend of mine took up Ironman triathlons at age 50 and has been running ever since.

  10. Vendita Auto

    Discipline is loving what you dohttp://email.howardlindzon….

  11. OurielOhayon

    impressive stuff. totally connect it, in particular this year where i set myself a goal to run a full marathon

  12. LE

    But, like the marathon runner, it is never the sprinter that wins the race, it is the dogged and determined that is there at the end with the trophy in hand.I think the difference is is that with sports everyone knows exactly what the game is and what is needed to win … as a broad generality. This is similar to when someone goes into a profession like law, medicine, academia (or pharmacy science or get the picture). There is a well know list of things that you do to succeed in those professions or to get ahead. In business (entrepreneurship) that is not the case. There are things that change over time and strategies that others often employ that appear to be wrong and end up being right and vice versa. There are a whole host of external forces at play and unknowns. Sure that exists in varying degrees in everything. And sure luck also plays a role in sports. [1]To execute successfully in something like entrepreneurship (vs. a profession) or building a company is vastly different than a standard professional career or excelling in sports. I’d say ‘it’s more like a’ but I can’t really think of a comparison that would stick. In sports Kipchoge has literally one goal he has to focus on with dogged determination. And he knows very well what that is. With business you are confronted with a host of things to think about and consider and stick to.[1] For example we are reading about Kipchoge because nobody is better than him right now at this particular point in time. Sports is always ‘you deserve it’ at the highest level. But it still does matter who you are competing with (just like in business) as well as your genes and upbringing and so on. Would be interesting to have a comparison of what the runner’s up do that is different than Kipchoge.

  13. LE

    Here is my version of the long game. I run nearly every day [1] and have for at least the past 21 years. But I do exactly the same thing literally every day (plus some other minor exercises) and when I used to run outside I did it in snow storms (have pictures somewhere) and rain storms (with bags wrapped around my sneakers). But I do (to the point of the ‘long game’) the same thing every single day. And although I amreally fast and could have raced I never did. Why? Because I wanted to avoid injury. Because my goal was good health not winning a race and (and this is super important) getting injured such that I would require repair time, surgery, medicine and so on. That would detract from the actual goal. And that has what has worked for me. It runs contrary I think to most of what you read about running which is catering more to people who think they will win by winning a race but will end up just getting injured and not be able to keep up the exercise.Injury? That happens when you deviate typically. Run outside? Take the same route every single day. That way you know what to expect. Run inside on treadmill? Do the exact same thing every day. Then it becomes like walking and your body adapts.Attached. Long game heart rate.[1] I would always work everything around doing that run and never missing it. Later I realized it was ok to miss a day here and there. Also to take a day off and do other exercises (rowing machine one example) or some weights…. https://uploads.disquscdn.c

    1. B12N

      “Injury? That happens when you deviate typically. Run outside? Take the same route every single day. That way you know what to expect. Run inside on treadmill? Do the exact same thing every day. Then it becomes like walking and your body adapts.”I’ve read that you should deviate your routes/terrain to avoid injury (repetitive stress)?

      1. LE

        It depends on how much you are running and to what extent you are paying attention. The problem with deviating is that you are encountering a host of changes and if you aren’t paying attention you will make a mistake and get injured. A sidewalk, something in the path that you aren’t used to or expecting and so on. And in theory you are already varying what muscles you are using anyway. Also I didn’t say the terrain (incline) need to be flat or the same etc.That at least has been my experience. The point is you want to limit the chances of making a mistake or a distraction that you are not used to. Now of course the equivalent could be said for doing the same thing. Some might say that you get in a zone and then you aren’t paying attention. But that is not really what I have seen over time at least with my running!Note also that I am not ‘training’ for anything. I just want the positive impact from the exercise and want to limit any chance of making a mistake that gives me an injury.If you ask for advice on this you will probably get it from someone who has different goals.Will add that this topic is like photography. What is good to a photographer as a picture is different than the subject of a picture. The photographer thinks ‘great picture’. The subject thinks ‘wow I look fat in that picture’. So a great picture to a photographer is not a great picture to the subject the interpretation is quite different.

        1. B12N

          Thanks for elaborating on that. I share your goals when it comes to running (I’m in the weight room 4-5x a week, so running is just for my cardiovascular health). I don’t want to get injured running either, cause my goal is to powerlift competitively – but my experience from the weight room is that you need to vary your exercises somewhat or else you’ll start developing certain muscles/movement patterns while ignoring others (your body adapts, and parts you don’t use atrophy), so when you do happen to be in a situation where conditions aren’t perfect, injury happens (something something about stabilisers). Maybe the effects are not as pronounced in running.

  14. awaldstein

    This speaks to me Fred.Up there on a short list of ideas and phrases that make a difference.Top of the list is still this one from Chuck Close:

  15. LE

    Being focused on the long game and what you want to achieve is the best way to get there.So here is an example of the long game with respect to Apple.They come out with the Apple Watch. Does not set the world on fire in any way. Is derided by many as ‘it’s no iphone as they have not met expectations’. But they keep at it. And they make it better and better. Until this past Apple event the other day when the press exclaims (and this appears in many places btw) The Apple Watch stole the Show from this year’s new Iphones <— Gives an example of what the press (which he normally bashes) does when it supports a point he wants to make.…Maybe the long game can be used in another way. Maybe you don’t want the competition to know you have a great product (which is separate from whether you can build it in v1 anyway) because if it’s a hit (like iphone was from the start) it will simply invite everyone and their uncle to compete with you and get in on the action. In a big way. Sure people started to compete with the Apple Watch but nothing like the iphone. Because it didn’t appear the market was there and the idea and the product was good enough. Or was needed. Now it can do an EKG <—– Bad idea honestly most people not only don’t need this but it will lead to a new class of what medicine calls ‘the worried well’. <— Which will increase our healthcare costs.So what does Apple have now? A really big head start over potential competitors to catch up. Not saying they did this on purpose but it’s possible just like with any tech product you do not want to show all of your cards for fear of motivating your competition to divert resources to a similar product. So maybe don’t drop the A bomb even if you have it in other words. Ever think of that? That’s a long strategy that gives you more lead in the race against the competition. [1][1] Isn’t this used in the game of poker? In pool hustling? In war?

  16. JLM

    .Discipline is the secret sauce of elite military units. The raw materials are good. The equipment is good, not great. The leadership is a little above par, but it is the battle drill and discipline which drives them to fight and win.The first discipline is the ability to say, “Ready to fight tonight.” The military is always training for the next war, but elite units are ready to go. Tonight.I learned this from a battalion commander who used to call me at about 7:00 PM a couple of times per week. He would ask me: “Charlie Company ready to fight tonight, Captain? Cause if they’re not, I’ll send someone up there to whip them into shape.”I made it so.Battle drill is the programmed series of actions you take when confronted by the enemy in a myriad of situations. You know what you are supposed to do and what everybody around you is supposed to do.The combined effort is a huge force multiplier.Even in the worst of things, discipline saves lives. You take out a ten man patrol and get jumped by a vastly superior enemy force. You will get wiped out if you engage, but you have been trained to break contact and go to a rally point.When the order is given, every man takes a different route, but you all arrive at the rally point -1000 meters at 9 o’clock. Then, you have a rest and go home. Alive. [There is no happier moment than when you see that first recognizable face at the rally point.]It is amazing how little discipline there is in the real world and startups in particular.I worked with a company whose CEO’s brother was a Ranger. He, the CEO, was a very solid specimen, but the company didn’t really have a plan. I knew that if his brother was Ranger material, he had the same DNA.I watched this guy exert discipline in small things and then big things over a fairly long period of time. Bottom line, guy took the company to the paywindow – 9 figures – based on his forcing that company into a disciplined operating regimen. I poked and prodded, but he did it. It was in him all the time, but I knew where it was located.I can’t tell you how many problems I see which can be fixed by simple Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values, Culture discipline.VCs who have never been operators or CEOs don’t know how to exert this discipline.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. LE

      As you know, I have no reason to blow smoke at you but I have to say the military needs to use this type of writing in marketing and PR as reasons to hire ex military officers and soldiers in industry. I can taste the excellence of the hire in what you write.Maybe break it down a bit into discreet paragraphs with headers which say things like “Hire This!” and so on. Different creative header for each point you are making.In contrast to this excellence we have mediocrity. A CEO (Holtec) got blasted after moving his company to Camden Country for tax credits (total political deals with taxpayer money) when he lamented that the residents don’t show up for work and are lazy (in short). Oops. Should have stayed where you were yes they are lazy and they don’t show up for work there.Holtec CEO Krishna “Kris” Singh rekindled the debate after telling a New Jersey business publication in an interview published this week that it was difficult to find employees in Camden and that many in the city’s workforce “don’t show up to work” and “some get into drugs.” His comments sparked outrage and protests Friday and raised questions about the tax-credit program.…Check out the chart of the benefits. Especially the ‘retained jobs’. So stupid. As if those companies were actually going to move elsewhere. …

      1. JLM

        .One of the challenges with the military is that there is a huge difference amongst the combat arms (Infantry, Artillery, Armor, Combat Engineers), combat support units, and combat service support units.The combat arms attract the alpha male types from the military academies. Then, they have to go to Airborne and Ranger schools. Ranger school cuts out about 50%.Then, you have to successfully command a platoon and a company. Company command probably wipes out 25%. Then, if there is a war, you have to have a good combat record and, literally, survive.I used to hire military school grads who were Army Rangers, Marine officers who had been company commanders. They all used to have MBAs.Getting that MBA also provided a good “cooling off” period for guys who are on a wartime footing. They need the space to get their heads right.Once you get beyond the combat arms, the quality of the officers can drop off a bit. Not always, but sometimes.I have never understood why West Point – which allows its grads to select their branch based on class rank – commissions into the Adjutant General Corps (paper pushers) or the Finance Corps (accountants).Why does the US pay for kid’s education and let them become a paper pusher?In my day, if you had a degree in engineering, you went into the Corps of Engineers and were often “seconded” a year to the Infantry and then returned to your branch. Nobody asked you what you wanted.The combat engineers have to fight like Infantry in an infantry division plus they have tanks (CEV, combat engineer vehicles) and mortars. They also get the higher ranked enlisted men because of the complexity of explosives, building, mines, and floating bridges.The raw material for officers in the combat engineers is head and shoulders above the rest of the Army, but everybody catches up by year 5. Guys like MacArthur and Robt E Lee were Corps of Engineers types.While I think the military – combat arms – forces you to act independently and to take command of difficult situations, there is a tendency to rely too much on doctrine and training.I got an ass chewing one time because of a technique I developed to build floating bridges which was “not the doctrine.” When the ass chewer realized I’d built the bridge in record time, he apologized but still chewed my ass for “not following the book.”The military can be a real pain in the ass when you work for someone who recognizes you are going somewhere and they are not. Very political. I was always good at the politics because my Dad had been a career soldier.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. LE

          I have never understood why West Point – which allows its grads to select their branch based on class rank – commissions into the Adjutant General Corps (paper pushers) or the Finance Corps (accountants). Why does the US pay for kid’s education and let them become a paper pusher?Total stab in the dark here but could that be because there are people that are legacies in the academy and they need to be able to be in a safe space instead of war? Or am I misreading your point? There are similar situations in other places in life. Like maybe son of brilliant surgeon gets into top med school (because of Dad) but ends up in some easy part of medicine that you could handle with a degree from a State School.

          1. JLM

            .The sons of career military are usually damn good. Not a huge fan of John McCain (father and grandfather Admirals) who should never have gotten into Annapolis, but you have to give him credit.He did one of the most dangerous things imaginable to a military guy – flew Navy jets into Hanoi. That takes balls.As a generality, I have found that guys whose fathers were generals are usually not quite as good, but are in their father’s branch.Patton, who went to VMI one year, had a son who retired a Major General. His son, George IV, fought in Korea and Vietnam. Received TWO DSCs (second to The Medal), two Silver Stars, three Legions of Merit, a DFC, and two Bronze Stars with V device for valor.You have to ask yourself if some of that was because of who he was.Patton, the father, was never really considered a good general, but a great fighter and pursuer. Pursuit is the most important skill when on the attack. If you break the enemy, then you have to slash into their rear and kill them before they can reorganize and regroup.Very few generals were good at that. They stopped and asked for additional orders.When Patton learned the Germans had broken through and were bearing down on Bastogne, he turned two of his divisions north to go to their relief without any orders. Three days later, his divisions went from an extended route march directly into the attack. This is a very difficult maneuver, but he got them to do it by sheer willpower. The weather conditions were horrendous.Bottom line, the Army wouldn’t send a legacy kid somewhere less dangerous, but might send them somewhere more dangerous.George IV commanded the 2nd Armor Div which was his old man’s first big command before WWII.George Marshall (VMI grad) had spotted Patton as a big talent and wrote him into the war plans a decade before WWII.Funny thing about the military, I used to know the Corps of Engineers lieutenants and captains assignment officers (served overseas with them). Whenever I was interested in going somewhere, I’d go to the Pentagon and ask in person. It worked.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          2. sachmo

            I was generally under the impression that Patton was considered the best US general by the opposing forces… Who do you consider to be the best generals in WW2 of the ones who were actually commanding battlefield units?

          3. JLM

            .Agreeing more with you than you do with yourself, but I think this is perfectly consistent with what I said.Patton was considered the best pursuit general, the guy who would tear your guts out if he breached your lines. He was instrumental in getting the stuck Allies out of the bocage country.The Germans were playing defense so his offensive capabilities were amongst their greatest fears.Patton would attack without regard to flank support, something you can only do if you are destroying enemy headquarters because somebody is going to wake up and cut your head off at the flanks.America’s greatest general was Omar Bradley who had a hand in the planning of every Allied amphibious landing — a remarkable feat when you consider the magnitude of N Africa, Sicily, Italy, Anzio, Normandy, S France.He was a guy who got the job done as an Army and Army Group commander without looking for any personal glory. Patton reported to Bradley and Bradley used him perfectly, genius performance. He let Patton be Patton and kept Patton from destroying Patton.In the anecdote about Patton’s Third Army’s turn to the north and subsequent attack, Bradley knew he would do it before he did it. Montgomery had told Eisenhower he would need 2-3 weeks to get ready to attack. By then, the Germans would have captured Antwerp.BTW, Bradley served under Patton when Patton was put in to turn Second Corps around in N Africa.The best division commander ever was MG Oliver Prince Smith of the USMC 1st Mar Div who learned his trade in WWII in the Pacific and saved the 1st Mar Div’s butt at the Chosin. His experience is the single best example of command at the division level in the history of warfare.This is not a new opinion. Read this:http://themusingsofthebigre…JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          4. sachmo

            I have the Patton Papers and A Soldier’s Journey sitting on my shelf staring at me. Really need to get around to reading both.

          5. JLM

            .Patton Papers is a good read. I love reading original docs. I read Geo Marshall’s letters – 3 thick books. Very interesting.I don’t know A Soldiers Journey – there are a ton of books which use that phrase. Who is the subject?Read Marshall and Eisenhower – Partners in Command. This is a great read to understand how Marshall really ran things. There is a lot about Patton in the book.Patton and Eisenhower were friends though Patton’s wealth created some problems. Marshall and Eisenhower knew exactly what they had in Patton.The Army is funny because there are officers who are made for combat and who are terrible in peace time. And, vice versa.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          6. sachmo

            My mistake, that was A Soldier’s Story – Bradley’s autobiography. Will get back to you once I finally read it. Thanks for the recommendations.

  17. Richard

    It’s not discipline that makes you free, it’s human machine learning. Human programming takes years and in most cases must start in your early teens. The fuel is referred to as “discipline” for those who get a late start. When it’s part of life discipline is never the isssue. Not even a wall can keep you out. Consistency at a young age is secret sauce replaces any need for disciple in the middle and late innings. I started daily fitness in highschool at the local “nautilus club”) It was $5 week. It’s original dip machine / calf machine is still one of the greatest pieces of equipment ever built. But for tennis and baseball and yoga and a few serious illlnesses like 9 month of testicular cancer, I always made time for the gym. Lack of resources, lack of access a rough neighborhood, Thanksgivings, Xmas, New Years, snowstorms, blackouts, hurricanes, graduate degrees, no equipment, travel, deaths, births, injuries, bugs, stress, make discipline today superfluous.

  18. Chimpwithcans

    My childhood home is in Nairobi. My folks live about 10km outside of the Ngong Hills, where the elite long distance athletes have a camp. They come from the high altitude to train from Ngong on their way to events worldwide. Driving to school I would see teams of these incredible men running faster than I could sprint down the roads in and around town. They would run like that for hours, Kenya flags on their tracksuits the only clue that they were Olympians and record holders. No doubt, Kipchoge knows Ngong well. I would say the Kenyan marathon team is one of the hardest teams in the world to make. Maybe the hardest of all.

  19. Donna Brewington White

    Love the analogy. Love the quote.

  20. sigmaalgebra

    It seems to me that for a lot of years there was a really easy way to win the Boston Marathon and make high ROI and big bucks!! :-)!!!(1) Go to nearly any US sporting goods store and stock up on socks and running shoes, e.g., two-three brands in each size.(2) Fly to Kenya. Get a guide to lead a trip to some small village. Find a young man, any would do fine, 15-25 and have him take his pick of the socks and shoes.(3) Fly the guy to Boston, drive him once around the course, enter him.(4) Call a bookie and place a big bet, to win, at fantastic odds, maybe several big bookies.(5) Enjoy the race, watch all the suckers lose, and do something people do with big bucks!For winning the 100 m dash, do something similar but in Jamaica?Diligence, dedication, discipline, determination, diet (5Ds), all phooey!!! Maybe now that people have caught on or if want to establish a new world record, sure, try hard, 5Ds, etc. Otherwise, just (1)-(5) and f’get about the 5Ds!!!! :-)Another case was like trying to compete with my wife:(1) We played Scrabble. She beat me. A little matter of, sure, verbal aptitude, or so I told myself. So, we kept playing. I tried hard and slowly did a little better. She looked bored and got better much faster than I did until her margin was so large it was absurc, and finally she refused to play me!(2) At 7 AM I taught an ugrad trigonometry course. Before I met her socially, she was one of the students. On each test I had some easy questions so all the students could get something and then some challenging questions. She got ALL the questions. After the midterm she was so far ahead of the rest of the class that she could have walked out, taken a 0 on the rest of the tests and the final exam, come in second, and still made an A. Of course, as it was, she ended with twice as many points as the second best student in the class.(3) She wanted to take a course in European history but didn’t want to have to study or worry about a grade. So, she did an “audit” — no grade. But the prof still wanted the audits to take the tests. At the end the prof told her that she should have taken the course for credit because she would have made an A and had the best score in the class. Uh, it was a lecture hall class with 300 students. 299 students couldn’t compete with her even when she wasn’t trying.(4) When I was working in AI, our group had an AI language. She wanted to learn it. So, I gave her a few minutes on how to use a PC to connect to the appropriate computer at the Watson lab, a little on how to use a text editor, and a little on our AI language. First, she taught herself Rexx and wrote a little utility to report on disk space usage. Then in about two weeks she learned the AI language and wrote a first program — it ran as she intended. I explained a little more about what the AI community had in mind, and two weeks later she had a nice example of that AI paradigm and the best, early AI program our group ever saw. And we were the ones who had designed the language.(5) Since I wasn’t very good at spelling, occasionally I’d ask her how to spell a word or two. She always knew. Heck, in high school she had won spelling bees. Eventually she explained — she said that she could see the words and, then, just read the letters.Lesson: There’s such a thing as overwhelming, raw talent!!! 🙂

  21. Alex Iskold

    I don’t know if you are a fan of Haruki Murakami, Japanese writer. If not, I highly recommend reading his work. He is also a marathon runner. One of his books is called What I talk about when I talk about running. It came out a few years back and is really excellent. Lots of learnings applicable to startups.

  22. sachmo

    Another great point in that piece — he does most of his runs at between 80% – 90% of max effort. He never over exerts. He saves it for race day. You see a lot of runners constantly push past 90% on training runs and get injuries. He plays long ball for sure. I think there are analogies to that for business & life as well.

  23. skeesh

    Amazing effort and I totally agree there is a lot we can learn from athletes that translates to running companies. Though I’m not sure a marathon is the right analogy for an early stage company – at least not from a founder’s perspective.A marathon has a fixed route/destination, relatively few unknowns, limited external factors and mostly involves pacing at a relatively constant rhythm for a fixed amount of time. In that sense it’s perhaps a good analogy for the tenure of a CEO of a later stage company.I think a better analogy for a start-up is an expedition to climb a new peak. There’s a a lot in common between good decision making in elite alpinism and the early stages of a building a company.In mountain climbing, there are many more unknowns and decisions to be made in uncertainty. Where the route goes and whether the summit is even attainable isn’t always clear. At a macro and micro level you need to allow room for manoeuvre to try different paths. Pacing is not constant but rather calls for endurance, perseverance, urgency and finesse at different times – sometimes going all out to unlock key passages yet also ensuring you rest and recuperate between efforts, ensuring you have the energy for the whole journey. Personal and team dynamics add additional complexity beyond pure individual contributors, and there are also many external factors and objective dangers that can threaten the mission.To continue the analogy, in the golden age of mountain climbing there was exactly the frenzy of competition you describe to be the first to reach certain summits. The most successful teams were the ones who didn’t get distracted by others but focused on their own preparation and performance.