By Doug Strickel
At 57 years old, I recently competed in my first ten-mile trail run competition. This race was the typical trail run with steep hills, water hazards, and constant terrain challenges. I had set a few goals at the beginning of the race, and those were to finish in under two hours and never get passed going up a hill. With all that said, my biggest concern during the race was just staying on the right course. While the course was marked, it was my first time on this trail, and it was easy to get off the path.
With those goals in mind, I quickly discovered that I needed to get behind someone that both knew the course and was running the pace I needed to be successful. After a few failed attempts in following different groups, I found the right couple. They had run the course many times and were running at a pace that would ensure we finished well under two hours.
This race represented so many aspects of life and leadership. My first attempt to run with another group led me to a group that knew the course very well, but they were going way too slow to achieve success. My second attempt led me to a small group that was running a solid pace, but they didn’t know the course very well either and got off the path a few times costing us valuable time. The third attempt, a few miles into the race, was the right choice and made a huge difference in that competition for me.
A leader that knows where they are going makes such a difference in the lives of other people by showing the path, promoting success driven actions, and encouraging others during tough challenges. On that trail, the couple leading the path couldn’t make the trail any shorter for me. They couldn’t make the hills any less steep nor the terrain any easier to manage. The race was still going to be a hard challenge. They could; however, ensure that we stayed on the right path at the right pace. It was also great to hear the guy leading us offer encouragement to his wife every few minutes. I soaked up those encouraging words too.
Life and leadership are similar in that we can’t always eliminate the obstacles or make life easier, but we can provide direction, ensure we stay focused on doing the right things, and offer encouragement to one another along the way. We need to be cautious in who we chose to follow in our lives, in our work, in our community, and in our nation.
Just like the race, life can be a real challenge at times. We need leaders to help others through those challenging times. While I will be more familiar with that trail on the next race and lead others, we all need to be making a difference today in someone’s life. Each of us has that opportunity every day. Choose carefully who you follow and seek to make a difference for someone looking to follow you!
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