Sunday, January 24, 2010

14 miles of revelation...and PACE

For the longest time, I have considered marathon running analogous to life in that they are both long [well, hopefully life is in terms of years] and not without its challenges.

Certainly this has been true for me over the past year since my last marathon in London. Finishing my sixth marathon in a personal best for London of 2:53:14, I was ready to prep for New York in November '09 after a few weeks off. Well, New York never materialized because of injury and "the blues". While the injury healed over time, it further impacted my psyche and motivation to run again. While it's common to feel "low" after finishing a marathon and the exhilaration subsides, the past five experiences didn't prepare me for the complete lack of interest in running in New York.

Having rested for approximately the last four months, where my average mileage per week has never exceeded 10 miles [gasps from certain quarters], I am now back on the training schedule again for London on April 26. While it's a little early to set goals, coming back from such a long layoff, I'd like to think that a PB [New York 2008 - 2:51:28] could be possible given this past week's running and particularly the long run this past Saturday.

Chris Stoia, my running machine of a friend who serves as inspiration on a consistent basis, accompanied me on a 14-mile run from Washington Heights to the mid-40s along Riverside Drive [the map of the run can be found here:

During this run, with 14 weeks to go, I was reminded of how, for me, running is analogous to life and that you can PACE your way to success in both. I'm not suggesting running is for everyone. The purpose of writing this blog post is to identify four core principles that apply to almost anything in life...

P is for Passion
A is for Attitude
C is for Consistency
E is for Enjoyment

Running is not for everyone....but, life is!! Simply put, the best things in life that give us the most sense of accomplishment, enjoyment and fulfillment are those things we're passionate about. I have many passions and running is one of them; interestingly, it is a recent find. My first run was in January 2006 as part of a crazy notion I had in the New Year that I'd run a marathon - for no other reason than to check it off the 'accomplishment' list.

At that time, I'd never heard of New York Road Runners or Front Runners New York Didn't even know that you could qualify for the NYC marathon in ways other than a lottery. And I assumed that my lottery chances were pretty high, right? Yeah...not really!!

How I managed to run the '06 NYC marathon will be the topic of another post - it was all legitimate - but the ability to manage through that first 26.2 miles and the five other marathons since that date is due, first and foremost, to finding a passion for running and runners, a group of people who, regardless of their aptitude, are all INVOLVED IN SOMETHING, as opposed to nothing.

Attitude truly is everything. For those of you who know me, I believe that I am a "glass half full" kind of guy. I look for the positive in most, if not all, situations. For me, it takes this type of attitude to be successful in whatever you do.

Now, I'm not trying to be all new-age, mumbo-jumbo here....not that new-age thinking is problematic. Believe me, when I was injured and had lost the zest for running in 2009, my attitude stunk. I kept re-enforcing the "I'm injured" notion and could not get out of the running funk. And, it's amazing how if there's one part of your life that's not "running well", it can, if you let it, impact other areas - relationships, career, health, eating habits. Chocolate certainly started playing a larger part in my diet, lol.

It's easy to get sidetracked with attitude...and you start doubting yourself, your abilities...this impacts your attitude...and increases your self get my point here, I hope. For me, running attitude, as with life, is crystalized in the following:
i. believe in yourself and the power of positive thinking
ii. it could always be worse

Attitude is best summed up in tricking the mind to push for one more mile even when the legs think that they can do no more. An interesting point to discuss in a future post - suffice to say, it's amazing what the body can achieve if the mind can conceive and believe it. Simply stated - attitude!!

Practice makes perfect - and I can tell you first-hand that there is no way to short cut a marathon in training. It's not about being the best, but in order to be your best, consistency is key. For me, it means having to get up and run a weekly long-run [14 miles this past Saturday with Chris], regardless of the sub-freezing weather. It means getting on the treadmill in the dead of winter or height of summer and running 4-6 miles to ensure you get the mileage in. It means stretching the aching muscles to ensure you stay limber. It's drinking Gatorade at every mile on practice runs to mimic the fluid intake stations in an actual marathon.

Think about it - Jordan, Gates, Federer, Einstein - the world is littered with greats who were consistent in their approach to being the best they could. For those of you interested in how to vary the treadmill workouts to stem potential boredom, check here realizing that running at 0% incline is less than the advertised 'pace per mile' due to lack of wind resistance:

The last of the four PACE principles but often the most important - like anything, you have to get a sense of enjoyment from whatever you choose to do. As I mentioned, I lost the zest for running and the results were evident. None of us likes to do things we don't enjoy. I was burned out and was not running with a sense of enjoyment but rather a sense of obligation. Obligation? - not sure to what, to be honest...the need to compete? to stay fit?

It took time off from running to get to the core of why it works for me. There is a solace in being out on the road for miles and miles - some of my best thinking has been done while training. There's the comraderie of running with others who share your passion - although you have to remember that you can't always get away from the chatter. There's the benefits of being in the best shape of my life.

Find something you like and immerse yourself in it - you'll be pleasantly surprised at the results and the spillover effect that it has on other parts of your life. When we are in harmony and living the best life we can, lots of things fall into place.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Talking Business at CES

This blog entry first appeared on, American Express OPEN's award-winning site providing insights, advice and connections for small business owners. You can find more articles and updates from CES at

You can also follow me on Twitter at @jasonrudman and follow OPEN Forum @openforum. The article was also written in collaboration with Courtney Colwell of Federated Media
Last week, I was fortunate to attend my first CES and be amongst the newest innovations and product launches. The latest in 3-D technology, touch screens, tablets wowed me....the list is endless. It was truly a great experience.

Many of you who, attending for the first time, felt the same. Others have been attending for many years, as you’ve discovered that CES offer entrepreneurs not only great opportunity to buy or sell their products, but also to connect with each other. When business owners get together, “magic” happens – and, that “magic” was continuously on display in the American Express OPEN booth.

This was OPEN’s third year in attendance but our first in integrating our consultative product experience with an OPEN Forum Speaker Series. Attendees were not only able to learn more about how our products and services can help them manage and grow their businesses, they also had the chance to interact with business experts like
Tony Hsieh of Zappos, Guy Kawasaki of Alltop, Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends, John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing, and Barb Dybwad and Ben Parr of Mashable. Their presentations on a broad array of business topics, combined with Q&A from the audience, sparked lively discussion.

From those and our conversations with other business owners in the booth, the following five themes seemed to be most prevalent.

1. Focus on Your Vision

While it remains a challenging economic environment, there was a general sense of resilience and optimism among the business owners I met. The key to maintaining that, according to at least two of our speakers, was to pursue meaning over money, or, as Tony said, “don’t chase the paper, chase the dream.” It was a great primer to start of 2010 – a reminder to focus on creating a vision and adding value, rather than on just increasing the return.

2. Jump to the Next Curve

Now is the time to innovate, so that when the recession ends, you can come roaring back. Guy explained how companies need to “jump to the next curve” in order to truly be successful. This means not being content with 10% improvement but shooting for 10 times improvement. You can find more in his Art of Innovation presentation from CES.

3. Build a Great Culture

Building a great company culture was a key theme in Tony’s presentation, as he credited their culture as being a key contributor to Zappo’s success. He talked about the positive impact culture has had on their legendary customer service, and providing great service is their focus. As Tony said, Zappos is “a service company that happens to sell clothing, shoes, handbags, eyewear, watches (and eventually a bunch of other stuff).” This makes hiring the right employees is critical to Zappos, and they even go so far as offering employees who aren’t a cultural fit $2,000 to quit.

(I invite you to read Rohit Bhargava’s article “
10 Small Business Lessons from Zappos” to learn more about this innovative company.)

4. Create Efficiencies

There probably is no better place than CES to find the technologies that can help a business become more efficient, and this was true at the OPEN booth, as well. In our booth attendees could learn about OPEN products and services that can help their businesses, as well as hear from Anita on how to build a more resilient and efficient business. Among her recommendations were to find and focus on your best, most profitable customers. As she said “all customers are not created equal,” so you should create watch lists and take immediate action if you see a customer is falling behind on payment.

She also talked about tools and processes for invoicing and collection that can help you get paid faster by your customers. As she cited, 42% of small businesses say “getting paid quickly by customers” keeps them up at night, and among her tips on getting paid faster were to accept more payment options, like e-check and credit cards, and using an automated invoicing and payment solution. As an example of one such solution, I encourage you to learn more about OPEN’s

5. Use Social Media

John discussed how social media can create marketing efficiencies, but, as with any marketing plan, you need to be strategic in your approach. The low-cost appeal of social media can lead many business owners to try to do everything – and end up doing nothing. Using social media requires resources (like time), so you should first determine the most effective use of those resources. Determine where your audience is, and then plan on how to reach them.

John also talked about how to build your local business through social media, a very helpful topic in light of some of the trends also discussed by Ben and Barb. They talked about how the proliferation of mobile devices and applications, Twitter, GPS and other location-based services are making it more important to build your localized presence, and how social media in general is driving businesses to become more personal. People want to build a relationship with your brand; using social media enables you to engage with them and build those relationships.

Guy spoke specifically on Twitter, providing "push-the-envelope" tips on how to use it, not only for communicating with customers and prospects, but for listening to what they have to say. (You can read this great
summary of Guy’s tips by Anita.) All of our speakers advised businesses to use social media as a tool for listening rather than simply broadcasting. Twitter, in particular, is a great tool for finding what people are saying about your brand (and your competitors’) – as well as what’s being said in your industry. Indeed, OPEN Forum Pulse is one place where you can see what business owners are talking about on Twitter.