I learned this lesson the hard way when I decided to cheat the Cleveland, Ohio 5k race at Thanksgiving about 10 years ago. (It’s embarrassing to even tell this story but it was quite a learning lesson for me.)
My father is an avid runner and has been his entire life. As for me I didn’t get those genes – I’ll run if my life is in danger or the food is ready. So, as a “bonding” experience I opted to run a yearly race he does at Thanksgiving in Cleveland Ohio called the “5k Turkey Trot”. I showed up completely out of shape. I hadn’t done ANY training for this race – I was overly optimistic and completely unprepared.
I remember staring with my dad and hundreds of others at the starting line. When they said go – we were off. The first half mile was bearable and then it started to get a bit tough. My dad was just cruising and it wasn’t long before I couldn’t see him. Before I knew it, I was already at the back with all the stragglers. I was a straggler.
Halfway into the race my mind started to give up. I found myself justifying speed walking, then justifying regularly walking and then I had the bright idea of taking a shortcut back to the finish line. Haven’t I run enough? Who will know? Who would really care? It’s just a dumb race. I’m not even a runner. (It’s always amazing to me how willing we are to justify our own lies).
So I did it. I took the next side street and headed up toward the finish line. About halfway up the street I turned around and literally about died. People were following me.
I have to say that in that moment I felt like the worst human being in the world. First I had convinced myself to cheat and then I had unknowingly brought innocent people along with me. Could it get any worse?
Yes. I am not proud of my next action and it’s crazy to even think I made this choice as a twenty something “adult”. What did I do when I saw I was misleading others? I ran ahead and hid behind a car. Even typing that makes me feel scuzzy. I-hid-behind-a-car. And when the other runners came around the corner I remember peeking and seeing how bewildered they were that I had “vanished”. Eventually, they ended up running back the way they came and found the course they should have been on.
I’ve thought of this story many, many times and there are 3 lessons that stick out so clearly:
Shortcuts don’t work. They just waste our time and resources.
Not only did I give up on my goal of finishing the race and let people down – I ended up actually getting lost in Cleveland and going further than I would have if I would have just finished the race out. Shortcuts in life, business, relationships all have some kind of appeal in the beginning but in the end we wind up with wasted time, efforts and resources we will never get back.
Our shortcuts hurt other people even if we don’t see it.
We like to think everyone else is isolated from our decisions. It is one of the great lies we spin. It is not true. Everything we do has an impact on the people closest to us – family, friends, etc. EVERYTHING. Positive and negative. When we opt to take a quick route or shortcut we will effect their lives and it rarely in a positive way.
Shortcuts hurt us even if we don’t want to admit it.
The emotions I felt from this experience didn’t stay in the race. I felt guilty for a long time because I cheated myself. I felt ashamed and embarrassed because I had quit so easily. I wound up lying to others about it, my results, what happened,etc. because I felt so bad. Negative emotions take a serious toll on us and rob of us joy and energy. This internal damage comes out in our attitude and behavior with others. No one wants to feel like that.
Guess what? I’m going back at it this year – Thanksgiving 2016. No shortcuts, no gimmicks. I’m going to finish it (run,walk, limp, crawl – whatever) and rewrite this chapter. :)