Running a marathon is a good metaphor for life. It is hard to do and to do well. Eliud Kipchoge just did the impossible and ran a 1:59. For those who don’t run, it is painfully fast for us mere mortals.
For many years the Boston Marathon has been the benchmark for long distance runners. The reason being is that you have to qualify for it, which means run a par age level marathon or half marathon to show that you have the metal and speed to measure up well against your peers.
For example, I am 46 years old. My qualifying time to enter into the lottery to run the Boston Marathon is 3:20. Clearly that is not a world record time. Even outside of the controlled environment that Eliud Kipchoge ran in, I am still an hour and 15 minutes behind the overall winner of most marathons. So the 3:20 is a benchmark for success. It is not an A grade but a C. It is average among anyone who calls themselves a long distance marathon runner. I’ve run a 2:58. It means I fall somewhere in the middle of success. It’s true. I hate waking up early and love cake. I have two hubris.
Why is this important? I want to explore how we measure success in the workforce. In many workplaces success is equated to time at the job. Sure, it is absolutely one measure of success. It means that the employee is dependable and dedicated. Today, it seems like it is the only measure.
Let’s go back to the marathon. For example, who is the better runner? Runner A who has run 10 marathons and his or her best time is 4:50 or Runner B who finishes his or her first marathon in 2:45. In earnest, it doesn’t matter as long as they have both done their best. If Runner A finishes and can say I did my best, they are a winner. Same for Runner B.
Runner B has put together a plan for a measured success against their peers as a runner. She has figured out how to match time management, sleep, workouts, nutrition and more to go above and beyond. Runner A has crossed the finish line, in and of itself is hard work, but is not a normative measure of success against his or her peers. The only connection between the two is the finisher’s medal that they both receive at the end of the race.
Neither is wrong. Neither is better than the other if they are both having fun but, and there is a but, when Runner A thinks that they are in the same league as Runner B, they are not.
This happens everyday especially in Education. In ten years I can’t remember how many times I heard a ‘Veteran’ teacher condescend a new teacher by saying, ‘I’ve been doing this forever.’ Forever doesn’t mean it works. It can mean it does. I had some wonderful mentors with 100s of cumulative years behind them offering little nuggets of help. I adored them.
It was when the inept in the room offered, and usually forcibly, there ideas based on tenure of time that I cringed. In education this happens all the time to tedium. For ten years I made interactive slideshows to use as the backdrop of my lessons. I was at a professional development seminar and saw great work. I asked a few questions like, “I am not a 65 year old grandmother. I don’t have the same vibe as you. What would you recommend?”
“Sweety, use what you can, throw away the rest, make the lessons yours. If you do, the kids will love you.” She was right and they did. I took her idea, innovated it, and made it my own and offered it to anyone who wanted to use it.
Enter my new boss. We will be making Hyperdocs. These are not slideshows. They are new and better and everyone is using them.
My response, isn’t that what me and my team are already doing?
No it’s different. It’s better.
Nope. It was a slideshow on steroids that forced you to follow a script. It was a time suck to please the manager and take away from time with the kids. In my mind, a huge problem. Any master teacher knows that all good plans go to waste and instead are replaced with the teachable moments. The more teachable moments that come out of the classroom environment, the better the teaching and the better the outcomes. This teacher just thought that what she wanted done was correct because she had been in education the longest.
It’s the same as Runner A giving advice on nutrition and intervals and shoe choice to Runner B. It doesn’t bode well. Runner A should either strive to be like Runner B or just listen and empower the other. He or she is shooting for a level that you are not. It’s okay. Time and Speed are both measures for success.