The Key to Running Success

I live in Silicon Valley, cradle of exciting technologies.

Over the years, I’ve witnessed how a little-known success principle operates in the tech sector. I’ve seen that this principle has tremendous power to predict whether a company succeeds or fails.

What’s this got to do with running? As it turns out, this deceptively simple principle works in both arenas, running and technology.

Consider a company I worked for in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

From the moment I walked in the door, I was inspired by the company’s technology. They made software that helped corporate IT programmers do their jobs.

Helping others expands our hearts. It’s an enjoyable experience. The company’s products just felt good.

Yet, despite its expansive technology, the company was fatally infected by ruthlessness.

Honest, straightforward people didn’t remain there long – they were usually fired, or they quit. I was never so grateful as when a particularly arrogant manager stopped giving me freelance work.

It was a paradox – the product was expansive, yet the management was contractive.

A friend who’d been a high-level executive at the company told me how the managers and employees would routinely lie to each other. I personally witnessed how they bullied and micromanaged their subordinates.

My friend was a principled man. Not long after he left to start his own marketing consultancy, we met for lunch. He told me how the company had imploded during the dot-com bust. The once-mighty enterprise, which had poured money into ego-gratifying projects like sponsoring a European professional sports team, was an empty shell.

Interestingly, the company’s expansive technology survived, eventually finding a happy home at Hewlett Packard.

Long ago, in India, wise men asked a simple question: “What do people want?” And the answer they arrived at was both simple and profound. Observing the human scene with calm objectivity, they realized that what everyone in the world is seeking is to experience more happiness, and find freedom from suffering.

The sages realized that the way to accomplish both of these goals is by expanding awareness. In plain terms, by “getting more,” in ways that are deeply meaningful and lasting.

“Expansion equals happiness.” This simple rule is the only guideline I ever need for my training. No matter what I’m doing – long runs, speedwork, sub-tempo runs, strength training – when I do it in a way that generates expansive feelings of happiness and joy, I get good results. But if my training feels disharmonious, contractive, and subtly “wrong,” I get poor results, and I suffer.

As an old guy, I can no longer train hard very often. I enjoy those harder efforts, and so I protect them, by doing the “right thing” on the slow days.

This has two happy results. Going at just the right pace on the easy days makes those easy runs enjoyable. And it lets me run faster on the rare hard days.

“Happiness.” “Joy.” These are my training partners.

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