Are You Running Your Own Race?


I love the story about the old African American woman who’s informed by someone that she should do this, and she must do that. And her response is: “I ain’t gotta do nuthin’, ’cept stay black and die.”

How often do we do things in business just because someone told us we should? Just because we believe, often with blind faith, that it will help take us to the promised land? Too often in my opinion.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how we’re bombarded with directions – should do’s and must do’s – in all areas of our life, but perhaps especially in business. And of course, if you’re doing what you should be, you’re probably reading and listening to a bucket load of information about how to conduct and grow your business. I mean let’s face it, every man and his dog is telling you what you should do…

Become a blogger, be the expert, do speaking engagements, follow-up, cold call, network, stand on your head and chant “I love the customer” 50 times a day, (okay, I made that one up), and on and on ad nauseam.

Now, while it’s great to listen and learn (especially from people who’ve done it), should we take it all as gospel? Do we just follow blindly? And if not, how do we determine which bits to ignore? And what if something we’re instructed to do doesn’t sort of “fit right” – do we still do it anyway, because we’re told we should? In other words: Does OUR success lie up the path that someone else has laid? I honestly believe the answer to that is yes and no.

I think there are certain fundamentals that we need to adhere to in order to succeed, but in my opinion there’s a lot to be said for tailor-making your journey to success. So as far as I’m concerned, they can take their should and shove it!

Here’s how I now approach it:

Use the “Do I Really Want To?” Yardstick

The next time you’re being instructed and prodded to perform a must-do activity (guaranteed to take your business to dizzying heights) ask yourself: Do I really want to do this? Is this in line with who I am and how I want to function? Backing away from something out of fear is one thing, but doing it just because you think you must do it in order to grow your business – even though you hate it – is really just following the crowd. Taking advantage of a particular vehicle is one thing, but using it just because it’s available is another.

“Life by Design” is my philosophy. I believe that establishing and running a business should be all about your own sense of fulfillment and the lifestyle you want. Otherwise, you’re better off having a job. So I suggest that before you race in every direction doing what you think you must, take some time to evaluate it on your own terms.

My point: Suit yourself. Break the rules (or re-design them) when the existing ones don’t “fit right” for you. Look for other alternatives. The upside of this is that, while the hoards are all imitating each other, you’ll find avenues, tactics and opportunities that are more congruent with who you are. Plus, the space probably won’t be as crowded!

Kites rise highest against the wind – not with it.
~ Winston Churchill

Know Why You’re Running

In the army reserve I learnt that I could run faster and further while running with the other soldiers than I could on my own. This is actually a known phenomenon (although I don’t know its name), because the participants spur each other on. I believe the same is true in business.

However, it’s important to be able to separate yourself from the pack – to know why you’re running from A to B in the first place. Are you running just because the pack is and you’re not sure what else to do? (And are you running in a certain direction just because the pack is?) Or are you running for a reason and a purpose that’s all your own? In my humble opinion, this is the key to fulfillment.

My point: Use the pack to your advantage. Feed off the energy that your field of competitors creates, but don’t see yourself as part of ONE entity.

Find Your Own Unique Place in the Field

They say answers are for those who seek, and that things come to us when we’re ready for them. Last week I watched a brilliant film which had the answer to something I was searching to understand. Don’t you just love those light bulb moments? Pure magic.

The film, directed by Robert Redford, was called The Legend of Bagger Vance. If you haven’t seen it then I say, you should and you must! In all seriousness, apart from being entertaining, there’s some terrific messages in this film. It’s perfect for anyone who is, or wants to be, an entrepreneur. (And the humour’s not too shabby either.)

My point: Geez… you want everything laid out on a silver platter don’t you! Watch the film and you’ll find out… 🙂

That old woman was very wise. If you heed her words you’ll realise there ain’t many things you have to do. Be defiant. Be original. Do you.

And have fun!


  1. Lately I’ve been defining my version of success and where i am heading in life and focusing only on what i am best at and letting the other things fall away from me because they don’t meant anything. This way i can run my own game and create my own success on my terms and in essence “run my own race”.

    Here is a two-part question that i love asking people who are solely money-driven… “How much money would make you happy? and how much do you need to retire?”… What is your answer?

  2. nesh thompson says

    Peach of an article, Danielle, thanks. I guess life would be very simple if there was one solution that would fit every situation but then life isn’t simple. What works for one person doesn’t for another, it is just that in business there is always the ‘drive’ to do what successful businesses do. By emulating them, some businesses think that they will themselves become successful. However, the success stories we so admire are built on trial and error and often a lot of gambling.

  3. That’s a great question Luc.

    I see money as the tangible exchange for value (James Ray calls it “green energy”, which I love), so I approach it from the perspective of – how much value do I want to create and contribute to the world? And the answer is A LOT.

    Ultimately, my goal is to create value in the lives of millions of people, and I expect to be rewarded accordingly for that. So I personally would like to be a multi-millionaire. Whether it’s 2 million or 100 million will depend on how much value I am able to create; either way I’m happy, as long as I know I’ve given my best.

    For me money is a part of the whole “fulfillment” equation. When people are focused solely on money, it’s simply because they can’t see, or don’t understand, the whole picture – and therefore the significance of each of the parts.

    Honestly, for anyone who’s struggling with their relationship with money (as I did), or their thoughts around it, I highly recommend “The Science of Getting Rich”. And you can get a free copy of it by clicking on the funny (amazing) little man on the right-hand side of this page. I also highly recommend Rebecca’s follow-up online course to this book, as she walks you through it step-by-step and brings a lot of clarity to the concepts (and you can set your own tuition fee, so you pay according to what you can afford).

    Great question Luc! And thanks for adding to the conversation.

  4. Danielle says

    Thanks Nesh! I’m so glad you enjoyed it.
    You make some really great points here.

    “I guess life would be very simple if there was one solution that would fit every situation but then life isn’t simple. What works for one person doesn’t for another…”

    – Spot on, and I think it’s one of the wonderful things about life because it creates variety. Wouldn’t it be BORING if we always knew what was going to work, and the solution was the same for everyone! Where’s the fun in that?!

    “…it is just that in business there is always the ‘drive’ to do what successful businesses do. By emulating them, some businesses think that they will themselves become successful.”

    – Very true Nesh, and this is often the case. Certain “formulas” work and can be applied to many businesses, so my point is that just re-applying someone else’s blueprint is somewhat of a hollow victory. Certain natural highs come with any success, but ultimatley they fade when you don’t have your own sense of mission and purpose.

    “…the success stories we so admire are built on trial and error and often a lot of gambling.”

    – Ain’t that the truth!

    Thanks very much for your thoughts.

  5. Danielle — “Bagger Vance” is a wonderful movie, which I bought after I realized that I watched it every time one of the cable stations played it.

    You’re right, there are good lines of wisdom in that movie that can be applied to almost any calling. No matter what their field/profession/calling, every person has their “one true authentic swing” that was created just for them. The movie nicely illustrates each point you’ve made in your post: know why you’re running, be sure you’re doing it for yourself, and carve your own place on the field. Be unclear on one or more of those points, and you’re going to play poorly.

  6. Danielle says

    Beautifully said Whitney, thank you.

    The only thing I would add is: Be unclear on one or more of those points, and you’re going to be unfulfilled.

  7. Andy Bargery says

    Hi there,

    Nice post, very inspirational. I had one of those moments just yesterday. I was busy preparing to pitch for a new bit of business, when suddenly I had a light bulb moment – this was a client working in an industry I don’t particularly respect (recruitment), wanting a service that would stretch my resources too far to service my existing clients.

    At that moment I realised it was time to pull out of the race. It just wasn’t why I started working independently in the first place. It was time to get back to being me.


  8. Danielle says

    Hi Andy,

    That’s fabulous, good on you!! I love to hear of real life incidents where people take a stand. Especially when it involves perceived loss.

    It’s when we don’t heed those inner warning bells (usually because we believe we HAVE to do something), that we head off in the wrong direction. I used to see this every day in the corporate sector, and it’s the primary reason that so many people are so unhappy and dissatisfied.

    Thanks so much for sharing.