How Being Chased by an Angry Monkey Gave Me the Best Insight Into Business Growth

    Alison Eyring's latest book is about the importance of proper pacing for business growth. Alison has a very interesting story about how she learned one of the most valuable lessons about pacing for growth:

    After six months of preparation for a 100K race in Mongolia, I was on my final long run in the jungle near my home in Singapore. I ran slightly downhill along a long dried-out stream. My eyes were focused on my feet to help me avoid tripping over one of the stones along the path. Suddenly, I came across a large male monkey finishing his lunch. After running 32 km carrying empty food packets, I must have smelled like dessert to him. He looked at me, shrieked and ran towards me. I shrieked back and sprinted away as fast as I could.

    I felt what I thought were his jaws close on my calf – his teeth piercing my leg. But it wasn’t the monkey at all. It was a rip in the belly of my left calf. It was a rip I’d allowed to happen slowly over the past months as I ignored the symptoms. While I could cope with a weakened calf when running at a slow and steady pace, the explosive monkey-escaping speed took me too far and too fast. Pain and injury was the result.

    I limped the 5 km back to my car and drove myself home. No race for me that year.

    My encounter with that monkey was a turning point for me. I’d fallen into the rut that many runners fall into – I’d overdeveloped some muscles as I ignored and underdeveloped others. This misalignment caused a bigger imbalance that eventually damaged my calf. I’d become addicted to running long distances but hadn’t put my energy into building capacity to be able to sustain that stress on my body. I realized we do this as much in leading and building our businesses--focusing on some factors but not others--which results in a misalignment that brings the whole thing crashing down.

    Over time I learned to hold back more and vary my pace to trigger improvements to my speed and strength. This took focus and a discipline of pushing myself and then allowing my body and my spirit to recover--to go only as fast and as far as my capacity allowed but no more. I call this “Intelligent Restraint.” This is as important to a business leader who must lead today’s performance and build capabilities for tomorrow as it is an endurance athlete.



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