Sales is well known for being a rollercoaster: on the good days, you feel like you are unstoppable and on the bad days you just want to get off the ride and go home ASAP.
After two extremely good quarters at work, I now find myself facing a challenging one. Whether it’s a coincidence or karma is involved, this quarter is taking place at the same time as I celebrate 1 year anniversary of the Kerry Way Ultra (KWU) race I ran last year in Kerry, Ireland. It was a 200 km race, which was the longest, most challenging, and most complicated race I have run. for some reason, I find myself trying to embrace the fear of not reaching my quarterly target with the lessons I have learned from the KWU race.
One of the most memorable parts for me at the KWU race occurred in the middle of the night, when I was after 110 km of running, 20 hours into the race. It was late, dark and I was deadly tired. At this point, I ran slowly with a few other people. It was hard to see the path and I felt like I am falling asleep while moving. Nothing helped: chocolate, drinking water, singing, talking, caffeine pills. Nothing. And then I encountered within me (for the first time in my life) this uncontrollable pain of feeling despair. A deep, excruciating feeling of despair. As if I am slowly dying and have no control of the situation.
I began thinking what will happen if I fall here, in the middle of nowhere? Will someone rescue me? Will I break my teeth? Will I go to the hospital? Am I going to die? As someone who usually tries to be positive, it was difficult for me to encounter despair and feel it so strongly. I felt completely helpless. This specific experience taught me three major life lessons that I have found very helpful for the past two (challenging) months:
Give difficult feelings their place
As someone who tried to ignore/run away from hard feelings, being in an extreme situation makes you face those feelings whether you like it or not. The fact that I could visualize what might happen if I fall asleep, that I would break my teeth and maybe will have to go to the hospital, put the situation in perspective. I felt completely helpless, but the feeling itself won’t kill me. Giving space for such fears won’t kill me.
I try to do the same thing now. Not reaching my targets will be painful, very painful, especially when I hate not succeeding and have always been willing to work hard for it. But it won’t kill me. There is always another quarter, and maybe I will be able to make up for this one next quarter?
Big fear, small steps
This is a lesson I learned from my first 100-mile race in Croatia back in 2017. The greater the fear, the more we lean into the 'fight or flight' mode and don’t or perhaps can’t think straight. During that awful dark night, where I hardly saw one meter ahead of me, I remember I looked at my steps and just counted them to make sure I move forward. One step at a time. Literally. It didn’t matter that I was behind in my plan, it didn’t matter that at this point I almost missed the cut-off time, it didn’t matter I had 90 more km to go, I focused only on my next step - one step at a time.
Same with this quarter. There are 19 days to go. One day at a time, one customer call at a time. It isn’t over until I see the finish line or someone from the managing team of the race pulls me out because I didn’t get to the cut off within the time limit.
Control the controllables
I think one of the greatest lessons I still learn and encounter on a daily basis is to understand what I can control and accept what I can’t. In an ultramarathon, there are so many things that can go wrong: the weather, muscle cramps, stomach aches, the terrain is not what I prepared for, bad weather… And all those come before the fact that we are talking about 100 and more kilometers by foot with no stops to rest or sleep.
During this quarter, I have faced a lot of challenges I don’t control: the economic situation, budget decline within customers, and a change of strategy. I have no control over any of those, so I try to focus on what I can control: what opportunities I can work on, how can I can build and strengthen my relationship with my customers and how I build a stronger pipeline for the future. It is difficult, but I find that it is the only way to keep moving forward and not become a victim of my own thoughts.
Looking forward, here are my two cents:
It took me an hour and a half longer than planned to reach the aid station during that nightly run portion of the race. When I got to my station, I realized that dawn is close and somehow the stress of missing the cut-off time gave me a second wing. Out of nowhere, I began running and pushing towards the next station to make sure I get there on time. It was a long struggle until the end of the race, but eventually, I made it within the cut-off time and got to the finish line after 39 hours and 15 minutes (the cut-off was 40 hours).
Only after the race was over, I realized I have never given this feeling a place because of all sorts of fears and it made me less whole as a person. Because if I can’t feel those deep hard feelings, I also don’t feel joy, happiness, and positivity.
So, what will end up happening with this quarter? Too soon to tell. But I keep running, one step at a time until I reach the target or the cut-off will pull me out.