20/09/2016 12:01 PM IST | Updated 21/09/2016 8:28 AM IST

5 Lessons On Business From My First Ironman

John P Kelly

"An Ironman Triathlon is one of a series of long-distance triathlon races organized by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), consisting of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.22-mile (42.20 km) run, raced in that order and without a break. It is widely considered one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world."

-- Wikipedia

When my friend Sameer mentioned participating in the Ironman race, I found it difficult to imagine myself competing in it. Nonetheless, I agreed to do it. I thought of it as a challenge and I was determined to give it my best shot. And that was the start of a new passion for me, my resolve only strengthening as I prepared and practiced for the most challenging human endurance race. I stumbled, I fumbled, I got over-confident, I got scared -- I went through a myriad of emotions through the journey but when I completed the race I knew it was worth every moment.

Whatever it is -- life, race or business -- attempt it with all your soul and heart.

Here's a snippet of my Ironman journey and analogies that I drew from it for managing a successful business. After all, there is no better teacher than life itself!

1. Preparation is crucial

If you have set your heart on something then give your 100% to it. Prepare well. It was a tough struggle for me to balance my training, work (which included a lot of travelling) and family (though they were supportive). Some days I would train for 6+ hours in the 40°C heat and humidity of Delhi. My body was shocked at this rigorous training and was giving up. Fatigue was building, my nerves were shot and I was down with a bout of viral illness just a few days before the race. However, I continued irrespective of all odds, affirming the goal in my mind. I didn't quit preparation. No excuses.

To test my abilities and level of preparation I also participated in two Delhi International Triathlons and won both across all age groups. I was confident. Good preparation lays the foundation of a strong business project. There can be no shortcuts to preparation. There will be challenges. There will be occasional heartbreaks but you have to keep going at it. Participating in mock drills to test your project is a must, for it helps you to fine tune the idea before the final launch.

2. Find the right human resources

I could never have done the Ironman without my coach Subbu. A fantastic human being and an excellent coach, Subbu is the fastest Indian ironman, going under 10 hours twice. For a successful business, too, you need to identify the right human resource. The right person for the right job is crucial for your business. This is especially important for start-ups. Everything else can be compromised and managed but not human resources.

3. Keep going, keep growing

At one point in the race I was about to give up. I had immense pain due to stomach cramps and I could barely run. There were 37km yet to go. I knew I couldn't complete the race under 10:30 which was the initial goal. However, for me the bigger goal was to complete the race. So, I pulled up all my energy and went for it. I kept going.

There was a time in the race when I stopped bothering about the competition. I simply focused on myself.

In business, you're going to face difficult situations at one point or the other. But that doesn't mean you abandon ship. It's not an option. You lay low but keep going. See the bigger goal. Tweak the smaller ones. Do whatever it takes but don't leave in between. Success only comes to those who don't stop. As the saying goes, the night is darkest just before dawn. Keep going strong even at the darkest hour.

4. Set smaller and achievable targets

I broke down the race and made shorter targets, like 10K, 14K, 18K, 25K, 28K, 32K, 36K, 40K, and finally 42K. At the completion of every target I felt mentally stronger and reenergized. This is a practical tip for start-ups -- keep smaller and achievable targets. This way, your morale and that of your team will be high and the journey to the final goal will be fun. Like we say, eat smaller meals to keep healthy. Similarly, keep smaller targets to reach your business goals faster.

5. Know your competition but don't focus on them

Knowing your competition in the market is good but don't let it overwhelm you. At the end of the day you are bringing something unique to the table. Focus on your product and service. There was a time in the race when I stopped bothering about the competition. I simply focused on myself. And trust me, I have always given my personal best because of the same attitude.

Finally, whatever it is -- life, race or business -- attempt it with all your soul and heart.