Your Career Isn’t a Marathon, It’s a Series of Sprints
Consistency is not enough and might keep you from leveling up
I hated sports in high school. The main reason was the Cooper test. It’s a standardized test of physical fitness devised by a man named Kenneth Cooper for the US military. The goal is to run as far as you can in 12 minutes.
However, since it’s meant to measure your overall condition, you’re supposed to run at a steady pace, not sprint and rest in between. Despite being a nerd, I was never terrible at sports, but I definitely wasn’t a long-distance runner. So while some of my soccer-playing, well-trained friends easily crossed the 2,500 m mark and netted awesome grades, you could catch me somewhere between corner three and four, wheezing on the tarmac or, on one particularly hot day, trying not to throw up in the bushes. D- is the best I ever got.
The Cooper test came to represent everything I thought was wrong with school. Is this really the best test they could come up with? Why did they make kids run in a circle for 12 minutes, like hamsters? Why couldn’t the runners just run in their spare time? Who cares if my stamina sucks if I’m not one of them? And why on earth do I have to keep a steady pace?
That last one irked me the most: The steady-mentality. Somehow it seems to creep its way into every part of our lives, doesn’t it? It’s a mindset we’re taught universally across domains. In school, you’re supposed to show up each day, do your homework, and study on the regular. College is the same. And even though freelancing is on the rise, a lot of employers still expect you to show up from nine to five each weekday.
So long after we’ve left high school, the Cooper test is alive and well, instilled deep inside of us, secretly driving everything we do. What I’ve learned is that consistently taking small steps is a good baseline for most endeavors, but it’s not enough. Many of the big goals we have in life, like owning a business, excelling at our job, being creative, or making lots of money, can’t be achieved on consistency alone.
Sometimes, our marathon mindset is the very thing preventing us from attaining them.