I have a pretty exceptional academic record. Cambridge and Harvard. Why? Because I worked hard, especially as concerns my Cambridge undergraduate degree. For many years, for many days and nights, at my boarding school in England, I studied. I studied very hard, for my everyday assignments, for project work, and for my exams. Actually, it started before England — my work ethic. When I was fourteen I was sent to America. From Moscow to Oklahoma! My English was broken when I arrived in the US. When I was leaving, a year later, I boasted straight As on my grade report. It’s not that I found my American school easy, not at all. I worked hard. I showed up and I achieved excellence that over the years helped me get to the very Olymp of academic excellence — attending the world’s greatest universities.
Fast forward a few decades. I had always loved running but in the last two years, I really committed to my passion for running. I showed up every day. Literally. I ran and continue to run every day, save for some occasionally planned rest days on Monday. There are nuances in my training that I could talk about endlessly, like the types of runs I do, but that’s not the point. The point is that in my running I’ve been showing up. Every day. Look what I got in the mail a couple of days ago after my marathon in California’s Orange County last month:
I know it was a small marathon and I’d not get the first place in a bigger race. But still — I came top in my age group! I absolutely plan to conquer the world’s famous marathons.
In business though and in my career more generally, I’ve struggled. I had a couple of exceptional years in investment banking early in my career, but otherwise, I’ve underperformed. There is a story behind every failure but I’m not looking for excuses. I know why I’ve been underperforming. Because I never truly showed up for any of my undertakings. I did have stretches where I worked hard and where I felt stressed out but “stretches” of hard work and occasional stress don’t mean shit. Not once did I show up for my jobs or entrepreneurial endeavors as consistently as I did when I studied or when I ran. Why? I don’t know. There were undertakings I was excited about but I was distracted by other personal or professional matters. And there were other undertakings that I found boring. Of…