The marathon race

There are certain quotes that are momentous, iconic and simply beautifully meaningful. It may not necessarily be quoted by someone big and famous, and may you might never find it even by googling it, but for those who have heard it, taken it by heart and seen it ensue over the years, it’s just consequential.    

“Your career is like a marathon race, and not a 100 meter dash. While running a marathon, you might find yourself at the back of the pack in the first kilometers, but what really matters is that you win when the marathon is complete. So, what happens in the initial years is of least concern when you see what you have or want to achieve after 30 years. You might lose the 100 meter race, but strive to win the marathon”  

This was one quote that we used to hear almost every day in 2006-07. We were in the initial stages of our career, and for us the yearly performance rating was the ultimate trophy. A rating of 4 out of 4 would mean that we have outwitted our colleagues in a war of numbers, performance and some self promotion.

I was good at all this, in fact very good.

I got the best seat where I could perform. Obviously at the customer service desk in the financial industry, you get to get all the spite from the customers, but ultimately, the more abuse you get, the more your stocks rise with your boss.

There was speed in me, young blood was flowing in the veins, and in a new-generation multinational company, speed matters a lot. And this brought in the numbers.

Youth and exuberance was part of the game. And this made me popular with most ladies, and some men, including the people at the right places who’d got to give my ratings. Well, popular with ladies means, you had your share of enemies too.

And every abuse, every extra bit of effort and every appreciation was an opportunity to use my marketing skills (obviously to market myself) and prove on paper that I was a tiger. Lessons well learnt from MBA classes – “self promotion is the best promotion”

All this, and the first ratings here gave me four out of four.

He just got three out of four, my buddy, colleague and roommate.             

 

He was wild. Actually, there was nothing bad about his performance too. But when two people go head to head, the one who is a little bit better on numbers, energy and the art of image management and publicity wins hands down.

That was what just happened here too.    

Our boss, being an emotionally weedy man, had a tough time convincing him. Every day, after office, we used to sit and listen to boss’s gyan mostly up to 9 pm. Being bachelors, we had nothing much to do. But he was a family man, and we always wondered why doesn’t he go home and play with his kid. He used to talk at length about Flight Crash Investigation, that popular programme on National Geographic Channel, on how investigations are done using brain and intellect where technology fails.

When the discussion usually ends nearing nine, boss would look at him, and find on his face the disappointment, dissatisfaction and discontent on losing out the rating war to me.

This is when he used to make that famous quote:

“Your career is like a marathon race, and not a 100 meter dash. While running a marathon, you might find yourself at the back of the pack in the first kilometers, but what really matters is that you win when the marathon is complete. So, what happens in the initial years is of least concern when you see what you have or want to achieve after 30 years. You might lose the 100 meter race, but strive to win the marathon”  

We never used to understand what it meant. We were just a couple of years into our careers and really did not try to comprehend the meaning behind those words. But looking back across the nine years of our professional life, this is the mostmeaningful quote we have heard. The disappointment of the one bad appraisal is gone, and we have learnt to look at the larger picture. Today, when we sit back and talk cheerfully of those good old days, this marathon quote is always the vanguard of the parley. One swallow does not make a summer, and marathon is complete and won only at the end of the full twenty six miles.

Cut to the present, this marathon race quote is the most quoted prose that I use now, whenever I address my team. When they hear this, among them, I can see some of the same beleaguered faces that we used to make, but they will too understand what it means when the time comes.

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