Running Uphills

Something odd happened the other day on my morning run. Deciding to ramp up my training, I grabbed my Garmin GPS watch and headed out. The goal was to track my pace at various points on my usual route and that’s when I noticed a strange trend. At first, I thought my watch needed a software update because something really unusual was happening.

According to my watch, my pace running uphill was faster than when running downhill or on a flat stretch. Spending the remaining part of my route trying to figure why my natural pace didn’t fit the norm, I concluded that it was most likely the result of growing up at the bottom of a mountain. All of the excitement in the neighborhood was always happening at the top. During the summer, I’d run or ride my bike a mile and a half up a steady incline as fast as I could to get to the action — often several times a day. Going uphill, for me, always had its reward.

These last few months I’ve been on a personal journey searching for “what’s next.” I have spent a great deal of time speaking with former clients, colleagues, and friends. Our conversations focused on learning about their career paths. We talked about turning points, dead ends, and U-turns along their journeys. It was incredibly enlightening and helpful. Surprisingly, I also learned something else…

The people I spoke with, although mostly satisfied with their current status, longed for something better. When I explored “better” several themes were reoccurring; a better work/life balance, greater purpose in their work, freedom to work on things they were passionate about, etc. Interestingly, it was not isolated to one workforce generation, i.e. Millennials. Then I had a thought… do companies realize that there has been a change in the way people want to work? And, it seems to be universal. I heard the feedback, but had they recognized or responded to this shift?

Running parallel to this exploration, a couple of former clients approached me to do some consulting work. The companies we worked with had products and/or services that were considered to be “disruptive innovation.” There is a certain element of a “fear factor” to this new wave of technology, in particular, AI and robotics. The reality is they also have the opportunity to dramatically improve people’s lives. Unfortunately, that message hasn’t been well communicated, or received. One thing is certain, though, the last wave of technology was about business model disruption (think Netflix, Uber, AirBnB, etc.). The new wave is about personal disruption, for better or worse, depending on your viewpoint.

Similarly, my own journey came to the crossroads of personal disruption and a longing for something better. It got me thinking. Could an organization aimed at helping companies bring life-changing innovation to market be built on a business model that changed the life of the people it employed? From disruption, could something better be created? After circling back to many of the people I spoke with earlier, I concluded that it most definitely could.

And so, at this point in my life and career, when I wish I was better at coasting on flats or running downhill — I’ve picked another hill to run up. The grind, unfortunately, seems to suit me. Leaning into the incline gives me a feeling of purpose. The pounding heart and aching legs focus my mind, challenges my body and gives me a sense of accomplishment and clarity.

I also recognize (sadly) that I’m not as young as I once was, and to be successful in this new venture I will need the boost of friends and family to make it up the hill. I may not be able to run it as often, or as fast, so I’ll also need others to take the journey with me. I know the excitement is still at the top and getting there, although challenging, definitely has its rewards.

My life has and will continue to be disrupted, but I see something better coming…and so will you soon.

Follow the Carbon Design Co LinkedIn page to watch the journey to the top.

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Scott is the Founder of Carbon Design Co and the former head of the Washington, DC office of gyro, the largest B2B agency in the world. Prior to joining gyro, he spent a dozen years at a professional services firm that specializes in B2B sales and marketing. Scott also writes a monthly column for Media Post and has contributed to three books on B2B Sales and Marketing. Follow him on Twitter @sgillum

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