Running is a very efficient way to get some exercise. You can do it almost everywhere and it doesn’t cost a lot. We do most of our running around Herastrau lake, a lap of about 5 km. When we first lived in Bucharest, in 1993 -1997, we would be the only ones. Old ladies would shake their heads, men would laugh at us and children would shout “faster” or “1-2-3,1-2-3”. Since then a lot has changed and there are many more runners in Herastrau now. What has not changed (much) is the surface of the track around the lake. Although is says “Pista de Alergare” (running track) the uneven concrete tiles and slabs are not very suitable for running. I am not writing this to complain but I realized the other day some of the consequences and saw a parallel with business and politics.
When you run on an uneven surface with holes you constantly look just a few meters ahead so that you know where to place your feet in order to avoid falling. The scars on our knees are witness of the fact that not even that guarantees success.
Look Ahead At Where You Want To Go
Last year I was preparing for an Ironman triathlon. This is a race in which you swim 3,8 km, followed by a 180 bike ride and then run a full marathon (42,2 km). This takes a bit more serious approach to training than just running a few laps around the lake. In the weekend we would go to Snagov and do our long runs on the asphalt roads through the forest. Now, one of the well known tips for distance running is that you should look at a point far ahead of you. This way your mind helps your body to go to the point you are looking at. If you are constantly looking down, only a few meters in front of you, mentally speaking you are not helping yourself. It took me some time to realize that I was still looking only a few meters in front of me, even though there was no need to do so anymore and I had to make an effort to change the habit of looking down just in front of me.
Steer Clear Of Danger, Look Ahead
Another example of the importance of looking further ahead is when going fast downhill on a road bike. This can be an incredible experience but you have to know what you are doing. Sharp corners, dirt and gravel on the surface, traffic all make it dangerous. So you need to learn how to handle this, especially cornering. One of the tricks is not to look at the corner itself but to look at the point where you want to exit. Subconsciously the mind steers the body toward the point you are looking at. If you don’t want to find yourself at the shoulder of the road or in the abyss, don’t look at it.
The lesson is that it is important to look at a goal further away and not just at what is lying directly in front of you can easily be applied to business and politics. Sometimes we seem to be so preoccupied by what is immediately in front of us that we fail to look at our goal further ahead. We are not pulled towards that goal because we don’t look at it, worse, we start believing the things directly in front of us are more important than they really are because we are looking at them all the time. It becomes such a habit to deal only with what lies directly in front of us that we forget to look from time to time at our long term goal.
What A Banker Looks At
In the bank it is my job to make sure we keep a balance between not falling on our face because of short term risks on the one hand and achieving our long term goals on the other. A real banker is not someone who looks everyday at the volume of credits he has sold or how much his marketshare has increased over the last month. Banking is bit more complicated than that. I wrote about this here. I believe many of the problems we have today in banking can be at least partially explained by a short-term focus imposed by investors, shareholders, analysts and bankers that pushed an industry to improve performance from quarter to quarter while the business cycle is much longer than a year.
Romania Nr 7
Romania is 7th in terms of population and 9th in terms of surface but scores in the twenties on many of the other indicators. If our long term goal for Romania would be is to become the 7th country in the EU also in terms of economic power, quality of life, … (take your pick) we need to keep an eye on that goal. If it is too far away to see the finish so we should take intermediate long term goals. What happens in reality seems to be that we are so busy with dealing with all sorts of sort term issues that we actually in the way of the achieving of our long term goal. If we drop 7 positions in the “ease of going business index” of the World Bank because we introduce more bureaucracy for companies in order to deal with at short term issue (tax evasion), we are moving away from our long term goal. If we want to be Nr 7 we don’t need to be Nr 7 in everything but cannot fall behind even further in areas where we are already way behind. Defining the long term goal and keep looking at it might help us getting there.
Look Ahead When You Want To Get Ahead
Sometimes we need to force ourselves to look further ahead – at least from time to time – so that we don’t forget where we want to go to. It changes the perspective of the little things directly in front of you. Looking at what lies directly in front of you is sometimes needed to prevent you falling on your face. But there are also times that we have become so accustomed at looking just in front of us that we forget to look at our long term goal, even when we could.
Now, about that track around Herastrau lake…..