Michael Adams

Trying to make each day better than the last and writing about it.

Author: Michael Adams (page 2 of 32)

What I Learned From Running My First 5k

Today, I completed my first 5k as part of a relay team in the Vermont City Marathon. It was my first time running a race. I’m used to running the loop around my neighborhood – 2.9 miles – a couple times a week. I’m by myself – just my ipod and heavy breathing. Oh, and tight calves.

But this race was different.

I was part of a team. A team of which I only knew one other person. I met the rest of the team an hour before the gun went off. Great group of guys, super encouraging, and in high spirits to complete the race. We weren’t going for time. We were in it for fun.

Here’s how this whole running thing happened in the first place…..

On April 30th, I got the text from my friend, Mike.

“Want to run the first leg of my marathon team? It’s 3.3 miles. We had someone drop out.”

I was sitting on my parent’s couch watching the news. I hadn’t gone on a “long” run in almost 6 months. The harsh Vermont winter kept me inside lifting weights, putting on a good amount of muscle.

I needed to do more cardio, anyway. But…..

“Maybe I shouldn’t do it. I don’t know if I can run 3.3 miles in three weeks,” I told my parents. Doubt settled in – and it wasn’t even 10 minutes. I needed new running shoes ($125).  Training needed to start immediately.

Screw it. Let’s do it.

I texted Mike back: “Why not. Gotta start running again haha.” It was starting to get warmer out. I figured I could at least run 2 miles non-stop, so what’s another 1.3 miles?

I bought my new running shoes, assembled a playlist of top 40 hits and hit the pavement. I trained 3 times a week for the next three weeks and took two days off before the race. I also used this as an excuse to eat bread and pasta (YAY carbs).

Race day was here.

I was more nervous about getting a parking space in downtown Burlington than the race (ok, maybe not). I arrived at the parking garage at 6:15am — plenty of spaces left. I couldn’t wait any longer so I got out of my car in search of a bathroom. Pre-race jitters were here. Was I going to make it? Was I too dehydrated? What if I don’t hit my time? What if I have to go to the bathroom again? (Personal side-note: I went 5 times before the race started. I was freaking nervous.)

I met up with my team, pinned my race bib to my shirt, and headed to the start chute. I had to ask three people if I was in the right place. It was impossible to know — I mean, 8,000 people were at the starting line. It looked like everyone was just standing around. Type-A-me had to make sure.

The gun went off. It was go-time.

I launched my playlist (which also served as a timer — if the music was over, I was behind).  We started out packed like sardines, as we trotted up Pearl Street.

People passed me left and right.

Good for them. People were behind me, too — I was middle of the pack.

I had two goals for this day: Maintain my 10 minute mile pace and run all 3.3 miles – no walking. Every turn was an accomplishment. That’s how I got through it:  I cut the run up into turns and simply ran to the next turn. Brilliant.

I saw a couple runners I knew – and just past the aid station, I saw my first familiar face cheering runners on. I pointed and waved. It was nice to see someone I knew. It gave me the extra encouragement to finish the last stretch.

As my leg came to a close, I got a little bit of shoulder pain.

It’s something I’ve got to work on. I pushed my shoulders down and back – chest out – to get my blood flowing. As I rounded the final corner, I saw my relay team cheering me on – pointing to where my hand-off, James, was. I was so focused on finding him, I didn’t even realize the bib numbers were categorized with signs.

I connected with James, handed off the relay bracelet, and wished him good luck.

My run was over.

The 3.3 miles represented more than a 5k, though (yes, I realize it’s slightly longer). Pounding the pavement through the streets of Burlington was rewarding, inspiring, and, you know what? It was fun, too.

As I do in many of my blog posts, I like to reflect to see what I learned. Here’s a list of what was running (pun intended) through my head as I took each step – and after my leg, too.

What I Learned:

1. Take risks

I don’t know what made me do it, but saying yes to running a 5k with 3 weeks of training was crazy. I just had to plan, train, and get in the game.  I made time in my schedule for runs. And it paid off. One of the biggest hurdles my – and probably your – life is getting over fear. The only way to get over fear is to take action. I did it. I ran 3.3 miles. What risk are you going to take today?

2. Anyone can run

Several kids under 10 blazed by me. I ran past a man who must have been in his 80’s. I saw all body types – skinny, heavy, muscular. Even a couple “you gotta be kidding me’s”. But you know what? They’re out there running the race – right alongside me. They put their mind to it to run the marathon. Whether running the whole thing or as part of a relay time,  everyone killed it out there. It doesn’t matter what time they finished. What matters is they finished. They accomplished their goal.

This could not have been more apparent than the Brainfarmer team wearing the sky-blue t-shirts. There must have been 12 of them – aids running alongside cognitively disabled kids. Anyone can run.

After finishing, I caught my breath and walked over with my team to watch the runners. A few minutes later, several of the Brainfarmer runners came by with their aids. The crowd went wild. I smiled and let out a big scream. The kid raised his arms and cheered. He was exhausted. But I could tell he felt accomplished. Amazing.

3. More cowbell

Along the whole run, there were residents, family members, friends, and a whole bunch of random people cheering everyone on. People literally didn’t stop clapping. While there were more people in certain places, the energy was amazing. It didn’t matter if you knew one runner or hundreds, every cheered for each other. And man were there a lot of cowbells! I loved it.

4. Focus on what’s in front of you

For me, it’s a struggle to “turn-off”. I never stop thinking about my business. During those 3.3 miles, I did not have one single thought about my business. It was freeing.  Seriously.  How did this happen? I focused on what’s in front of me.  I wanted to finish the run. That’s all I wanted to do. So, how can I transfer this to my business? Well, I need to get tasks done. Don’t start another project until the first one is done. No more doing six different things at once. Focus. Execute. Move on.

5. Be part of the community

I love Burlington. It’s an awesome city. From the free high fives on the second leg, to the cowbells (see #3), and the energy of a supportive 42,000 residents, I’m proud to live here. I’m happy to see people supporting each other (I’ve never heard so many “Great jobs!” in my life), cheering each other on, and being part of something that happens just once a year. People are helpful here. People are friendly. And people are happy. This community is undeniably one of the best I’ve been a part of.

6. Reward yourself

I legit pigged out after my run. Greatest cheat day ever. Do it every once in a while. Work hard. Eat hard. (You could play hard, too, but well, eating is WAY more fun).

So, that’s what I learned. After my part of the race, I debriefed with the guys about how it went. My friend, Mike, who originally got me to run, turned to me and said:

“I want to get you to run a longer leg next year. You in?”

I looked at him and said “Yeah. I’m game!”

This run was good for me. It was 3.3 miles of life lessons. Imagine what 5.8 would bring.

Congrats to everyone who ran in the Vermont City Marathon. A big thanks to the volunteers, the drag queens directing runners, event organizers, company sponsors, and everyone else involved. Definitely doing it again next year. You in?

3 Sure-Fire Ways to Fail at Networking

I went to the second annual LaunchVT Finals yesterday (Congrats to IrisVR — super-bright guys from Middlebury who’ll blow your mind with what they’ve accomplished for architects and virtual reality). I won LaunchVT last year so I know what Nate and Shane are in for – mass craziness, and a TON of networking opportunities.

A great network is the most valuable asset of any entrepreneur.

You have to know how to work a room, put the phone away, start chatting with anyone you can – and just own it. Own what you’re doing, who you’re doing it with, and where you’re going. Be the most interesting person in the room. Pretty easy for many entrepreneurs as I’ve written about before.

But some entrepreneurs aren’t the best. That’s why I decided to write this post – to give you (and other aspiring networkers) tips on what to avoid – plus how to network better. Let’s do it.

3 Sure-Fire Ways to Fail at Networking

1. Talking about yourself the whole time

Ever get the sense you’re doing all the talking? If you do, well, be quiet. Good networks are good communicators – but they’re also fantastic listeners. How do you know if you’re talking too much? Look at the person’s body language. If their eyes are wandering, they’ve lost interest. If they’re shoulders and body are turned away from you, it’s time to end the conversation – they clearly don’t want to be a part of it.

The fix: Start the conversation off by asking about what they do or why they decided to come to the event. This way, you immediately make your mini meet-and-greet about them – not you.

2. Not talking to anyone

The whole point of networking is, well, to network. And networking involves conversations. Nothing is going to happen if you’re in the corner on your smartphone checking Facebook. Put the phone away.

The fix: Pick anyone to talk to – literally anyone. They feel awkward standing there alone – just like you do. Get involved into a conversation because you know what? You never know if the person you’re talking to will become your next business partner, advisor, or investor.

3. Not following up

The second everyone leaves the event, they don’t remember you. After all, they’ve met a handful of other people that night. That makes follow up important. Without it, all the efforts you put into “networking” are out the door.

The fix: Keep business cards you get in your back-pocket. I have one pocket for my cards – and another for cards I get. When you get home, put them in-front of your laptop. That way, you see the cards when you first sit down to your desk for the day. Get the follow-ups done first thing. Include what you talked about and next steps you both talked about if you’d like to work together.

Those are my three tips. And don’t get me wrong. Everyone once in a while, I do all three of these things. And I’m certainly not going to win an award for best follow-up. I’m working on it, using the strategy I wrote about above.

I know a lot of you are super-awesome at networking. What are your networking fails? Or, on the positive side, how do you make network work for you when you’re at an event?

How to recognize when you need help (Entrepreneur edition)

It was Friday night. I was sitting at my dining room table, in front of my laptop. The white glow illuminated my face as I typed away. I wanted to finish a couple things before I called it quits.

But I couldn’t.

I just could not get anything done. Why? There was this voice in my head saying “What are you doing? Wouldn’t it be so much easier if you just got a full-time job again? You’re literally putting yourself to the grind on a Friday night. And you’ve been working since 7am. It’s 10pm. And this isn’t the first Friday night you’re working.”

Reality check: Entrepreneurship is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Seriously. You need to have an iron fist, full armor, and the sharpest sword you can find to get through the first few years. It’s certainly not TechCrunch magic all the time. It’s a hell of lot harder.

As a result, I’ve been battling my own mind.

Sometimes it feels like I haven’t done anything to build my business. Other times, the highs are so fantastic, I ride the coattails of Tuesday all the way to Friday. And then crash and burn when I don’t hit projected sales for the month. That was Friday night.

I came to a point where I truly questioned what I was doing. It was around 9:30pm when I realized I didn’t have anyone to talk to. I had no motivation. No energy to push through and get work done.

It was then I decided to lay down. My head hit the pillow on my couch for the first time in close to 4 months. I wondered why I didn’t do this more often. Couch cushions are so comfy.

Humor aside, I was in a bad place mentally. A bad place.  And no one knew. The contributing factors went far beyond my work. It was life in general: The pressure to find new/more friends. The pressure to “do something that isn’t work”.  And the pressure to believe that work/life balance actually exists (and no, going to networking events only to talk about my business, wasn’t exactly work/life balance).

No one knew I was crumbling under the pressure until I told my business coach a few weeks ago.

“It’s been a hard few weeks. I don’t know how I’m going to make this work. I’m barely scraping by. My living costs are increasing (I’m looking at you, health insurance) and I feel like I’m falling behind everyone else. My friends are successful in their careers, making good money, getting married, and what am I doing? For some reason I believe I can build a mustard company.”

She listened as I continued.

When I was finished, she reminded me I wasn’t alone. That a lot entrepreneurs go through this period of uncertainty, regret, and the feeling of failure. It was normal.

It’s normal to work 7-days a week? It’s normal to turn down social engagements because you’ve “got to get some work done”? It’s normal to have a 78-item to-do list?

This wasn’t normal. A negative transformation was happening. I was becoming introverted – too introverted.  A homebody. Nothing was fun to me anymore. It was just a matter of trudging through things. Sleep. Repeat.

It was then that I realized something needed to change. I needed help. And I needed to admit it. Out loud.

I wrote a 68-item to-do list. Everything I wanted to accomplish. I have since written another 37-item to-do list. With some simple addition, that’s over 100 things I felt were priority.

Another reality check: I’m not superman.

I can’t do all this. Something  had to get knocked off the “priority” list (as an entrepreneur everything becomes priority). I needed to start bringing in a team to take my business to the next level. A team of young, talented people, passionate about a disruption in the condiment category (they’re actually pretty easy to find).

Before I get to how I’m making  change in my business, I want to help you identify if you need the same help.

5 Signs You Need Help (Entrepreneur Edition)

1. When your to-do list is over one page – the whole thing is never getting done. Just face it.

2. When you can’t sleep a solid 8 hours – I’m still working on this. I get six if I’m lucky.

3. You think you’re Superman - no you’re not. No phone booth is going to help you get more done.

4. When your friends start to notice - my best friend calls me out all the time. Thank you, Britt.

5. When you realize you do nothing but work – Last year I fell into this trap. I was out for a couple months. And now, I’ve fallen back in it.

If you are experiencing anything on this list, you need help. When I hit all five of them, I shut down my computer and binged watched three TV shows for three hours straight. Pure trash. It felt like eating an entire pint of ice cream. It was that good.

After realizing I had a problem, I needed to find a solution. Here’s what I did:

 So, how did I figure out what needed to get delegated?

I looked at my huge list and identified what wasn’t getting crossed off:

  • Small retailer follow-up
  • Event planning & public relations
  • Small graphic design projects & blog posting

It’s not that I don’t want to do these things. I love graphic design. I love hunting for media lists. And nothing gets a smile on my face like landing a new retailer. But, I needed to put more time in elsewhere.

I needed to hunt the big whales.

You needed to what? Yes, hunt the big whales. Last week, I had an impromptu meeting with one of my favorite advisors. When we get in the same room, it’s far too easy to just shoot the breeze with him, but we eventually get down to business. He’s incredibly good at asking the hard questions. And one of them was:

“What the hell are you doing? You’ve got to spend more time landing the big accounts!”

He was right. I needed to devote more attention to landing bigger accounts. So, that’s what I’m doing. (PS: He had a lot of other thought-provoking questions I’ll address in future blog posts).

What about that other work?

I’m pulling on two interns (maybe three) from two local colleges: A sales & events intern, an online marketing & PR intern, and I’m considering hiring a graphic design intern (believe it or not) who’ll work remotely from New Jersey and even abroad this summer. I didn’t think I needed the third intern until I realized how much time that would free up for me to get more sales calls done.

More sales calls = bigger business.

While I wish I could actually pay my interns, they realize how unique of an experience they get – and it’s one heck of a portfolio/resume builder. I had unpaid internships in college and quite honestly, they were better than the paid ones.

Side note: My parents are stepping up their game, too. Dad helps me build things and sells mustard at events – and Mom, well, she does everything in this blog post.

Overall, I’m happy with the changes I’m making to my business. It will free up some of my time, give me an occasional Saturday off, and the chance to build a personal life back into well, my life.

Finally, I realized I needed help and decided to do something about it. Do you need help, too?



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