What is the Best Business Education? Run a Marathon. | Andrew Johnston | TEDxYouth@MileHigh

What is the Best Business Education? Run a Marathon. | Andrew Johnston | [email protected]

September 2, 2019 45 By Ronny Jaskolski


Translator: Helena Bowen
Reviewer: Denise RQ As a business instructor
at a community college one of my favorite courses
to teach is Intro to Business. It’s one of my favorite courses because in this class I assign
the students a company project. In this project the students go out,
they find a small business, they meet with the business owner,
and then they share with their classmates key technical information
about the business. Information such as:
what’s the company’s product? How do they price their product,
or promote their product? It’s a great assignment because it really brings to life
all the technical theory that the students have been
reading about in their textbook. But you know what the biggest insight is
from this assignment, you guys? The biggest assignment is when the students
share with their classmates what the single biggest piece of advice the business owner has for a young person
starting their business career. You know what that biggest piece
of advice almost always is? Before I tell you what it is,
let me first tell you what it’s not. Business owners are telling my students
that success in business is not about being an expert
at writing pivot tables in excel. They say it’s not about being a jockey
at the ten key calculator. They say it’s not about being able to recite accounting regulations, no. Instead, what business owners
are telling my students the key to success has everything to do
with the development of this: character, life skills, things
like passion for your work, work ethic, persistence, determination,
and good old fashioned grit. That’s what business owners are saying is the key to success for a young person
starting their business career. How do you teach grit?
How do you teach these life skills? Some schools are trying to teach it
through self help books and seminars. Here’s the problem
with self-help books and seminars: they don’t cut to the chase,
or force the student to actually apply what they’re reading about
in the textbook. It’s all theory. It’s like if I want to learn
to ride a bike. I could read a book about riding a bike,
I could watch a video about riding a bike, but until I’m actually on the bike
pedaling, and breaking, and ringing the little bell
on the handle bars, have I really learned how to ride a bike? I don’t think so. Again, how do you develop these skills? How do you develop the skills
to develop the resilience to keep going when life circumstances, and maybe
even the people all around you are telling you to quit? That’s the question my colleagues
in the business department, two years ago, and I asked. In 2013, we launched a new class called
“Change through Challenge.” The premise of change
through challenge is very simple: all the life skills that I mentioned,
persistence, determination, grit, all these life skills
can be acquired and mastered through the power
of training for a marathon. Guess what the final exam is
in this class? A 26.2 mile marathon. Why a marathon? Because a marathon
gets to the heart of the matter. Because a marathon doesn’t goof around. Because training for a marathon
is the perfect vehicle for teaching all these life skills that business owners are saying is the key
to your success in business and in life. Because you see my friends,
mother marathon, she’s a strict teacher. She doesn’t allow cheating,
and she doesn’t grade on a curve. Because when you’re
at the start line of a marathon, I don’t care if you’re the CEO,
or if you’re the janitor. If you haven’t put in
the work, the training, if you haven’t mastered
these key life skills, you’re not going to finish the race
no matter who you are. The goal of the course is very simple:
just finish the marathon. I don’t care if you run
across the finish line, I don’t care if you walk,
I don’t care if you hop, skip, and jump; just finish. Everyone from the 19-year-old single mom
to the 60-year-old vice president has taken this course. The students train
three days a week on their own. We meet on Saturdays
for the long group run, and then we meet
on Monday night for the seminar. In the seminar we talk about
three very simple things. We talk a little bit about diet,
talk a little bit about training, and then the discipline of the week, and how that discipline relates
to their school work, how it relates to their business,
and how it relates to life. One of the disciplines
we talk about is goal setting. How do you take a big hairy,
scary goal like a marathon and break it down into weekly,
even daily tasks so it’s not overwhelming? Think about that old riddle:
how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,
that’s what we’re doing here. I think about a student that I had the very first semester
we taught this class. Her name was Mandy. Mandy in addition to going to school
full-time and training for the marathon, Mandy was opening up a hair salon. Upon opening the doors at the salon, Mandy immediately realized
that opening a small business was not unlike training for a marathon, especially that whole
overcoming adversities piece. When she opened the doors,
she had nay-Sayers who were telling her that she ought to quit
because it will never work. She had bankers that wouldn’t loan her
money when she needed it most. She was encountering code enforcement
officers that harassed her every week and worst of all, a lot of times, she would come in
to the morning plumbing disaster. How did she get through this? She took all these setbacks,
all these to-do lists, these issues, and these problems, and broke them down
into small weekly tasks, and wrote them down
and slowly checked them off. In other words, she was eating
the elephant one bite at a time. Just like marathon training. Another discipline we talk about in
this course is the power of consistency. In fact, one of the mantras
of this course is, “It’s not about doing
the occasional big things, it’s about doing
the consistent small things.” Hydrating, eating right, exercising, not just on the warm days,
but on the cold days too, and not just exercising
on the days you feel like it, but exercising on the days
that you don’t feel like it. That’s how you achieve the big goals,
that’s how you go 26.2. I’m reminded of a student that I had
this past semester in the class. Her name was Sandy. Sandy was a high school
guidance counselor. She had hip replacement surgery
nine years ago. Because of the hip replacement surgery,
Sandy wasn’t able to exercise, she had fallen badly out of shape,
gained a lot of weight, but Sandy signed up for the course
anyway as a form of personal renewal. She wanted to dedicate the marathon
to her mom, who had recently passed. Sandy was also a realist;
she knew that given her health condition, the 22-week training
was going to be difficult, and finishing the marathon
in the seven hour cut-off was going to be a particular challenge. But Sandy persevered, and you know what she did every Saturday
for those long group runs, you guys? Every Saturday she would come,
and she would walk two minutes, and she was jog two minutes,
and walk two minutes, and jog two minutes. Mile after mile, consistently, week after week, consistently, for 22 weeks. Fast-forward 22 weeks on January 17, 2014, Sandy crossed the finish line
at the Phoenix Rock-n-Roll Marathon. Guess what her time was? 6 hours and 48 minutes,
12 minutes under the cut-off. Oh, and by the way,
when she crossed the finish line, she was 35 pounds lighter than when she began
the course 22 weeks prior. You see guys, it’s not
about doing the occasional big things, it’s about doing
the consistent small things. One of my favorite times
in this class is about week five. In week five, students are really seeing
the benefits of eating right, hydrating correctly, sleeping right,
and exercising four days a week. They’re taking on
what I would call “the glow”. But the best part, at week five
and throughout the rest of the semester, is that students are seeing the benefits on those weekly long runs of setting
a scary goal and reaching a scary goal. So for instance, week one,
the goal is run a mile; they run the mile. Week two, it’s run two miles;
they run two miles. Week three, it’s run four miles;
they run the four miles. Set a scary goal, run a scary goal. Week after week after week. Guys, this process
not only becomes life-affirming, this becomes habit-forming. Students get used to doing
and reaching huge goals every week and doing something
that most people will never do. So what happens? The DVD player up here
and the self-talk up starts to change. They start saying things like,
“You know, if I can run a marathon, of course I can
get through that algebra class.” “If I can run a marathon, of course
I can get that college degree.” “If I can run a marathon,
of course I can open that hair salon.” Let me close with this: in 2013, we launched
the “Change Through Challenge” class. To my knowledge, it is
the only community college business course to be featured in a national
running magazine “Runner’s World”. But more important than that, I suspect this course
has changed the course and allowed many young people
to arrive where they want to arrive, to which I say to you guys, every one of you in five years from now
is going to arrive somewhere. Some of you are going to be in college,
some of you in the work force. Some of you might
even be married and have kids. Here’s the thing: so many people
– and us adults are the worst at this – throw our lives up in the air,
rely on chance, and just hope it all works out. Guys I would submit to you
this afternoon, and hear me on this, I would submit to you this afternoon that marathon training,
yes, marathon training, can help you by giving you
the life skills and the character skills so you don’t have to throw
your life up to chance. Your life can be a choice, and you can choose where you want
to go the next five years and beyond. Guys, technical skills
and technical training will get you a job that will get you a paycheck,
but let me tell you, if you develop character and life skills, my friends, you will find work
that will build you a life. Guys, I wish you the absolute best
as you choose the course for your life, and I look forward to seeing
each and every one of you at the next marathon. Thank you very much. (Applause)