I believe you do well in life by either being disciplined or being organized. I confess to not being organized, but I am disciplined, and I attribute discipline as being the trait that has kept me focused, both personally and professionally.
I guess some people would call me weird because of my self-imposed discipline. For example, in 1976, I made a New Year’s resolution to stop chewing gum. I’ve not chewed a stick of gum since then—more than 35 years. On July 1, 2001, I said I would not eat another fried potato, and I haven’t had one since. If something is the right thing to do, I find that committing to it is not hard.
Discipline and commitment via a New Year’s resolution were how I indirectly got into marathon running. In 2000, after years of traveling and eating in restaurants, I realized I had put on about 20 pounds. I resolved to take off the weight and to get fit. My first attempt at regular exercise was basketball; however, I got tired of coming home from each game with a lot of ugly bruises and decided to find a sport with less physical contact.
Running seemed to fit the bill. I learned there was a “1040K” race in Miami, sponsored by the Florida Institute of CPAs, so I decided to train and enter my first event. To my surprise, I was the fastest CPA finisher. That was in spring 2002, and that race did it for me. I found a way to stay in shape and not get hurt. I started running 5Ks, then 10Ks. Then someone suggested I run a marathon (26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers).
Of course, going from a 5K to a marathon requires training. I set a training schedule (which I still keep): On Sundays I get up at 6 a.m. and take a long run, anywhere from 10 to 22 miles. On Tuesdays, I do speed work at the track—to get my legs used to sprinting. And on Thursdays, I do tempo work—running a steady, but not fast, 6 to 8 miles. In between, I may run socially. (Yes, running is a social sport. You talk a lot to running mates in 26 miles.)
One of my first goals was to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I’ve now run that race four times. I’ve also run the New York Marathon, and in October 2010, I ran the Chicago Marathon in 3 hours, 8 minutes, my best time ever. It feels good to do well, but that doesn’t happen every time. When I am disappointed with my performance (which happens about one-third of the time), I tend to train harder, because in racing, your finish reflects how you prepare.
The same discipline that shapes my personal life carries over into my professional life. After spending 17 years in public accounting, I left a partnership in a Big Four firm in 2003 to go into the business world. In 2008, I joined Burroughs & Chapin, a real estate development company. I have applied a very regimented approach to help the company become more efficient, a necessity today.
Although my work schedule is demanding, I try to give back to the profession and the community. Since 2003, when I moved back to South Carolina, I have served on the board of the S.C. Association of CPAs, as well as on the board’s committees for industry, technical standards, investment, and ethical standards. I’m currently representative from my district.
Contributing to the community is also important. I was asked to help found the Myrtle Beach Track Club, a “little league” running program for kids, where I also coach distance running. The kids know I expect them to do their best, which means practicing hard. I do the drills and runs with them. I tell them, “If an ‘old man’ can do it, you can too!” One of the kids recently broke the state record for the half mile in his age group!
As I work with my employees, raise my two teenage children, and coach the little kids, I try to inspire in them that life is not a sprint; it is a marathon. To achieve the things you want most, you have to be committed. You don’t have to win every race, but you should always try to do better than you did previously. That’s how I try to live my life, and it is definitely how I run my marathons.
—As told to Linda Segall, email@example.com,
a freelance writer from Jacksonville, Fla.
Photo by Marathon Photos