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Finishers Medals

Saturday’s “Too Hot To Handle” Finisher’s Medal matching up with February’s “Too Cold To Hold” Finisher’s Medal

This past weekend I ran in two 5K races.  One on Saturday, leisurely.  One on Sunday as hard as I could.  Despite the Texas July heat, the humidity, and having run the previous day, I ran the second fastest 5K race of my life.

I wasn’t always able to run a 5K race.  In January of 2013, I couldn’t even run 30 seconds at a time.  That month, I set then the goal of running a complete 5K race by the end of the year.

I trained.  Or tried.  Mostly failed.  By December of that year, I was no closer to being able to actually run a 5K.

When December came up, I went ahead and signed up for a 5K.  I figured, if I can’t run, at least I can walk.  Maybe run a little bit here and there.  Not my original goal, but that’s better than staying home.  I figured at least it would motivate me to do much better next time.

Out of 315 finishers, I came in at #299.  Out of 15 people in my gender/age group, I finished dead last at #15.

I joked with my friends “I finished in the top 95% of all racers!!”.

I didn’t feel bad though at having done so “poorly” – I congratulated myself on actually having accomplished it.  It was better than staying home.  I actually felt inspired by being with all of those other runners who ran so fast, and continuously without needing to stop for air…!

I signed up for another race 1 month later.  And then another. And another.  It’s been one year and a half since that first race, and I’ve participated in 19 races.  I love racing.

Last Sunday, during the 2nd race of that weekend, out of 1,574 runners, I finished #142.  Out of 74 men in my age-group category, I finished 12th.

This means I finished in the top 9% of all runners – a huge improvement over finishing in the top 95% during that first 5K race a year and a half.

I know though – there is no way I could have finished in the top 9% of all racers if I hadn’t been willing to finish in the top 95% on my first race.

And that’s the point of this post:  If I had waited until I could run a full 5K before entering a race, I probably would still not be able to run a 5K.  I certainly wouldn’t have increased my speed as much as I have.

By being willing to do “poorly” that first race and some subsequent races, I set the stage to allow myself to run them much better.

So, if you can’t do something as well as you’d like, go ahead and do it badly.  To quote Zig Ziglar “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.”

What is something you very much desire to do but think you’ll do it badly at first?  Go ahead and do it and enjoy doing it poorly!  It’s likely the pathway to eventually getting to do it well.

As for myself, well, I still think there’s too many people running faster than me, so I’m going to go train some more.  😉

On a Sunday morning in the middle of June 2015 Taylor Swift wrote an open letter to Apple demanding that Apple change their policy and start paying artists for the songs that customers listen to during their 3 free month trial on the streaming Apple Music.

17 Hours later, on a Sunday (!!), Apple executives publicly announced they have changed their policy due to Taylor Swift’s letter.

In a world where so many people resist being pressured by others, in a world in which Apple and many companies get lambasted by so many people that they’ve built a very thick skin around themselves, and in a world in which Apple is the most successful and biggest company on the stock market, how did a 25 year old artist manage to convince them to change their mind?

Let’s look at what she did in the letter:

1)  She started the letter with a bang.  

“I write this to explain why I’ll be holding back my album, 1989, from the new streaming service, Apple Music.”

This puts her own “skin in the game”, and gives fans, the general public and even Apple executives a powerful reason to keep reading and sharing the letter with others.  She’s not just venting, she’s revealing why she made a decision not to sell her album through Apple Music.

2)  She immediately then praises the company.

“Apple has been and will continue to be one of my best partners in selling music and creating ways for me to connect with my fans. I respect the company”.

Rather than criticize the company or lambasting it as you might hear one politician lambast another, thereby raising the decision maker’s shield, the letter first praises the company and what how it has helped her.

3)  She immediately also honors the decision makers.  

“the truly ingenious minds that have created a legacy based on innovation and pushing the right boundaries.”

The decision makers will likely feel this praised them directly, and likely feel honored and respected.  When someone respects you, you’re a whole lot more likely to listen and consider their point of view than if someone publicly expresses how “stupid and idiotic” you are.

This was all done before she even brings up the policy she has a problem with.

4)  She made it very clear that she was criticizing the action, not the company.

“I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.”

In the one line where she has the harshest words for the company’s policy, she also at the same time points out that it’s so unlike the company’s core guiding values that they’ve constantly acted upon.

5)  She made it about more than herself.

“This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success.”

This helped make it a call to action to help the newest and poorest artist.  Made it about the principle, about helping others who aren’t as successful yet as she is.

6)  She addressed the white elephant of the room.

“These are not the complaints of a spoiled, petulant child.”

By addressing the top concern that might be in the mind of the reader – the top criticism that people might have against rich artist asking for more money, she brings it out and helps neuters it with this:

“These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much.”

7)  She ended on a strong note.

“We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.”

By calling Apple to be fair and treat others the way they expect to be treated, she made a powerful call for fairness.   The example she uses makes the letter memorable.

The result of this letter is that:

1)  She preserved the relationship she had with them either way they decided.  A lot of time an open (or “closed”) letter can burn bridges, but this open letter preserved the bridges while directly spotlighting a policy she disagrees with in the hope of getting it changed.

2)  She made it a win-win for Apple to accede to her request.   She praised them effusively in the letter, she noted how unlike Apple this policy was, and how this service might get it right.  The letter sets it up so that by publicly changing the policy, they look like they are heroes, living up to Apple’s ideals and history.

Not every letter, open or “closed, will achieve its stated aim, but we can all learn from this one that did work.

The whole text of Taylor Swift’s letter can be found here.

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