An Honorable Run and American Power

When I’m at my house in Keystone, I work my way through my infinite pile of physical books rather than reading on my Kindle.  It’s always a mystery as to what has made it to the top of the pile (I don’t select anything particular – I just read whatever is “on top” and, since it’s an infinite pile, “top” doesn’t actually refer to any particular place in the pile.  Two of the ones that I gobbled down in the past few days were spectacular. 

If you are any sort of solo athlete (runner, swimmer, biker, triathlete) you must read Matt McCue’s An Honorable Run.  This also goes for anyone that is a coach, a mentor, or an entrepreneur that has a mentor.  It’s a great running story, a great coach story, a great human being story, and a great Colorado Buffs story.  Plus, McCue is an excellent writer. 

The other book, American Power, is by Mitch Epstein.  Amy gave this to me as a present. You might remember Epstein by my review of his incredible book Family Business which Amy gave me about five years ago.  The book inspired me to post a long essay about my dad’s dad (Grandpa Jack) which – after just reading the post again – brought me chills, especially against the backdrop of An Honorable Run

Epstein is brilliant photographer.  In American Power he travels the United States and takes photographs where he investigates the notion of power (both electrical and political).  I love great photography when it is tied around a particular theme and Epstein just nails it.  It is mostly photographs, but finishes up with a crisp essay about his experience of putting together the book, travelling the US, and running into all kinds of issues with cops and security guards as he photographs public buildings, or non-public buildings while on public property.

I’ve got another week up here to read a few more books from the infinite pile.  You’ll hear from me if I read any other excellent ones.

  • Great observation.  I think it’s also the willingness to be disciplines, to be willing to be “coached”, and to have systematic determination to win over a long period of time.  The cliché “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” is a really good one.

    • There's the solo component too, at least for me: I didn't go into triathlons or start a company because all my friends were doing it. I did it because the idea of doing something really fucking hard is appealing, because I like to push my body (I used to fight forest forest fires on a hotshot crew), and because I think what I'm working on is gonna change how people use the web. That's just me, of course. But my guess is that most people end up there based on a similar decision matrix, as opposed to the "because it was cool" pathway that drives lots of other behaviors.

  • The “need for achievement” is a well documented trait of great entrepreneurs.  Interestingly, it’s also a key trait of solo athletes.  So – this concept fits together nicely.

  • Right. Clearly "the need for achievement" is gonna be part of what drives any athlete and any powerful biz exec, but it's the solo part that separates the entrepreneur from the rest.

  • Actually, “need for achievement” isn’t a key driver for many business execs.  It seems to be a characteristic that stands out in a special way for entrepreneurs and athletes.  The powerful business exec is often motivated by thinks like “power”, “fame”, “recognition”, and “money”. 

    • Excellent comment, Brad – very true in reads like Good to Great…

      While 'success' is often measured by 'money,' I prefer to think of it as creating value in the world… as building something great… or more traditionally, as 'changing the world!'

  • Hmf. Wow. Crazy. I never thought about "achievement" that way. That explains so much. Something inside me has always valued and pushed for accomplishing something real, but I've never been able to put it into words or been able to explain it that way to others. Where are you getting this stuff from? I wanna read it!

    • The classic reference for this stuff is Ed Roberts (MIT Professors) book – Entrepreneurs in High-Technology: Lessons from MIT and Beyond (Oxford University Press, 1991).  Here’s a link to Ed’s bio –… />

    • Matt, you might also check out "Deep Survival" if you haven't read it already. I think you'll really like it for the adventure/sport survival aspect, but it all applies very well to business, but specifically startups.

  • Funny how solo endurance sports and entrepreneurship attract the same kind of people. I think it has something to do with mental wiring: the endorphin rush that comes from beating back pain.

  • Tom

    I have a hunch that VC's could improve their returns by becoming more expert in this topic. Not that they're not somewhat already; what I am saying is that this may be a relatively good use of marginal analysis time for a specific deal as compared to additional business environment analysis. (The problem I think is that this is much more difficult for and foreign to many VC's.)

  • Billmosby

    Ah, Keystone. I used to visit a lady who lived there. How do you find time to do anything indoors there? Also, are you one of the residents who tries to get a lawn going against the odds at that altitude, or do you just look at others' efforts along those lines with amusement?

    • Yeah – it’s often tough to stay indoors, but we manage to get a nice mix.  We are only up here part of the time so we spend 0% of our time trying to have a lawn!

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