Earlier this week, I attended the Women’s Leadership Conference of Northeast Ohio (WLCNEO). Networking with 575 like-minded career-focused women and learning from world-class speakers was an uplifting and inspiring experience. For those of you who couldn’t attend, I am going to share throughout the week what I learned on Slaydy.

For my first blog regarding WLCNEO, I wanted to focus on Ilana Golan. Ilana is a serial entrepreneur, mother of 2, tech investor, and motivational speaker. To top off all those impressive credentials, she was the first woman to become an F-16 flight instructor commander in the Israeli Air Force simulator. During her keynote, Ilana shared wisdom about the importance of traveling alone for personal development, how to determine your audience when launching a business, and the importance of celebrating small wins. I could easily write 5 blog posts regarding the topics she discussed. However, one story she told the audience resonated with me and that’s what I’d like to share with you.

Important Lessons from the Second Loop

During her keynote, Ilana shared the story of her first Ironman Triathlon. For those of you aren’t familiar, the race consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a marathon raced consecutively without breaks. It’s an impressive feat to even attempt to train for this massive race, let alone finish it! Ilana prepared tirelessly and felt confident that she would complete the race. She painted the picture of the race day vividly. Her 2.4 swim started out slow and steady. When it was time for the bike ride, she picked up the pace and was passing many of her competitors. Finally, it was time for the marathon. The run started off strong but while she trained well, there was one thing she hadn’t prepared for: completing the second loop. During the marathon portion of the race, the loop was exactly ½ a marathon, so it needed to be run twice. After finishing the first loop, she was thrown off by seeing her competitors crossing the finish line as their friends and family cheered. To add salt to the wound, the race volunteers handed Ilana a glow stick, reminding her that by the time she would finish the race, it would be dark outside.

Seeing the finish line so close but having another 13.1 miles left to go made Ilana feel discouraged. Frustrated, she slowed down her stride and started walking. She began questioning if she should turn around and give up. This story really resonated with me, as I’m sure it will with many because it is all too common in life and in business. We all have had an experience where we have trained hard and prepared relentlessly with a vision of what our finish line looked like, only to be thrown off when our race isn’t over. Maybe you’re an author who completed her first book only to be overwhelmed by the work involved to promote it so it sells. Perhaps you’ve been working night and day for years on your personal brand and finally, after years of hard work, got the award you’ve always wanted, but it wasn’t the “big break” you expected. Many times in life, the finish line isn’t what we have anticipated and we are forced to either give up on our dream or suck it up and run that second loop.

How to Finish Strong

Ilana completed her first ever Ironman Triathlon. How you might ask? She started smiling. At first, it was a forced smile but eventually, she said her brain didn’t know the difference and she started feeling better. Her walk turned into a brisk walk, and eventually, her feet lifted off the ground and she was running again. It is amazing the impact that something as simple as a smile can have on your outlook and productivity. What this story reminded me of is how life will continually test you. It is impossible to be prepared for everything and while we can do our best and train for every scenario, sometimes life will throw you a curveball. Keep your head up, do something every day to work toward your dreams, and when you take a detour from what you thought was your finish line, smile and push through. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “I am a slow walker, but I never walk back.”

Originally published at www.slaydy.com