Are You Running Your Race, or Someone Else’s?

A female runner is ahead of the pack during a running race
By Bill Partin

5 minutes

A retired credit union CEO shares his best advice for career development.

Your career is a race, not a sprint. And it is your race. Not anyone else’s.

First, some historical context. Running a race goes back centuries. In biblical times, Paul talks about running the race to win the prize. Those who have trained for a race—whether a 5k, 10k, half marathon, or full marathon—know that having a plan for how you will run your race is crucial. And figuring out the prize at the end ranks right up there with training, planning and actual running.

Applying these principles to your career is super important. You begin by envisioning the result. What is the ultimate prize or career goal you're striving for? This prize concept is more than just a goal; it's about defining your purpose and aligning it with your passions. After you determine your why, it should drive your what (and even the where and who): what you do, where you work and possibly even who you work for. This is very personal stuff, and it’s not dependent on what your friends or family think you should be doing or where you should be working. It is your career! Nobody will ever care as much about your career as you do.

Once you determine the prize, it’s time to create a plan. A good coach or mentor—someone who can help you improve your game—comes in here. What do you need to work on to become your best self? Working on your plan and tracking your progress against that plan can motivate you to do the work necessary to achieve your goal. Spoiler alert: it’s your plan, not your friends’ plan, not your colleagues’ plan, and not your parents’ plan. So, there’s no need to compare where you are to where any of those groups have been or are now.

In running events, it’s easy to get caught up in keeping pace with other runners or not wanting to get passed up by those you are running with—or, even worse, chasing someone else who is faster! If you have a plan and have been disciplined in training for the race, focus on your pace and keep your finish in mind. You can’t control other runners, but you can control improving your race time if that’s your goal.

I got serious about running when I turned 45. Until that point, I wouldn't say I liked running just to run. But my health coach talked to me about the ease of buying a pair of running shoes and running shorts and just getting out and running. No racquets, no racquetball court reservations, no gathering up friends to get a game in—just stretch (and believe me, this is important for me now!) and go.

I’ve run a dozen half-marathons, four full marathons and a lot of 5k races. A much younger training partner who’s run numerous marathons told me his secret to success in training for races. Are you ready for this earth-shaking advice? Put one foot in front of the other! And repeat that advice a lot if you’re running 26.2 miles! What I like about that advice for your career is that it takes a plan and the discipline to put in the ‘steps’ necessary to hit your target.

Again—the target is your target.

I read a recent CNBC report that discussed the idea of social media putting a new spin on keeping up with the Joneses. It was the idea that the glorified lifestyles people post online had left many young adults feeling financially inadequate. The article coined the term ‘money dysmorphia’ to describe the distorted view of their finances that many young people experience. My point is that as you run your career race, focus on getting better at what you do. Avoid keeping score with others’ progress on the corporate ladder and you can prevent ‘career dysmorphia.’

Run your career race to the best of your ability. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all of the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

Now, go. Run your race. 

An earlier version of this was originally published with

Former CUES member Bill Partin, CIE, is the founder and chief encouragement officer of CUES Supplier member The Leadership Bet, LLC, and former president/CEO of Sharonview Federal Credit Union, headquartered in the greater Charlotte, North Carolina area. He has 40+ years of experience in the financial services industry and a passion for developing leaders, driving results and creating an energizing people 1st Culture. His passion for leadership led him to found The Leadership Bet (TLB). Bill is the author of “The Leadership Bet: Great Leadership Transforms Lives.”



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Are you a new or aspiring credit union CEO or top leader? Then you won’t want to miss the webinar, “What I Wish I’d Known as a New CEO.” The 60-minute conversation takes place at 1 p.m. ET May 23 and is sponsored by The Leadership Bet and moderated by founder and CEO (that’s Chief Encouragement Officer) Bill Partin. Joining Partin, former president/CEO of South Carolina-based Sharonview Federal Credit Union, will be three credit union CEOs: Chris Parker of Northeast Credit Union, Mike Terzian of Foothill Credit Union and Frank Wasson of CommonWealth One Federal Credit Union.
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