November 21, 2018

3 Letters Every Endurance Athlete Dreads and So Should You

Endurance athletes have a nemesis. It’s at every event and accompanies them during training. It’s the hidden monster that drives all endurance athletes to train, train and then train some more. No one is immune — not even the best athletes.

This nemesis is the dreaded DNF — Did Not Finish.

All leaders can relate to not finishing. It’s something we all fear. Not finishing means we failed and failure is hard to swallow.

Endurance athletes use the DNF as a motivational tool because just finishing a race, no matter how slow, means we accomplished what we set out to do.

Leaders can also use the DNF as motivation to push through adversity. It can be the driving force to carry on when all seems hopeless. When you finish that project, land that sale or close that funding you succeeded. You finished. You conquered.

Not finishing is far more painful than any temporary pain one can endure. Even if an athlete has to walk, they will walk. Even if they have to crawl, they will crawl. This is so ingrained in the endurance athletes brain that they will even help others finish — it’s that big a nemesis.

Why Finishing Is Important

Finishing a task means we succeeded. We set out to do a task and we accomplished it. To finish is the ultimate reward. It means we made good on our commitments.

Finishing also has a positive effect on others around us. When we finish, our co-workers and friends share in our success. Finishing builds momentum and that momentum creates more opportunities for success.

Battling The DNF

Most of the DNF battle takes place within us. It’s our motivation, drive, determination and shear will that lets us down when the beast rears it’s ugly head. This battle takes place in every leader and every athlete at all levels. Battling the DNF takes courage, strength and commitment in the face of adversity and hopeless odds when lesser people would quit.

To help combat not finishing, take a look at these proven techniques that endurance athletes use to slay the DNF monster:


  • Baby Steps: When the going gets tough, the tough focus on small steps. That way, they can celebrate small successes. Success breeds more success and pretty soon, those baby steps are giant leaps.

  • Focus on the Positive: Even amongst great adversity, there is something positive to focus on. Maybe it’s the beautiful day, a cheering fan or the eloquence of that last paragraph.

  • Train Hard: Nothing prepares you for a race like training. The harder you train, the easier the race. Same with work. Get the training you need and your project will go a lot smoother.

  • Ask For Support: If you need a little help, ask. Don’t be afraid to swallow a little pride and reach out to others. Just a little help from others can give you the boost you need.

  • Give Others Support: If someone asks you for help, give it. Helping others will also give you that extra boost. It’s rewarding and motivational when you give others the support they need to finish.

  • Pretty is Overrated: No matter the task, you just have to finish it. Don’t fall into the pretty trap by tweaking and tweaking until it’s oh so pretty that it’s never done. Finishing is more important than pretty since you can always tweak it as long as it’s good enough.

  • Walk When You Have Too: There is no dishonor in walking. In fact, sometimes it’s the only way to move forward. If the pace of your project or race is just exhausting, slow it down a little to catch your breath and regain your momentum.

  • Crawl If You Must: When you can’t walk, then crawl. Fight for each inch forward until you can’t fight anymore. Chances are, that each step forward will give you additional drive to continue on.

  • Make Others Want You to Finish: When others are in it with us, it inspires great acts of courage, performance and commitment. Get others on your team and have them want you to finish. This will give you that needed boost just when you need it.


All leaders face the prospect of not finishing. It hangs over their heads during every project, every meeting and every fund raising pitch. It’s a constant fear that needs to be channeled to your advantage by simply owning your destiny, building your skills and recruiting others to want you to finish.

Not finishing is bad but not trying is worst. Even when you can’t move another step, the fact that you did the best you could is the ultimate motivation to compete another day. Every endurance athlete knows that and every leader should learn that.