How the Ironman triathlon inspired me to pursue a career for the good

Jason Mills
Co-Founder - Brand Strategist

When you enter the water before an Ironman begins, there is extreme excitement and tranquility painted on the faces of the competitors. You get many nods and good lucks until the cannon is fired. The swim portion of the race is basically a full contact sport. People are swimming over you and hitting you from lack of room for a proper swim stroke.  

I was training for my first ironman and actually never competed in a single triathlon before. In 2004 I was a spectator supporting a friend doing his first Ironman. It was amazing watching the athletes as they started their journey. A  2.4 mile swim (3,9K), 112 mile bike (180K) and 26.2 mile run (42K). Really!

I heard the announcer say, 

“the pain is only temporary but the accomplishment lasts a lifetime!”  

It was then I said to myself, I am going to do this.  

Very quickly training took on a new meaning in my life, it became almost like a second job, sometimes reaching 40 hours a week. It took discipline, passion, time, and other people with a common bond to make sure we progressed and became stronger. Of course, there were many times that I had to go at it alone. Not as fun, but a good time to reflect and think about life. It was at these times that I thought about my career, relationships, family and the world.

I was never going to be a professional athlete so this effort really became about the journey. When on the road or in the pool, you ask yourself many questions. “Why am I doing this?” seemed to enter my mind more often than other questions. Other questions revolved around my career, life in general and family.

“Why am I doing this?” did become the most important question, not only for Ironman but in many areas, especially in my career. I reflected a lot about my job. I was an Art Director for a healthcare marketing firm. It was a job I took after being an Art Director at different companies and there was a pattern that became pretty clear. I was not fulfilled in my career. It was something I did but didn't really love. Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot about business, strategy and advertising design but the work I was doing was not what I wanted. The question of “why am I doing this?”, turned into 

“what am I doing this for?”

I fell in love with an Ironman life and the discipline trickled down to other areas. I began to look at what I do and who I am in a new way. Through the years I trained and completed 3 Ironman triathlons, 2 half Ironman, a handful of sprint triathlons and marathons. When I started this journey I met my wife Nicole, who has been an inspiration to me for the past 16 years. Together we traveled a lot and experienced many things.

Life just felt good and I wanted the good to be the fulfilling driver for everything I was digging into. When you set out to do an Ironman it is natural that you surround yourself with likeminded people. People who give back or are involved with changing the world in some way, shape or form. This is what I was doing this for, to feel good and to do good.

I changed my career in a very similar way to how Ironman changed my life. “The pain is only temporary but the accomplishment lasts a lifetime!” The quote is so true. Setting out on your own to make the world a better place takes a lot of time and effort. In a way there is some pain when you decide to change your career. It scares and challenges you in completely new ways. You are unfamiliar with what it takes and it is a long road ahead and the finish line seems so far away. This happened when I signed up for my first Ironman. This also happen when I created BeGiving and co-founded GoodLeap. I know working in a career for the good will last for a lifetime and the pain of the challenge is only temporary.

The first Ironman race and training was an extreme undertaking in the beginning. After I completed it, I knew what to do for the other races. Just like business you find out quickly what you need to do in order to keep moving forward, to face the challenges ahead and the importance of surrounding yourself with like-minded people that support you and share your vision. And now I always feel great about what I have accomplished and that is a good thing.

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