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Follow the Shade

On a recent long run in downtown Los Angeles, I found myself playing a familiar game: follow the shade. There is little of it downtown, and most of it is created only by the shadows buildings create when the sun is just right. So it’s a tricky game, this following of the shade. Most often, bands of shade are not connected so I run in the shadow of a fence, only to be thrust back into the blazing sun for a mile or two before picking up the trail of another band of shade cast by a block of trees. And on and on. Repeat the shade-seeking.

This game is both practical and psychological. It allows me to stay cooler so I run longer and it keeps my mind busy with a challenging puzzle on a difficult run. In short: following the shade is extremely useful in helping me get to the next level of my training.

I often think in business – whether it’s innovation or being a great leader or simply delivering your standard service well – it is easy to think of following the shade as cheating. As a shortcut. The age-old belief that artists must suffer for their art comes to mind. I disagree.

After years of working with big brands, I now work exclusively with start-ups, where resources are limited and time is nearly always against you. With only months to prove viability or get a much-needed round of funding, following the shade is not only a smart strategy, it could mean the difference between a company that makes it and one that doesn’t. Instead of wasting all your time and capital developing everything from scratch, how can you tap into your special sauce, the thing only you and your team can build, and take advantage of the shade when you can? If using a code base that already exists (following the shade) or a distribution model that has worked before (following the shade) or an outside expert resource that has all the right connections for your unique product (following the shade) means you get to market faster, cleaner or leaner…you must follow the shade.

It’s also a useful strategy when training for marathons in a city with few trees and very high temps. Whatever gets you to that starting line with minimal injury and boundless energy, ready to give it everything you have. Even better? You can even follow the shade during the 26.2 miles so you’re ready for the next one. And the next one.

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