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Being Bad at Something Good.

This morning's run was even tougher than usual. My legs felt like lead weights, I couldn't seem to suck in nearly enough air, and no matter how hard I tried to keep up, the friends I was with just kept pulling away.

Even though I've been a regular, committed runner for over 20 years now, I've never been very good at it. Yes, I do wake up before the sun at least four days a week and pound out my miles, but my lap times on the track still seem to get slower and slower. And even though I've finished a bunch of marathons, half marathons, and five and ten Ks, I'll bet you could still beat me on our next run together.

But here's the thing; as much as I'd like to be a better runner, I don't need to be a better runner. Being faster and more accomplished would , sure. But being faster is not mandatory. I'll keep feeding my running habit, even when my mornings are as difficult as today's was.

Why doesn't my running performance matter? Because absolutely nothing depends on how quickly I scoot around the track.

Being Bad at Something Good.

No one depends on my running ability to pay the bills, keep the lights on, or make the world better. Running didn't buy my house or put my kids through college. Running hasn't contributed to charities, taught classes, or given anybody help or advice. It's paid dividends, certainly, but most of them are subjective.

I run to stay active, keep in shape, spend time with my friends, and quiet the chattering monkeys in my mind. And no matter what speed I run, it accomplishes all those things for me. So regardless of the amount of time, energy, and sweat I devote to running, I don't need to get any greater return on my investment.

It's a straightforward deal with a simple payoff.

, , and consulting is different. Excelling in those disciplines is how I earn my place in the world. When someone pays me for my expertise, I've got to be on top of my game and have a better solution than the other choices they could make. And when somebody asks why they should hire me instead of another keynote speaker, I've got to be able to show them objective, empirical evidence to demonstrate why I'm the superior choice and worth the fees I ask charge.

It's also a straightforward deal with a simple payoff. In this case, my clients need to know that their businesses and their lives are better because I'm involved.

It's the same for you and .

My running group usually gets together on Saturday mornings after our long run for coffee, croissants, and chitchat. We were sitting outside a local bakery last week, and an old friend happened by. She mentioned how much she enjoyed a recent blog I had written about the importance of charging what your services are worth.

She told me that a potential client was angling for a discount on her real estate commission. His reason for not wanting to pay her full fee was that he was a lawyer (although not a real estate attorney). He believed he could manage most of the paperwork on the dream home he was buying for himself.

She countered that the difference was not in their respective abilities to read contracts or fill out forms. Instead, it was the difference in possible outcomes between engaging her and not engaging her.

“If you don't hire me,” she said, “my life won't much. Sure, I won't earn your commission. But I'll use that time to find another client and make another deal. Ultimately, I'll make just as much, or maybe more, than if I worked with you.”

“But if you decide not to do the deal with me and something goes wrong, your life could change drastically. There's no end to how much a mistake in such a significant purchase could cost you. So my commission is a bargain when you consider the peace of mind that my knowledge, experience, intuition, and technical abilities give you.”

“In other words, if you think hiring a professional is expensive, just wait until you hire an amateur.”

With that, she said, she slid the contract back across the table and handed him her pen to sign it with.

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