I'm Shelby Barnes. A communication strategist with more than 20 years of experience helping business leaders create and tell stories with impact. Mile 23 Strategies is my consulting company.

Not dead. Can’t quit.

Starting a new venture is a lot like preparing for an endurance event. First, you need to approach the starting line with respect for what’s ahead as well as the confidence gained from knowing you've done your best to prepare for what’s about to happen.

And then? You need to be ready for that confidence to be completely shattered as soon as you encounter your first set back.

“What was I thinking?” “They’re right. I AM crazy.” “I don’t think I can finish.” “I think I’m lost.” “Uh oh. I just tweaked my knee.” “Did I lock the car?”

From the directly applicable to the random and borrowed, once the first note of doubt sings, it often turns into a song. For many of us, the first instinct is to give into The Chorus of Doubt. Face it. The Chorus has a catchy tune that’s usually easier to sing along to than the lesser known Melody of Confidence.

So, what are some strategies for overcoming The Chorus, and how can obstacles be seen as something other than potential indicators of defeat?

(Photo credit: Copyright ©2014 Will Barnes. All rights reserved.)

I recently trained for a 50-mile run. After listening to countless stories of ultramarathoners, I was struck by the number of elite and amateur runners who relied on simple phrases to alleviate doubt, reinstill their confidence and pull themselves through the tough times.

"One foot in front of the other.” “It never always gets worse.” "It hurts to walk. It hurts to run. I might as well run." And my favorite: “Not dead. Can’t quit.” Useful reminders for managing discomfort on the road ... and in life.

What also impressed me was the ultrarunner perspective on barriers. When these amazing humans encounter obstacles in a race, rather than give into feelings of defeat, they use challenges as fuel to keep going.

Ultimately, by accepting the nature of their circumstance, the runners had a respect for what it was teaching them. For most, that meant accepting that what they were attempting was most certainly going to be difficult or even grueling, yet THAT’S what made it meaningful and why they showed up in the first place. Acceptance is what enabled them to find joy in the process and commit to what they were doing regardless of the barriers they encountered.

My friends assure me not everyone is cut out for ultrarunning. But you don't have to run a long way to encounter obstacles and discomfort. Life gives us plenty of opportunity to practice. And you can count on doubt hitching a free ride any chance it gets especially when you’re trying something new.

So, next time you hear the haunting tunes of The Chorus what will you do? Turn it up and sing along? Change the station? Or maybe just smile and let it fuel you to the finish.

When We Lose Heart

We’ve all been there. Either we’ve stayed in a job too long or it was never the right job for us in the first place. We think we’re fooling ourselves and everyone else by showing up day after day and maybe even excelling at what we’re doing. The truth is, however, going through the motions successfully isn’t the same as showing up with your heart.

(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, Royal Navy official photographer, Imperial War Museum.)

Recently, I attended a pro boxing match and this difference was so apparent to me. I knew one of the fighters from his amateur days. He was always filled with the boxer’s bravado and sass, and he backed it up with amazing technical skills. He was committed to becoming a champion, and he was beautiful to watch in the ring. It seemed that no one could take him down.

Sadly, that wasn’t the same person I watched fight. Something was notably different in his whole affect. Gone were the creative punch combinations and light-footed boxer’s shuffle. In their place was irony: heaviness heaped with emptiness. He got into the ring without his heart.

In the boxing ring, heart is everything. Heart is a boxer’s reason. It’s fuel and confidence. Much like a firefighter, boxers are trained to move into the danger: they possess an inner bravery most of us don’t have.

Unlike a firefighter, however, the only person the boxer needs to save is him or herself. When fighters lose heart, they still move into the danger, but there doesn’t seem to be any driving will to survive from within.

In the end, they will likely save themselves out of conditioned response, but that grit and determination that got them there seems to be missing. They’re no longer fun to watch. Instead of a plan to win it appears they’ve just chosen a plan to see it through.

Watching my friend lose round after round, made me think of times in my own life where I showed up out of virtue and acted with a conditioned response and a firm commitment just to see it through. Even though I did what I was paid to do and excelled, I wasn’t performing in a way that was fun to watch. I was going through the motions. I was getting my ass kicked more and more. I walked around feeling defeated even though I fought my best. I had lost my heart.

Eventually, I had to step off my path, press pause and find my heart again. It has been scary, but I have met others who have done the same and am inspired by their stories. As he moves through his days, I hope my friend will find the bravery to do the same.

Have you ever shown up without your heart? How did others experience you, and how did you get it back?