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This past October, I ran in the Standard Chartered Marathon in the city of Nairobi, Kenya. (In fairness, I only ran a half marathon.)
Kenya has an international reputation for producing some of the best long-distance runners in the world.
Watching hundreds of runners sprinting in rhythm for miles at mindboggling speeds is spectacular, made even better by the location. The marathon course runs along the Nairobi National Park.
For anybody with a serious interest in running, this is like having a front-row seat to a top-tier clash in any sport.
Watching these runners in action is a master class in many disciplines.
The results of the race
The results of this one race were astounding!
In the men’s full marathon, the top 100 men (all from Kenya) ran under 2:27, with one from Uganda finishing in the top 20.
Among the top men, 50 ran under 2:18.
The top 38 women ran under 3 hours, with the top 10 women running under 2:35.
In the half marathon, 100 men finished in under 1:09, with the top 16 under 1:03.
In the women’s half-marathon race, the top 28 completed the race in under 1:30 with the top five coming in under 1:12.
To put this into perspective, only the top 5% of the running population in the whole world completes the marathon in under 3 hours.
Another way to look at this is to consider what it takes to qualify for the Olympic games.
One way to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics marathon is to run under 2:08:10 if you are a man or 2:26:50 if you are a woman.
Each country is allowed up to three entries. Most countries end up not sending anybody to the race since they have no qualifiers.
The Nairobi race was just one of the many races in that country, and there are close to two years before the 2024 Olympics. With a little more training, a lot of these runners would qualify for the 2024 Olympics.
In other words, if they were in any other country except Kenya, they would certainly make those countries’ Olympics teams.
This is insane talent concentrated in one area, one country.
In comparison to the rest of the world runners, they are the best of the best, but not in that small enclave in Kenya.
For any Kenyan athlete to be picked for a race outside the country, they need to become something special.
If you are competing with the best of the best, how do you rise above the competition?
Parallels to the planning profession
There are some similarities and lessons for the financial planning profession.
According to Zippia, there are over 200,000 financial advisors in the U.S. alone.
Most of them are in the profession because they want to help people and are very passionate about the craft. They are motivated by the positive changes they see in their clients.
They are constantly looking to improve their skill set.
On top of everything else they are doing their best to be noticed by their target markets.
There is a thriving industry focused on helping advisors get the message out. To quote Matt Halloran, in Proudmouth’s Top Advisor Marketing podcast, advisors have to “Rise above the noise.”
To be the best runner in Kenya, you must be the best in the world.
This starts with changing your mindset. You must think bigger and aim extremely high.
Your prospects are not only those in your state. They include the whole country, and if you are doing cross-border work like me, it includes U.S. expats in other countries.
The world marathon record holder and defending Olympic champion, Eliud Kipchoge, exemplifies this. He believes that “no human is limited,” and he’s proved it by being the only person to complete a full marathon in under 2 hours.
Consistency and teamwork
Training for a marathon is very tough. It requires dedication and years of consistent hard work. This is after you’ve decided on your training method.
Training becomes your whole life. It can’t be something you do on the side now and again.
For advisors, it starts with defining your niche or specialization and going deep into that space, and then staying on the path. It might mean years of study.
Running and training for years to become and stay an elite runner is a lonely journey best traveled with other runners.
The best runners in Kenya train in running camps with other runners, where they lead very simple lives together.
As advisors it means working with our peers in study groups and surrounding ourselves with those who think alike.
It also means learning from and working with other professionals outside our profession.
I don’t have an answer for what you must do to be the best in the industry. I’m going to leave you with this question.
What are you doing to make yourself unique and ensure you are the best of the best in your field?
Jane Mepham, CFP® is the founder of Elgon Financial Advisors, a registered investment advisor based in Austin, Texas. Her advisory practice is limited to providing investment and financial planning advice to foreign-born individuals. She works directly with these individuals and has flexible relationships with investment advisors serving this community who require her specialized knowledge.
Read more articles by Jane Mepham