A little over a week ago, Scott Leff and I attended Jessica Jackley’s discussion about how she started Kiva.org and is busy transforming the world we live in. No joke! (As of March 8, 2009, the organization that Jessica co-founded has distributed $63,010,010 in loans from 458,538 online lenders, which has funded 90,201 loans in the developing world. Simply, what Kiva and Jessica has accomplished has been nothing short of amazing!)

However, one of the central messages I took away from Jessica’s discussion is that if you see an area with a need, and you’re capable of filling that need, then “just do it!” Don’t worry if you don’t have a business plan, executive summary, financial projections, etc. Just get started doing the work and fill in those “details” as the need arises.

What’s interesting about Jessica’s message was that when I went through my formal business education at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, her kind of thinking wasn’t exactly encouraged; if you were going to start an organization, or even a small grassroots movement, you had to have a plan. Preferably, this plan would have charts and graphs, a clear and tightly woven mission statement, and at the very least some semblance of an Executive Summary to work from. And so I bought into this kind of thinking…

So, last summer, when a few of my friends brought up the idea of starting a “fun” running group, I was thinking that this might turn into a bit of hassle because we needed some type of organizational structure and, really, who has time for that (see previous paragraph)? Plus, my friends were convinced that I knew something about running and could “coach” them through the process. After all, they reasoned, I’d run in a bunch of races and could help them do so, too. Of course, I thought this might be a little difficult because I had no formal coaching experience.

Nevertheless, I thought we’d just go with it and see what happens. So, the initial group of 5 runners (including me) would convene once or twice per week last fall at Frick Park and run 4 to 5 miles together as we all trained for the Ikea Half Marathon.

The initial results from this experiment/“group love” were very encouraging: we had 9 runners finish their first 13.1 mile half marathon and 4 of these runners were first timers. From there we’ve added more runners and now have a list of approximately 30 runners.

The reason I bring this up is that nearly one week from now 8 runners from our club are going to try and do something they have never done before: 6 are going to run the 26.2 mile marathon distance and 2 are going to run the 13.1 half marathon distance for the first time! Watching friends of old and new dedicate themselves to completing their goal – some overcoming initial weight issues, injuries, frustration, and tears – has served to reinvigorate my passion for this sport and athletics in general.

I guess you could say that this, and a few other life experiences along the way in my 29 odd years, has taught me that Jessica Jackley is right after all: if you see a need and have some passion/expertise in that area, then you owe it to yourself (and the world) to jump in! Forget the formality and rules and all the organizational structure you think you may need and just start working, organizing, and doing.

I come back to our running club and the upcoming marathon and think what a sad thing it would’ve been had we not come together and formed our club. Fortunately, we did! And one week from this Sunday, I’m going to watch some of my friends accomplish something they have never done before, and most thought impossible one year ago. I hope that you’ll come out and support these runners and more at the Pittsburgh Marathon. See ya at the race!

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