How Being a Dirty Girl Helps My Business

By Nina Kaufman, Esq.

I’m full-out body length in squishy, watery mud, groveling on my elbows and knees to squirm through a tunnel. If I didn’t know better, I’d think this was Tim Robbins’s workout for the prison break scene in The Shawshank Redemption, minus the stench. At first, I’m tempted to squeal and jump out, but it’s warm and soft, and were it not for the gravel on the bottom of this shallow tank (ouch! bark my forearms and knees as I squiggle along), it might even be pleasurable. Like an exfoliant mud bath and spa. I should have amazing skin after all this, right?

When I get out, I’m laden with mud that has deposited itself into any pocket and space and crevice it can find. The neck of my tank top dips to my navel. As I trot to the next obstacle — climbing across a rope net — the muddy water sloughs off and squishes out of my sneakers. A la The Talking Heads, I ask myself, “Well, how did I get here?”

I wanted to get out of a rut.

I’ve run 5K races before.  There’s something intoxicating about the start of a race–even a fun run. The marriage of competition and community. Adrenaline in the air like a mist of a fine cologne. The poignancy of remembering those who can only be with you from above. And the high of having finished the race, knowing that a breakfast of champions awaits at the local diner. But I wanted more.

So I surf the Internet and come across the Dirty Girl 5K mud run and obstacle course. Dirty Girl? Sounds naughty and irreverent, which secretly pleases me.  The website sports photos of dozens of grinning, grunting, wilding women, pushing themselves, encouraging their teammates, and having a blast … many in costume.  And mud. Everywhere! On faces, bodies, soaked into shoes, spraying up into the air. My inner 6-year-old suddenly pipes up and says “Mommy never let me play in the mud. I wanna play in the mud!” she wails. She’s right. My mother never wanted me to get dirty.

I sign up. It becomes a goal.  Can it help my business, too?  Yes.

I don the courage to get in the muck

At heart, I’m a perfectionist–a deadly quality for an entrepreneur.  The prospect of flopping about in the muck reminds me that there is no one, clear, pristine, mistake-free path to a goal. I’ve recently been asking myself the “what do I want to be when I grow up?” questions (again). Getting muddy reminds me that it’s okay to delve into the icky issues, like where do my talents truly lie? Where does my joy lie? And where’s the intersection of the two? Am I still passionate about the market I serve? Do I still give a shit? Frankly, some days I don’t.  Is that simply because it’s an off day? Or is something else crying out for deeper exploration?

I trust that I know enough

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that “Faith is taking the first step when you can’t see the whole staircase.” The Dirty Girl website has an infographic briefly describing the kinds of obstacles, but no photos. As I couldn’t see in advance what I was getting myself into–how would I train for it properly? In some ways, I couldn’t. I would not run this race perfectly. I have my overall goals: to have fun, and to tackle as many obstacles as I could. (There is always an option to detour around each one). That’s the first step.

By not seeing the whole course in detail, I have to trust. Trust that I know enough to figure it out when I get there. Trust I’ll be able to learn what I need to know by watching other Dirty Girls climb over a wall or traverse a low-hanging rope net. Trust that I’ll receive encouragement from others with an Atta Girl! You can do it! and who will celebrate with me on the other side. Trust that I’ll enlist the right-spirited people to surround me and move me forward and challenge me and inspire me on my journey.


I have the right people with me for this particular journey

Like my dear friend and small business attorney colleague, Nance Schick. She was just crazy enough to do this with me. She’s naturally a faster runner than I, but I kept her in my sights–like a racing dog following a rabbit. She inspires me to pick up my pace.

She cheers me on as I get entangled high-stepping through a bungee maze.

When she needs to speed off (and leave me behind) to keep her momentum through an extended mucky patch in the woods, I feel proud. Proud that I want her to burst forward at a better pace for her—that’s how I can support her.  Proud that I don’t need to hold her back out of some misguided sense that we have to be in lockstep to be partners on the journey. And she was waiting for me with big muddy hugs after the race.

Some people go above and beyond.  Like my husband, Joe Carr.  I had asked him along just to “carry the bags” (namely, my change of clothes) and snap a few before-and-after shots. But he goes the extra mile. He braves mud and rain and obstacles while running throughout the entire length of the course, like a Vietnam War correspondent, who schleps gear and puts himself in peril to document the event … but gets none of the glory of participation. Who’s on your team who will do that for you?

Where can you be a Dirty Girl (even if you’re a guy)?  Ask yourself:

  • Where in your business do you need to “get in the mud” to make sure it’s working right?
  • In what areas are you overthinking? Where can you take a leap of faith?
  • Do you have the right-spirited team around you to complete the journey?

Let me know how you plan to get dirty.

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