The story goes that the Athenians had defeated a larger Persian army in battle at a place called Marathon. A runner was sent back to announce the victory and he ran the whole way, about 25 miles, collapsing in death the moment after he triumphantly shouted “Nike!” the Greek word for victory. I love to tell students this story and watch them recognize the root meaning of familiar words: Nike, marathon. It’s one of the few times you’re almost guaranteed to witness meaning-making in action. I just read a Harvard Business Review article by Eric Knight, “The Art of Corporate Endurance,” which argues that companies get a lot of attention when they’re growing by leaps and bounds or when they’re the first to market with new ideas, but what is of greater long-term value is the flexibility and commitment to values that separate some companies in the long run. This endurance is contrasted with the quick reward of the sprinting companies, and four strategies to achieve endurance are highlighted. In education also, there is a lot of attention paid to the newest trend that promises quick results. Our U.S. Department of Education dangles a “Race to the Top” in front of schools, as if that were a reasonable way to evaluate learning. One of the teachers at my school often reminds us, “Education is not a race. It never has been, and if we start to think that way about it, we’re really in trouble.” Education is a process. Teaching needs to maintain the flexibility to engage all learners across the spectrum, and that takes time and a deliberate, careful reflection. Learning benefits from a slow meandering through various topics and a range of disciplines, and it benefits from the unstructured time in which ideas percolate. A race mentality waters down the experience and drains creative thinking. It is interesting to consider the 4 tips for corporate endurance in an educational application: 1. Beware the dogma of founders Resistance to dogma speaks to the need to remain flexible. Teachers often have to take a dynamic approach in the classroom. For administrators, it’s important to remember this rule. The office can become awfully isolating from the practice of making meaning for kids, so it’s important to stay fresh and be open to discussion to avoid dogmatic thinking. This connects with #3, encouraging CEOs to stay in touch with consumers. 3. Talk to your customers Just as teachers need to stay fresh with kids’ needs and values, so administrators need to keep communication active. An administrator needs to keep connected to a variety of groups: students (not “customers” by any means, but “clients” in a certain sense), parents, community members. 2. Cultivate wasted time The point here isn’t to kill time willfully, but rather to be open to making mistakes that may be a waste of resources. Time is a precious commodity, but so is energy, engagement, a “teachable moment.” We need to grasp these things when they present themselves because the payoff when something lands just right can be invaluable. 4. Don’t just build competencies, build dynamic capabilities And herein lies the crux of the analogy. In education, we often talk about teaching specific knowledge (What is the capital of Yemen? ) or testing kids’ capacity to perform certain skills (Create a PowerPoint). The point of education cannot be to perform rote tasks, but rather to give students the capacity to meet their own goals. As with corporations, immediate payoff carries certain indisputable value, but a long view towards building capability will create value indefinitely. Education cannot be viewed as a sprint, but rather as an endurance game, the sort that inspires a man to run to his own death. Because making meaning is a game that makes life worth living.