Entrepreneurs and endurance athletes share a number of traits. Some include the connection between pushing boundaries, facing challenges, pacing oneself, and achieving goals. These are powerful forces that shape individuals in profound ways. Mike Murawski, a self-employed consultant, designer, and educator, shares his story of how being an endurance athlete and an entrepreneur complement each other. He provides us with valuable lessons and opportunities for growth. During our chat, we learned that endurance goes beyond the trail.
Building a Business: Art Nature Place
Mike and his partner and spouse, Bryna Campbell, embarked on the journey of entrepreneurship nearly 7 years ago, creating their business which recently shifted its name to Art Nature Place. The company integrates design and content consulting for outdoor and environmental education along with nonprofit and museum consulting, reflecting Mike’s background in museum education.
Their journey started in 2017 with Super Nature Adventures, a subscription-based program for trail packets, designed to engage families in outdoor activities around the Portland, Oregon area. As the business evolved into client based work, Mike transitioned from his museum position in 2020 to work full-time on their joint venture. In 2023, Art Nature Place emerged as a unifying umbrella for their diverse projects, emphasizing place-centered, community-centered work. They recently completed the New York City Urban Bird Explorers Guide, partnering with several parks nonprofits in NYC, and are currently working with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on a series of educational maps for Portland-area wildlife refuges.
Lessons from the Trail: Resilience and Change
As an avid trail runner, Mike draws parallels between the challenges of entrepreneurship and the resilience developed through endurance sports. He talked to me about his recent 3rd place finish at the Elijah Bristow 24-Hour Race, where we completed 100 miles for the first time ever. This was a massive physical and mental challenge for Mike, yet he approached his training – and the endurance event itself – with a sense of mindfulness and personal growth. “During the late night hours of the race, I remember telling myself ‘You’re not going to finish this,’ and then struggling to finally shift that voice inside my head and tell myself, ‘You can do this! You are strong!,” he recalls.
Reflecting on the mental resilience required for such endurance challenges, Mike shares, “We’ve been trained to tell ourselves this story about why we can’t do things, but we need to flip the script on that and begin to understand that we can do a lot more than we think.” This newfound perspective has a direct impact on his consulting services, where he works with individuals and organizations to understand that managing change is a gradual, deliberate process. The lesson learned on the trail is about embracing the journey, trusting the process, and understanding the power of small, consistent steps over time.
Mapping Trails, Mapping Goals
The connection between Mike’s passion for running and his business takes an interesting turn with their projects involving creative map design for trails, parks, and outdoor spaces. Mike utilizes running as a tool to scout and map trails efficiently, turning what could be a time-consuming task into an opportunity to blend his athletic pursuits with the needs of the business. “I’m using Strava to map my run and take pictures, and I’m able to get a seven-mile trail mapped in about an hour and a half,” Mike explains.
Through his experiences running on trails near his home in Portland, Mike has also built a deeper connection with nature and place as he returns to many of the same trails across the seasons. “I learned to slow down, observe, listen, and learn more about the environment around me,” he adds,” the towering conifers, the summer wildflowers, migrating birds, winter ferns, and bright yellow of autumn maple leaves.” Connecting with nature on long trail runs helps Mike design these types of deeper, multi-sensory experiences for client projects.
This seamless integration of running and business showcases the adaptability and creativity required in both realms. Many don’t have these opportunities, but when they arise you have to take advantage of them.
Balancing Act: Slowing Down for Success
As the conversation continued we discussed the balance between work and life. Mike introduced the concept of slowing down, and the “Slow the F*ck Down” campaign he and Bryna launched late in 2023. This movement calls on us to resist the relentless speed of overwork, prioritize our own self-care, and embrace a more human-centered pace to work and life – including taking the all-important rest days. Those rest days, Mike said, are not just in running but also in the fast-paced world of entrepreneurship. “In both running a small business and in endurance training, we need to listen to our bodies and understand when it’s time to slow down, rest, and recharge our batteries.”
Mike recognizes the need to slow down when working with museums and nonprofits. Ho often asks the question, “What’s the worst thing that would happen if you slowed down?” This approach to his work and his athletic training aligns with Mike’s belief in the significance of gradual growth and the acknowledgment that small, consistent steps lead to lasting success.
Supporting Each Other: Business and Running Partnerships
Mike shares insights into the dynamics of being both business partners and running partners with his wife, Bryna. Their mutual support during races and challenging moments is a testament to the strength of their relationship. Mike acknowledges the trust and understanding required to support someone through the highs and lows of endurance events. A few months after he completed his 24-hour endurance race, Mike ran with Bryna. This would be her first-ever half marathon race, which they had been training for together all year. He emphasized the unique bond shared by individuals who truly know each other. Without this kind of support from family and close friends, the accomplishments don’t feel the same.
Mike Murawski’s journey exemplifies the dance between entrepreneurship and endurance sports. The lessons learned on the trail translate seamlessly into the business world. Those lessons include creating a balance that fosters resilience, adaptability, and sustainable growth. Whether mapping trails or setting business goals, Mike’s story illustrates the interconnectedness of personal and professional pursuits. His journey shows us that the path to success is a journey best taken one step at a time. Build your endurance beyond the trail.