I’ve needed a bit of a boost lately to get out the door for my runs. Lots of stress lately: houses, health, work (or lack of it); so it seems to have become easy to allow the stress to crawl its way into what is supposed to be the stress-free areas of my life. So this morning, Chapter 17 to the rescue. (as a quick side note, Chapter 17 is THE Chapter 17 from John Parker Jr.s book, Once A Runner. In the middle of the greatest novel ever written about serious running, is the greatest chapter in the book where Quenton Cassidy’s commitment to his running is wonderfully described. When I need to refocus, or get a boost, I go there).
Today it was this: “He ran not for crypto-religious reasons, but to win races, to cover ground fast. Not to be better than his fellows, but better than himself. To be faster by a tenth of a second, by an inch, by two feet or two yards than he had been the week or year before. He sought to conquer the physical limitations placed upon him by a three-dimensional world (and if Time is the fourth dimension, that too was his province). If he could conquer the weakness, the cowardice in himself, he would not worry about the rest; it would come. Training was a rite of purification; from it came speed, strength. Racing was a rite of death; from it came knowledge. Such rites demand, if they are to be meaningful at all, a certain amount of time spent precisely on the Red Line, where you can lean over the manicured putting green at the edge of the precipice and see exactly nothing.”
Sometimes I wonder when I turned the corner and became satisfied. When did I decide it was okay to be good instead of great, to be running instead of racing, to be thinking instead of doing? When did I decide to longer push to the limit every single time? When did I desert the Red Line?
I’m guessing that, barring some great scientific discovery, I’ve spent more years on the planet than I have left (and if the Mayans were right, time is VERY limited). So, what’s the holdup? What’s keeping me from scaling the mountain of the highest levels of….. well, everything?
In many of the classes I teach, I yack about being in the moment, in fact, savoring the moment. The problem is that occasionally (or consistently, occasionally), the moment is stress or stagnation or discouragement. Sometimes the moment sucks. And the problem with living in THAT moment is becoming okay with it. I’m happy to acknowledge stress; acknowledge stagnation; acknowledge discouragement (and a host of other things), I just don’t want to hang out in those spots so much that it changes who I am. We are who we hang out with, right?
The answer is Cassidy’s answer, conquering “the weakness, the cowardice.” Pushing past satisfaction, getting out near the Red Line, not being satisfied when there is so much more to give; that’s the answer! Through the answer, of course, surfaces another question: How? Nike says it best, Just Do It.
Growth can be painful. Springtime shows off the flower, but too often hides the struggle of the plant to become achieve the bloom. The plant isn’t dwelling on the struggle, however, it embraces it as part of the process. I must do the same.
In his book, Athletic Excellence (which by the way is about work and play and LIFE, not just athletics), James Loehr wrote, “I was always so worried about the guy on the other side. I really understand now that it’s me, not him, I should be concerned with. By comparison, he’s easy. I’ve always been my own toughest opponent and I suppose I always will be.”
Now I could look at that quote two ways this morning. I could rationalize that here I am being my own toughest opponent, being too hard on myself and I should just relax a little, give me a break and go with the flow. OR I could look at it that if work, play, life is going to get better I am the responsible party. No one else can pull me up the mountain of the highest levels and no one else can stop me from climbing if I so choose.
Now, the teacher in me is dying to have you turn this on yourself and discover if there is a lesson in this rant for you. Sorry, not today. As George Costanza once said, “Hey, we’re talking about me here!”
Make it a great day!