3Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;4perseverance, character; and character, hope.
5And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
– Romans 5:3-5
If you read this (and you should), then you know I recently completed a Duathlon. It was a Sprint distance, 5km run, 20km bike, and 2.5km run. I realized as I was typing out my post-race reflection, that there are some valuable lessons that can be pulled out from the days events. In a way it’s odd that I’m writing this because I’ve typically been someone who rolls his eyes whenever another “sports legend” offers up their “wisdom” on life. Maybe I had a bias against “dumb jocks” and what could a College basketball coach touch me about leadership? The one exception I’ve made over the years is I would read John Wooden, but only because he was a mentor to John Maxwell who I enjoy reading.
So, this is a bit of humble pie I suppose.
Lesson 1: The necessity for clarity of purpose (precision goal setting)
You need to have clear goals, if you’re going to have a goal at all. I finished dead last in my category at the race. I could have registered that as a failure, but I didn’t. I didn’t define success as finishing in a particular time frame or going a certain speed. I defined success as 1) showing up and starting, 2) finishing, and 3) not receiving a penalty or a disqualification.
Defining your goals with precision, taking into account all relevant variables can allow you to walk away from otherwise horrible situations, declaring yourself victorious. I was in agony, my back hurt, my abdomen hurt, my mouth was dry. There were times I could barely pedal or run. At one point I had to walk my bike part way up a hill because I simply didn’t have the power in my legs to pedal. None of that meant I failed. I finished my race, within the rules and that’s how I defined success.
Now, will that always define success for me? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. There will be times when I will try to get my 5K run time below 30minutes or my bike below 45min, etc. But, I will always consider a finished race a success, no matter what.
Lesson 2: Start with Why
I’ve quit one race. It was 4 years ago or so. The same bike course I did this time. My back was spasming and I couldn’t breathe. I walked my bike 5kms back to the start line. It was over. I was deflated. This time around, I was at the base of the last climb, I was dehydrated, I had no power left in my legs and I was all alone on the course except the race marshal. I was dead last. I didn’t get off and give up though. I got off, walked about 10 steps to get me half way up the climb, got back on and kept going.
Sometimes in life we face harsh obstacles and we are tempted to give up. But again, as I mentioned above, my success was not dependent on how I finished, so long as it was within the rules. I’m a master at giving up. There are a ton of books laying around that I’ve partially finished. Many educational programs in my past that I’ve not finished. That can’t be me though, I can’t allow myself to be that guy anymore. I was in pain, yes. I was thirsty and out of water, yes. But I was so close and had already come so far that giving up was not a possibility. I thought of my wife and the unborn son in her tummy and it kept me going. My wife deserves a husband she can be proud of and who will finish the things he says he will finish. My son deserves a father who teach him about perseverance and true strength. That kept me going.
Figure out WHY you want to accomplish your goals and that will help keep you going through the hard times. If you just focus on what you’re doing, you’ll focus on the pain and not the light that is there to keep you going. The why allows you to say “Screw the pain, there’s a race to finish”.
On the topic of starting with why, I recommend that you read Start with Why. It’s written from a business perspective, but has great application to our personal lives as well.