IN A WORLD OF HARES, BE A TORTOISE
Can you believe that I am even saying this?!
Now, in my early 50’s, I can definitely resonate with this. But it’s not always been that way.
I have always rushed through life, to win. To be 1st. To be victorious. To compete at everything, and be the best.
For too many years, I was obsessed with winning. All this “it’s the journey that is important” sentiment, I thought was hogwash.
What was important was the result, the outcome, the victory! To win was all there was, because if I didn’t win, by default, I must have lost, and losing is bad, right? That’s what was drummed into me from a very early age. To be the best.
Well, what I have finally started to figure out, with the help of my beautiful wife, is that whilst winning is great, it’s how you define the win that is important. Who to compete against, and what defines 'victory'.
Is it the 1st place trophy? I have many of these over the years for various things. Or is it the experience?
Looking back on my Moto-X days as a child, often recounting them with my Dad, or chatting with my old Gridiron mates about the fun we had, the victories don’t seem that vital in the discussions, it's more about what we did together, how it felt, and the joy and fun we had in doing it.
With my gym training, which I have loved since I was around 12 years old, it was always about being the strongest, biggest, fittest in the gym, which of course, given all the gyms I have trained in which were full of legends, I never could have been.
The self-judgement about not being able to squat as much as my friend Wolfie (who is still the strongest guy I have ever met), to not be as big as the various professionals I have trained with, nor to be as fit as our legends that represent Be Spunki, has all helped focus me on ... what's the actual point of what I'm doing, and what am I doing it for? It’s taken many broken joints, torn muscles, and injuries, to finally get to a different space in my life.
Talking to a young lad recently, and asking him what he wanted to be – his answer: Cristiano Ronaldo, it dawned on me – whilst it’s great to have targets, dreams and aspirations, these are only positive in the absence of self-judgement.
Who am I to burst this kids dream? He may well become even better than what he aspires to be. But rest assured, he will need world class talent, and more than that, hard work, and lots of it. What he will need most is time, constant hard work, constant effort, sacrifice, and constant forward momentum towards his target. Most things in life, that are worthwhile, require this dedication.
As Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book Outliers, it’s likely to take 10,000 hours of practice to become world-class.
One of my heroes, the Trillion Dollar Man / High Performance Coach, Dan Peña, says – most are unwilling to do what it takes to become great. That’s why there is only one Cristiano Ronaldo!
Back to me ... was I willing to put in the effort and sacrifice to become the strongest, fittest, and fastest? No! Did I judge myself for this, Yes!
So what changed?
Speaking to a legend who I admire hugely, about his journey.
He is one of the fittest strongest people I know, determined and driven. He is also one of the most self-aware people, self-reflective, and self-questioning guys I have ever met.
In chatting, he blew me away with his comment that he had been reflecting on what he was doing in his training and in that reflection, he became aware, in the end, he had lost sight of his “why”
Undoubtedly he is a success in all he does, but he was aware that his sacrifice to be a success wasn’t his “why” he did what he does.
His “why” is for health, not winning.
BAM! It hit me straight between the eyes.
Why do I go to the gym? Why did we create Be Spunki? What is the reason I wake up every morning?
It’s simple (now that I see it clearly). It’s to be the best version of myself, and to be as healthy as I can be. Not to set myself up for eternal failure, of false competitions with people who don’t even know they are in my competition.
Not with these delusions of becoming Worlds Strongest Man or the like! There is more to my life than this.
So back to the hare and the tortoise. To date, I have been the hare. Doing all I can to “win” the race, without actually knowing what the race is.
Dashing here, finding the shortest course possible to the outcome, focused on beating whoever is in the race and winning. No wonder my stress levels over the years have been off the scale. Always judging myself, the self-loathing of under-performing (only in my own eyes), always rushing to the next 'competition' so again, I could lose and then find new ways to judge my poor performance.
Speaking to my mate, it became clear, the only one in my race is me. And it’s not actually a race because regardless of how fast I run, whatever course I take, I can never win a race that is unwinnable.
However, if I look at my “why” and start to focus on that, then the race becomes less important, and the journey a lot more enjoyable.
So now, I am learning to be the tortoise in all aspects of my life. With a slow and steady, one foot forward after the other, enjoying the delights of every breath of life, this feels a far better way to be.
Less stress, less self-judgement, and best of all, far more enjoyment of my journey through life.
Daily life does its best to create hares out of us all. Peer pressure, work pressure, home-life expectations. The need to win, to be a success, to gain advantage over.
Well as the fable shows, whilst you can of course be a hare, to be successful in your life, and win your race, its more enjoyable and most likely more probable of victory, if you adopt that tortoise mentality, and enjoy.
How do you see it?
co-founder of Be Spunki