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Fooling Yourself is Temporary, at Best

Posted By: KP
Date: Friday, 4 July 2008, at 9:05 a.m.

I read with interest two fine articles in the last week. One by my close friend Gordo Byrn on his blog entitled “The Back 40”. You can review it here: http://www.gordoworld.com/gblog/2008/06/back-40.html In it, there are some fine thoughts and references about fooling oneself. The second article is by a guy I have a lot of respect for and a man I spent two weeks with holding each other other’s rear wheel and scrapping each day for survival techniques at Epic Camp New Zealand; Alan Couzens. His article was titled “Fooling Ourselves” at http://alancouzens.blogspot.com/

Sounds like the two of them spent some time comparing notes. I would have liked to sit at the table during that discussion. My take is that we may be able to fool others for awhile and we may even fool ourselves; but there is greater spiritual power residing in us that eventually will demand we seek self truth or risk unhappiness.

Along these lines, I also saw a comment posted to the affect that "It has to be one of the toughest things for an athlete as he or she gets older and realizes their best is behind them." For those who dread the day their strongest physical feats (or any feats for that matter) are but a memory – and for those who find the thought of never being able to repeat these feats particularly tough -- I suggest they ask themselves why having accomplished such milestones isn't enough.

In my lifetime I have given physical performance markers and their eventual decline a lot of thought. It started when I was 21 years old and made the decision to stop playing Division 1 basketball at University. After 15 years of extremely focused work I knew, at that moment, I would never play on the same level again. I switched my focus to fitness, chiropractic and strength training. I trained various body parts seven days a week, 90-120min a day for well over a decade. At age 33 I hit a max lift of 335lbs on the bench press and repped 225lbs twenty three times. As well, I focused on my chiropractic practice and my new family. Then, in 1999, at age 43 I became immersed in everything Ironman Triathlon. I closed my chiropractic office and spent an enormous amount of time studying, listening to mentors, asking questions and training. My goal has been to become a superior teacher inside and out of our sport. That goal continues today. My passion is teaching a combination of mental, physical and spiritual fitness. As an athlete in triathlon I went from finishing my first IM in 13:02 at age 43 to 10:30 at age 50 and finally winning my age group at IM Brazil. There have been several other performance markers or milestones (along with some disappointments) in each decade; some in business, some in my personal life. I know there will be more ups and a few downs in the coming years.

As I approach 53 years, it has been 32 years since I moved beyond my basketball “best”, 20 years since my peak physical strength and several years since my fastest Ironman. I have come to realize declining physical performance does not signal the end of competition or accomplishment. Physiologically I am way ahead of the health curve (by any means of measurement). It is no accident and I plan to stay there. Each of us will come to these forks in the road in one way or another. No matter how many changes we make in our approach, our bodies will wear out. It is inevitable. No amount of glory, power, or money can keep us from experiencing ‘life’; and part of life is making critical choices as a result of those experiences. You will either cope or suffer declining happiness along with declining skills.

Ironman is full of courageous men and women, but athletes in our sport experience the same hopes, fears and insecurities as everyone else who is trying to do their best or just hold on and survive. It’s not beneficial to continually fret that my best was never good enough or that my genetics didn’t measure up. That type of definition of ‘success’ may be driven by fear as much as pleasure. We all experience disappointments, we age and we deal with an erosion of skills. I think it prudent to remember that when we lose one thing there is an opportunity to gain something else.


This topic reminds me of some of my favorite passages from the book “The Alchemist”:

"My heart is a traitor" the boy said to the Alchemist....
"It doesn't want me to go on."

"That makes sense" answered the Alchemist. "Naturally it's afraid that, in pursuing your dream, you might lose everything you've won."

"Well, then why should I listen to my heart?"

"Because you will never be able to keep it quiet. Even if you pretend not to have heard what it tells you, it will always be there inside of you, repeating to you what you're thinking about life and the world."

"You mean I should listen, even if it is treasonous?"

"Treason is a blow that comes unexpectedly. If you know your heart well, it will never be able to do that to you. Because you'll know it's dreams and wishes, and will know how to deal with them.
"You will never be able to escape from you heart. So it's better to listen to what it has to say. That way, you'll never have to fear the unanticipated blow."

"My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer," the boy told the Alchemist one night as they looked up at the moon in the sky.

"Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart as ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second's encounter with God and with eternity."


coach KP

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