I’ve done a few competitive races in my off and on athletic career. From 5Ks (do they still do those?) to marathons and triathlons, each one is a unique experience. They all have one thing in common, though… the starting line. The training is done, the plan’s been made, and it’s time to get to work. You can’t win if you don’t start.
My second daughter is toeing a starting line of her own today. She’s packed her physical life into a U-haul and is heading north for a new career opportunity with her company. I think that she reads these ramblings on occasion, so I thought I’d share some lessons learned from the starting line.
Fear. Fear is not necessarily a bad thing. It is simply an emotion that must be dealt with. Fear triggers questions like, have I trained hard enough, am I prepared for this, what if something comes up I didn’t think of? Being afraid isn’t a sign of weakness… it shows you’re smart enough to recognize potential challenges. And if you’re smart enough to see them, you’re smart enough to beat them; figure an alternative strategy, choose another option, or just plow through. Churchill was right… we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Remember, courage is not the absence of fear… it’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway. I’ve seen you do things that I know scared you… but you did them anyway. This race is no different.
Confidence is completely psychological, but based on experience. When you’re standing at the starting line, and those questions are running through your head, there’s no time to go back and do things differently. It’s up to you to turn the questions around. “Did I train hard enough” becomes “I am trained. I did the long runs, the short runs, and everything in between.” Everything you’ve done up to this point has prepared you for this starting line. And this starting line will help prepare you for the next one. But only you can choose to believe that. Believe it.
Attitude trumps them all. I’m not a very aggressive person by nature. But we both know I can be pretty tenacious. I wonder where you got that from? I’ve never gone into a race completely confident that I would win. But every time I’ve toed the line, I’ve subconsciously looked around and thought, “I can beat you… and you… and you…” I won’t beat everyone, but I will beat somebody. It feels a little awkward to write that, but deep down I know it’s true. I like triathlons because you’re primarily competing with yourself, but there’s nothing wrong with feeling good when you pass a competitor. You don’t have to be brash, no need to be arrogant, but a little “tude” is a good thing. I think you’ve got it covered.
So, kiddo, as you pull out of the driveway in the U-haul, I want you to know how proud I am of you. I’m sure you’re a little scared, as I am, but mostly because I don’t think Chicago knows what’s coming. I hope you’re as confident that your life experiences, good and bad, have prepared you for this day, and all the days after. As for attitude, well… kick some ass.