The Key to Peforming Well
Our level of performance has nothing to do with who we are and everything to do with how well we have prepared.
Becoming a Runner
I remember the first half-marathon I ran. I never imagined that it was something I could actually do. Some friends had talked me into it, and I was scared to death.
I was so scared that I found a training regimen guaranteed to get me ready and I stuck to the plan without missing a workout.
When the day came and the race started, my anxiety quickly dissipated as my body found a rhythm. The same rhythm I had developed through months of training.
The race passed much faster than I thought it might. My time was 9 minutes better than my goal. I was finishing ahead of people that looked like they would be better runners than me.
My fear had translated into the habit of work, and the work turned me into a better runner than I had ever been.
I was prepared. I was ready. I was a runner.
That was 9 years ago.
Relying on the Past
Last Saturday I ran my 6th half-marathon. This time was different.
It has been 3 years since I have put that much effort into running. Wanting to get back the habit, I committed to the race by signing up early and paying the registration fee in January.
Despite having skin in the game, I still didn’t commit fully to the training. I ran some, but not consistently enough. I wasn’t able to build. I was only trying to keep what I had already gained. And my poor effort wasn’t enough.
On race day I wasn’t ready and I knew it. My past accomplishments became irrelevant when it came time to run. I was nervous again, but this time it was due to a lack of preparation.
I ran a great 9 mile race. For those of you who don’t know, half-marathongs are 13.1 miles. The last 4 were awful.
I had nothing left to give. My under-trained muscles were done. I found myself struggling to just keep going. Hundreds of people I had passed earlier in the race were now passing me.
There was this one man I remember in particular. He was basically speed walking. Even though I felt like I was running, I could not keep up with him. On most days, and certainly in the past, I was a better runner than him. But on that day he was better.
Talent versus Skill
We would like to think that how we perform is based on who we are. That our skill is related to talent. That awards and recognition is something we deserve based on our naturally ability. All we need to do is just show up. Just like running, this isn’t true.
There are some individuals who are naturally better at doing something than most. You know someone like this. It seems effortless to them, while you have to labor just to make any progress at all. These people drive you nuts. If you let it, your jealously will distract you from doing your work.
When race day comes, however, the only thing that matters is how well we are prepared. Our ability to perform is related to how hard we have been working in the weeks and months and years prior. A realization that comes too late on race day.
Whatever you want to be, it will require effort. Whether it’s a runner, a writer, a physician, an entrepreneur, a musician, an actor, a parent, a friend, or a spouse, you need to practice. You need to train. You have to fall in love with the work.
There are 3 different ways to respond to this truth. You can make excuses saying that you just aren’t talented enough. You can choose to do something that you are naturally good at and just coast by with little effort in pursuit of mediocrity.
Or you can work hard. Work regularly. And give life your best.
Whether it is a 13 mile race, or your life dream, the only way to succeed is to show up on a regular, if not daily, basis and do what is necessary.
Have you ever flopped from poor preparation? Have you benefitted from being well prepared?
Share your story in the comments.