Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

Taking the Shortcut to a Better Story

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As I listen to Lance Armstrong admit that he cheated to win seven straight Tour de Frances, only one question comes to my mind.


Why would you want something you didn’t earn? Why cheat? Why would you lie to the world? Why would you lie to yourself?

I don’t know if he ever answers my questions. I doubt that a satisfactory answer exists. But I would offer my own.

It is because he believed the lie that winning races, making money, dating celebrity girlfriends, and gaining his own fame, were the ingredients to a better life.

Armstrong chose to take a shortcut to a better story.

photo by Rubenstein (creative commons)

Everyday Shortcuts

It is easy to sit and wonder why anyone would do this. It is easy to be disgusted by Armstrong’s actions.

But are we any different than him?

Everyday we make decisions and choose things for ourselves that are essentially based on the same motivation. We believe a lie about what a good story is and how we can get it.

This is what it looks like in my life:

Every time I see a Porsche or a Mercedes or a BMW, I want one. I imagine myself driving in luxury and being happy.

Whenever I shop for clothes my primary focus is not how the clothes feel or whether or not they are a good price. And I certainly do not concern myself about whether or not I need them. Instead I focus on how I feel the new clothes make me look.

I have very little hair, but every morning I still look in the mirror and assess whether or not my hair looks the way I want it to.

Whenever I am overwhelmed with my life (which anymore is constant), I imagine a different one. Perhaps one in which I get to sit by a fire in a cabin in the mountains surrounded by snow and coffee and good books and silence.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying any of these things are inherently wrong. Silence is a much needed medicine for me.

What is wrong, however, is my belief that I need any of them to live a good story.

Our Purpose

We take shortcuts all too often. Some of them are smaller and we hardly see the negative effects. Some of them are bigger, such as Armstrong’s, and the effects stick out like bulging muscles.

We fall for the shortcut lie because of yet a bigger lie. A lie that says something about who we are and what our purpose in life is.

If your greatest purpose in life is to win, to enjoy the luxury of your riches, to sit back and relax, then taking shortcuts make sense. But I believe you and I were made for something bigger. I believe there is more to  purpose in life.

Our purpose is to do good works for the good of others. To share what we have. To live in compassion. I believe our purpose is to create. To create something better than what existed yesterday. To create that which encourages others. I believe our purpose is to do our best at whatever it is we do, whether it is fixing torn rotator cuffs, or parenting, or making a cup of coffee, or racing bicycles. Our purpose is to live as if our work is bigger than what is obviously apparent.

I believe our purpose is to love God and to love our neighbor.

Everything else is a waste of the short time we have on this earth.

To live out such a purpose will take commitment, hard work, and sacrifice. No shortcuts exist.

What If

What if Armstrong had chosen to not cheat and then he only won one Tour de France? What if the best he had ever done was place 23rd? What if you had never heard of him? What if he hadn’t surmassed a sizable fortune? What if he hadn’t dated Sheryl Crow?

Would he be less happy, less satisfied with his life, than he is today?

Have you ever taken a shortcut to a better story?

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About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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22 Replies

  1. I have a slightly different take. Armstrong was really taking a shortcut to win. He was competing against others who was doing the same thing. The problem is that he wanted us to all believe that he wasn’t doing what everyone else was doing. He wanted us all to believe a different story about him than that of Jan Ulrich and guys like him.

  2. I certainly wouldn’t argue with this. But in the end, it’s the same deal. Instead of being a champion, he can only claim to have cheated and lied about it. In my opinion it would have been better not to win if cheating is the only way to get there.

  3. Angela Meyer

    Thank you for the encouragement to remember that our purpose is more than just the moment we are in. Keeping that in mind can help me not get so downhearted when the now doesn’t seem to make a difference. All the now moments add up and down the road accomplish something more than I can see.

  4. Thank you for the good thoughts. Personal integrity and the peace that comes from keeping the promises I make to myself is worth a great deal.

  5. It’s interesting to ponder those questions…I think it’s scary how wrapped up in his own story/lie that he got. He wanted to win at all costs and justified his actions in his own mind. He ruined the lives of those around him because all he cared about was selfish gain.

    Scary how I can see parallels in my own life…how many times do I do something for selfish gain and try to justify it?

  6. JB

    Great post! I believe I’ve jumped jobs when they’ve gotten too hard to latch on to my hopes of the ultimate dream job. I’ve also always believed the lie of “putting on perfect” everyday for everyone to like me when God gently reminds me that I’m likeable as is. Thank God that His mercies are new every morning!

  7. We can all get wrapped up in lies and fabricated stories. Anyone, not just an athlete runs the risk of it. We must guard our hearts and our minds. We must be vigilant. What if we were faced with the same situation, opportunities, and challenges as he? Would we react the same out of fear? Would we even be able to “come clean”?

  8. Kind of like the era in baseball…

  9. Annette Skarin

    Oh my, the shortcuts I’ve taken many times are spiritual relationship shortcuts. I have tried to impress people about how “in shape” I’m in by talking a good spiritual game. I get “busted”, or “humbled” every time God shows me the shape my own heart is in.

    I can take the spiritual drug of “self-righteousness”, the drug that influences me to say “I’m thankful I’m not like that person”, or, “At least I don’t do that.”

    When I read God’s words to me, and I’ve been cheating by quoting what He says, without first applying it to myself, He holds up a mirror and I ask to be forgiven for being a liar.

    God’s truth sets me free, by grace and grace alone.

  10. We play plenty of games don’t we? I love that we are set free from all of that too.

  11. I bet I would have done the same.

  12. Putting on perfect can appear to work, but it makes us even more less than perfect.

  13. I don’t think the lives of those around him are necessarily ruined. It depends on whether or not he seeks forgiveness and others offer it.

  14. A lot like baseball. Being the home run record holder doesn’t really matter much does if everyone accepts that you cheated.

  15. All of the now moments do add up, whether we use now for good or not good. Just a little bit of good on a regular basis goes a long way.

  16. For now it doesn’t matter. My childhood heroes, Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, didn’t make it in the H.O.F. either…

  17. I would like to believe what I would do.

  18. Yep, I spent my 20s taking shortcuts. I refused to trust to wait for God’s best for me in so many areas of my life. I allowed fear to dictate my decisions and choices. And I ultimately paid the price for my stupid choices. Thankful for His grace and for the His ability to redeem us and for the huge lesson not to settle in life.

  19. I love this Eileen. Thanks for pointing out that taking a shortcut doesn’t “ruin” anything, at least not forever.

  20. BG

    Thanks for the truth reminder, Jeremy. Praise God!

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