I came across a quote today that made me smile. Admittedly, it was on the underside of a bottle cap–but I like to think this only adds to its charm.
It read: “Example is not the main thing influencing others; it is the only thing.” -Albert Schweitzer
This is a delightfully idealistic idea, really and truly, but Mr. Schweitzer, I have to vehemently disagree. Every day, each one of us is bombarded by a plethora of influences: media messages, biased blog posts, pop science, hearsay, the New York Times, medical journals, internal biochemistry, what we ate for lunch, what we didn’t eat for lunch, how much sleep we got last night, Jungian archetypes, whether or not we played outside as children–to name the most important ones, at least. What a pleasant thought, though, to think that leading by example is enough to influence others. It is not.
I much prefer this quotation–an Emerson classic that has haunted me since I was a teenager: “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”
What if that someone was yourself?
What would it take to reach that point?
Many of us have at least a vague idea of who and how we want to be, but how many of us are actually actively pursuing our dreams on a daily basis? How many of us harbor true passion?
Would the high school version of you approve of who you are today?
I have not met many people who genuinely harbor passion. It’s pretty easy to tell who they are–it’s infectious to be around someone who’s jazzed up about something, and these people are usually bubbling with excitement. Those I have met have almost invariably come from within the endurance sport community. It takes a certain type to wake up at 4:30 a.m. and put on compression socks and BodyGlide, only to hoof it around city streets before the sun rises. It takes an especially certain type to maintain focus during 8-hour long slogs on the bike, let alone embrace the inevitable “hitting the wall”. These people are living out their dreams on a daily basis–and usually before most people even wake up each morning. The most remarkable thing I’ve noticed about this cohort, though, is their uncanny ability to translate what they’ve learned from their “Trials of Miles” into other aspects of their lives. Resilient, persistent, fearless, and enthusiastic to pursue new adventures without fear of failure. “It’s Not About the Bike,” as Lance Armstrong once said. There’s a bigger, global process going on–a brain change, of sorts–and it spits out some of the most inquisitive, curious, optimistic go-getters I have ever met.
Every day, we endurance sport weirdos have our asses handed to us by the trail we’re running on–and it simultaneously humbles us, and reminds us that we don’t really have much to lose. Honing my physical endurance has unquestionably cultivated a heightened sense of mindful awareness, carved out increasingly higher levels of mental clarity and focus, and perhaps most importantly, sent feel-good neurotransmitters coursing through my veins. Paradoxically, showing up for work every morning ravaged by a crack-of-dawn multi-hour run or ride gives me life. To quote Steve Jobs, “Things lead to their opposites.”
What would it take for you to be the person who inspires you?
Do you push yourself to be the best possible version of you every day?