Tag Archives: life lessons

If You Want To Win in Life You Have To Go Little Berserk

“To be a consistent winner means preparing not just one day, one month or even one year –but for a lifetime”
– Bill Rodgers


I have been reading many sports books lately (Open, Sports Gene to name a few). The latest one has been “Marathon Man” about Bill Rodgers. He was a runner who helped to broke running to mainstream and is recommended reading for anyone who runs.

The book is also an eye opening account on how recent phenomenon the jogging phenomenon is. The runners were odd freaks and smoking tobacco was normal. Boston Marathon did not even have water during the early days and Bill Rodgers won the Boston marathon running in oversized Nike shoes. He did it still in 2:09:55. Sports has developed quite a lot, but at the end of the day success is about simple things:

There is no shortcut for not putting the miles. If you want to succeed in running, you have to run and run a lot.

“Only ran once – Shit F*** Fart!! about 13 miles at OK pace at 9:00 AM. too tired to run”
From Bill Rodgers training log

Especially marathon is not only about just letting it go. It is about listening your body, knowing your opponents and knowing your terrain. Bill Rodgers trained on Boston Marathon route constantly and knew it inside out. He was well prepared to win it.

He was also known as a guy who started out too fast and got burned at the end of the run (recognizing myself here). This handicap also made his great runner. His guts The guy who has the killer instinct will have the final edge. You have to push yourself to limit and then go for the win. If racing does not bring out your intensity, you do not have a change:

“I became intense about the marathon. But I am nowhere near that intense in the rest of my life. In fact, I think running is the only way in which I’m competitive. I have a need to run and sometimes I love it. It’s probably because I wasn’t really good at anything else.”
Bill Rodgers

Or like the late great Steve Prefontaine put it:

“A Lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, push himself even more”

4. Philosophy
Sports is a much bigger thing than just competition. It is a way of life. If I do not get my morning training, I do not only feel the physical withdrawal, I also feel the mental effects. Pushing yourself to the limit has a strong spiritual aspect.

“Training need not be an all-or-nothing battle, involving punishing track practice, grueling calisthenics, and wrenching interval sessions every afternoon. It could be a fun and easy cruise through the gorgeous New England countryside. It could be an act of freedom by which I could step outside myself and my racing mind. A long run in nature could even be a way to connect my physical body with the unseen spirit of the universe.”

5. Community
Although running is a solitary act, you need other people to help and spar you on the way.

“And you can’t do it alone. No one can. Look at Alberto Salazar’s team now. With Bill Squires I learned to work with a group, we all became friends and supported each other. How cool is that? “
– Bill Rodgers

These things are not limited to running, but apply to all aspects of life.

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Learning How To Lose

I ran my 16th marathon last Sunday (exactly to my target 4:00:00). Coincidentally I came across this paragraph from J.M. Coetzee:
“Sport teaches us more about losing than about winning, simply because so many of jus don´t win. What it teaches above all is that it is OK to lose. Losing is not the worst thing in the world, because in sports, unlike in war, the loser doesn´t get to have his throat cut by the winner.

Because that is the great lesson of the sport. You lose most of the time, but as long as you stay in the game there will always be a tomorrow, a fresh change to redeem yourself. “
J.M. Coetzee (Letter to Paul Auster, October 21, 2010)

Although I generally share the sentiment of Coetzee, where I differ is the line “it is OK to lose”. I think what sports teach us that it is never OK to lose, but it is normal to lose. There is a huge difference in that. Practicing sports helps us to deal with setbacks in life in general. It does not matter how many times you have been knocked down, it matters how many times you get up.

Whether it is my recreational running, weightlifting or pick-up basketball, I want to win. Depending on the sports it is against a real opponent, imaginary opponent or just myself, which I guess is a mixture of both. More often than not I´ll lose, but that does not mean the losing is ok. It happens, but you should not tolerate it. It just makes you want to win harder. I have never understood people who just run, or just play and don´t want to win.

If you do not care about losing or winning, you do not care about anything in life.

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How to Know When It Is Time To Quit?

This night at 2AM I got rude awakening.

Some drunken moron was scratching our door and did not realize that he was on the wrong door. After trying to tell him that he is on the wrong apartment for about 100 times (and those who know me I do not have that subtle or quiet voice, quite the contrary), I eventually called the cops. Cops took him out and apologized.

After maybe an hour this nitwit came back. Apparently half an hour of trying to open door with no success with his key and excursion from authorities was not enough to unsettle his dedication. This guy was adamant that it is his house, although all the evidence pointed totally opposite. He was naturally drunk as skunk, but full of willpower nevertheless.

Luckily this ignoramus was finally placed in cell or passed out somewhere on the streets after my second call to the police. There was peace in the household and I finally got some sleep.

This got me thinking about persistence. When you should know when to quit?

We always appreciate people who struggle through obstacles: those who go against the grain, those who succeed against all odds, when there is a will there is way –type of business. Although everyone says to them that it will not work, they just believe in themselves and make it work by sheer decisiveness. Even I celebrated that boneheadedness on my yesterday´s post. Sometimes however you should give up and change your course.

What if you are going totally in wrong direction? It does not help to struggle, if every step takes you just further away from your real goal. It is a delicate balance, because I have always believed that it is better to fight until the bitter end than to give up too easily. However, if you try to win a fight by any means necessary you quite often jeopardize the whole war. It is hard to say when to call it quits, but here are three tricks you should utilize:

1. Believe in yourself, but do not trust yourself completely.

If you do not believe in yourself, no one else will. Many of the great men & women have been driven with egomaniacal belief of their own capabilities and vision. However when you only have hammer all the problems start to look like nails. When we are obsessed with our single-minded vision, we neglect the screws and bolts around and just try to hammer through.

The thinking of that drunken muttonhead was right in principle: “I have a key. It will open a door”. He was too obsessed with opening the door that he did not stop to think was it even right door at the first place.

2. Listen to the people you trust and who have knowledge.

Sometimes it is not beneficial at all to listen to other people. Some people just want to spread negativity. When something has not worked for the first time that is indication for those pessimists that it will not work ever. People like this are miserable company and you should try to avoid them by any means necessary. Unfortunately there are besserwissers like these in every organization. Just ignore them and keep your positivity.

However, it is good to get feedback from the people you trust and who are not as close to the project you are doing. They usually approach your problems from fresh angle, which provides unbiased point-of-view.

Although I did not know this cretin staggering outside our door, I had more informed stance of his situation. If he had listened to me, he would have avoided the embarrassing meeting with the police. I just wanted to sleep, I did not necessarily wanted him to end up in jail.

 3. Give deadlines to yourself.

The late Metallica bassist said to his parents, when he was 21 or so that he wanted to be professional musician. Instead of shooting this dream down, they gave him a deadline:

“OK, we’ll give you four years. We’ll pay for your rent and your food. But after that four years is over, if we don’t see some slow progress or moderate progress, if you’re just not going anyplace and its obvious you’re not going to make a living out of it, then you’re going to have to get a job and do something else. That’s as far as we’re going to support you. It should be known by then whether or not you’re going to make it”

He made it big. Same thing with your start-up or if you are fed up with your work. Give strict but realistic deadlines when things have to change or have moved. If things have not changed by that time, it is unlikely that they will ever change. People are good to make promises, but generally quite bad at keeping them.

If this drunk had given himself strict deadline of maybe 5 minutes, which is totally sufficient time to open a door, he would not had to have encounter with police and probably would not make one planner grumpy at his next day at work.

Admitting defeat is always hard, but sometimes it is the only way to grow.

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