While driving home from the shops, I saw three people out running. First, the slim, trim, got all the gear man running at the pace I can only dream of sprinting at. Second, a large, overweight person with ill-fitting clothing slowly jogging on one side of the road, while on the other, the third person, an elderly, frail woman also jogging but at such a slow speed she was being overtaken by a couple of teenagers who were walking.
Frankly, my reaction to runner one was mostly envy and jealousy as part of me wished I could be him and that I had enough discipline to ‘do the work’ to become him, but realised I choose to spend my time doing other things.
Runners two and three brought a smile to my face. Yes, I admit a bit of the smile was because I knew I could still run faster than them, but it was more that I wanted to slow down the car, open the windows, and cheer them on. I wondered how realistically I could encourage them without freaking them out as some crazy yelling at them from their car. I wondered what amount of enormous courage it must have taken for them to get out and go for a run knowing that it would likely be met with mockery of various forms. I wanted to take my hat off to them (if only I wore a hat).
I was struck by contrast of me sitting a car, expending no effort, being a bit lazy, and them out pounding the pavement. Theodore Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” quote came to mind:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”Theodore Roosevelt
All three runners were in the ‘arena’, I was the critic. Being a critic is easy, there is very little risk. It is easy to have ideas, to make fun of those trying to do things, to tell ourselves (and others) how we could do it better. It is easy because we are too scared to face our fear of failing, of finding out we are not who we wish we were or perhaps maybe, it’s that we know that we are not who we wish to be and we simply don’t want it confirmed.
So we hide.
What would it take for us to be ok with or expecting that before we can be a good runner, we need to be a bad runner first; before we can write something worth reading, we need to write hundreds of pieces not worth reading first. What would it take for you to stop believing you will magically become the best in the world at something, without being unknown for most of your life? What will it take to stop wishing we were someone other than who we are? What will it take, as Seth says, to pick yourself?