Updated: Nov 18, 2021
I bet you could see the whites of my eyes from space as they rolled back in my head during Fiona’s gold medal interview after she won the at the ICF Worlds Championship.
The funny thing is, I tried to research what emotion humans feel when we roll our eyes - and there isn’t one word for it! Eye rolling can be in response to someone saying something stupid, annoying, or that you don’t believe. The thing is though, I wasn’t annoyed, her words weren’t stupid, and what she said was true… but there was something else there that just irked me.
She said, “I guess this is just the result of discipline, the discipline to train twice a day.” I rolled my eyes because, truth be told, I was absolutely gutted.
I thought I had a lot of things figured out going into the 2021 world championships. When my result was nothing like what I expected, I was thinking, “Do you really think that anyone in that final heat doesn’t train twice a day?” Like, seriously? Don’t you think that everyone there, seconds apart at the finish, has been training twice daily, building our lives around paddling, eating right, recovering properly… quite literally checking all the boxes to ensure a top performance?
I doubt anyone just showed up and said, “Let’s see how this goes” while winging it off a season of half-ass training. Thank you captain-obvious for the stunning interview, but what really separates the top performer from the rest on any given day?
Maybe she doesn’t know. A lot of people in that same situation would thank a higher power, some would cite luck, others would claim it was some super supplement or top-secret training methodology. I’m not saying she should stand up there and promote her religious beliefs, sell something, or give away training secrets, I’m just saying that the difference between first and fifth place had very little to do with the discipline to train twice a day.
Maybe I’m just tired of interviewers asking that question. Especially, because I’m convinced that no one knows the answer. It could be as simple as a bad burrito or a poor night's sleep.
I felt the same eye-roll mid-scroll on socials a few weeks later. APP World Tour Champion Seychelle shared a throwback of her raising the Championship Cup high overhead with a caption that read something along the lines of writing it down every day, believing that the universe was going to support her, and being grateful for it before it happened.
If you’ve ever read any self-help books or heard people mention the law of attraction, then you’re well aware that people who have success often say that they believed it was theirs before it actually was. They believed that by writing the specifics of what you want daily (some even use the 3-6-9 method, writing your intention 3x in the morning, 6x mid day, and 9x before bed) in the correct tense of already having it and feeling genuinely grateful for it, that whatever it is can be yours! She claimed that was the reason she was able to achieve her world championship aspirations.
Hell, at least she didn’t say, “Well, I trained twice a day!” (Sorry, Fiona. I have total respect for you and it’s nothing personal) But, don’t you think that everyone else vying for a world championship title is doing the same thing?
I had done everything right, I had believed all the right things, trusted the universe, had all the self confidence in the world, and still I was left with a bronze medal, not a world championship title.
At that top level, you are pulling out all the stops. I know I did! You want it. And then…
For all but one winner, you still lose.
These interviews and motivating posts are beautiful in a way. I don’t know what it feels like to believe that the universe is helping you achieve your goals and actually have it deliver. There’s something mystical and magical about it that makes me hope I get to experience it one day.
The only big events I’ve ever won were ones that I didn’t think I had a snowball’s chance in hell of pulling off. The ones where I wrote it down every day and believed it in the depths of my soul left me feeling hollow, confused, betrayed and balling my eyes out face down in a bathtub.
No one wants to hear from the runner up that they did everything the winner did… except win. Most people love champions, they love winners. They love people that have the discipline to do all the little things that bring about a win. But I'm here to tell you, that all of those little things might not matter as much as we all think they do.
Funny thing about my childhood, I always admired the number two competitor. Not kidding at all; I always rooted for the underdog. Maybe I was just born to be mild. I thought it took a lot of courage to still hold your head high when things didn't go your way.
It takes courage to pour your entire life into something and not see the results you had hoped for. It is gutting. It hurts like hell. But you can fail doing things you dislike or that aren’t fun for your entire life; you might as well fail doing something you love.
P.S. If you don't love writing down that you're a winner 18x a day, just skip it and let the universe do what it will.
Of course, failure is just a matter of perspective. Is good health, good eating habits, self-discipline, joy in training, self-improvement, and a healthy mindset really failure? I use the word fail because I failed to achieve the goal.
Ten years ago I was depressed, overweight, and I couldn’t do any of the things I can do now. My brain and body didn’t function at the level they do now. Now my thoughts are more vivid and complete. My reflexes and fitness are amazing! If I knew ten years ago that I would get here and be this upset about a bronze medal, old me would slap current me in the face!
When you change the lens you view success through, and zoom out to look at an entire year or an entire decade of working towards something - and see all of the beautiful benefits of the journey - can you still call it failure? I call that a win.
You can fail at the main objective and still be happy and fulfilled. You can be sad when you fail at your goal and keep on doing the thing you love anyway. Every time I don’t get the result I was hoping for, there’s definitely a few moments of sadness with a bit of grief. But it always passes, and because I’m doing the thing I love to do most, I get right back to it when I get home.
When I have wound up on the top of the podium, the feelings of sadness and grief are replaced with happiness and contentment. The feeling you get when all of your hard work pays off truly feels amazing. But that’s the extent of it. It’s just a feeling.
Win or lose, you’ll get a feeling. Feelings are normal, and feelings pass. What you do while waiting for feelings to pass is what you love.
I’m here to let you know that the destination is a very small part and regardless of the outcome, the experience once you get there is much the same. The days, weeks, months, and years of work to get there is where the human experience happens. It isn’t all wasted unless you don’t take the time to enjoy it.
My performances continuously improve and I get more out of my athletic endeavors because of my journaling practice. Start yours with my help at ATHLETE-AGENDA.COM