Tuesday, February 25, 2014

But I Don't Feel Like It Anymore - Commitment vs Feelings and Why You Should Do It Anyway

"Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable (of becoming)."
-Coach John Wooden


My first career (1995-2001) was inside and outside sales for a technology firm in Silicon Valley during the dot.com boom/bubble years.  That's a fancy way of saying that right out of high school I got a job working for my father's business partner Paul on business development of a new territory.  The new territory?  Southern California.

From 1995-1997 I went to school full time and worked part time developing new business making cold calls from a business guide.  This is prior to major & minor companies having robust websites and prior to Google telling me how to find any information on any company, product or person that has a public presence.  I had only an encyclopedia sized book, a company name, their product line and a phone number.  It was my job to call the receptionist, and somehow talk my way through the web of that company to get to someone who purchased electronic components from other companies to make the product that they sold.  Simple enough, right?  Only problem was that the bigger the company, the more intricate the web of people who didn't know what anyone else did, not to mention the bulldog receptionists and personal assistants that were hired and trained to be a firewall against calls like mine.


Paul, my mentor/boss, has completed many endurance rides/runs.
In 1997, Paul (co-founder of the company, Signet Technical Sales, later Signet LCD and then IDS) offered me a full time position.  I accepted and stepped full tilt into the corporate world, which included 10-15 hours a week of commuting (to and from San Jose) and 40-60 hour weeks.  "Salesmen have no hours!" Paul used to say, much like Alec Baldwin's character from my favorite movie about sales, "Glengary Glen Ross."  Back then, I would spend most of my day dialing up strangers and asking for a favor, "please tell me who I need to talk to who makes the decision on purchasing these parts for your products."  I got really clear that there were going to be good days and bad days.  Days I felt inspired to do it and days I didn't want to pick up the phone to encounter 43 more rejections in 44 calls (and the 1 other call was a voicemail).

My last full year at Signet (2001), I stopped commuting.  I moved from San Francisco to San Jose, and cut my 3 hours of daily driving to 15 minutes each way.  I suddenly had 2 to 2.5 hours per day I didn't even know what to do with.  I was inspired, energized and ready to train for my first marathon, something I had put off for 5-6 years.  I committed to run my first 26.2, which was actually the second time I made that commitment (it was first a New Year's Resolution in 2000, until I didn't feel like training anymore, about maybe 19 days later).

I had signed up for the San Diego Rock'n'Roll Marathon, I also booked the round trip flight from San Jose to San Diego for early June and I hired a coach to help guide me (shout out to Coach Kaley, the first coach I ever hired).  Problem was, I was overeager.  I trained myself right into an overuse injury (ITBS) within about 2-3 weeks.  I wanted to run, but I couldn't.  So Coach Kaley (a very talented triathlete) started working with me on swimming and biking (as much as sitting on a spin bike can be considered biking).

I cross trained for a full month, until I just didn't feel like it anymore.  My knee hadn't improved, and I still had pain after mile 2 on basically every run I'd go on to test it out, about every 2 weeks.  I stopped training altogether.  That was mid-February.  Late-May came up on me fast and I realized I had a trip to San Diego (flights booked, accommodations made) and suddenly I was feeling inspired again.  So I went for a few runs to shake off the rust, determined my knee didn't hurt at mile 2 anymore and flew to San Diego.


*Note: this is NOT my bib # from 2001
Along the way I had raised maybe $500-$900 for the NCCF, but it was all in $1-$2 per mile sponsorship donation checks.  I was certainly not fit for 26.2 miles straight, on roads.  But I also felt a sense of obligation to finish what I started since I couldn't donate checks for the amounts they were written out for if they were based on the miles I had committed to doing.  I was in a quandary: do I run a marathon and put myself at risk of re-aggravation of this injury that put me down for 3-4 months?  Do I not run it, yet send in the checks anyway?  Do I not run it and send the checks back to their donors?

I went into the marathon expo on Saturday and again was inspired by all the fit, healthy people. There were many charities there with teams, and coaches, and team colors.  I knew I had to send these checks in.  I also knew I needed to run the distance.  I also didn't want to spend another 4 months not being able to run.  I decided to walk 13-14 miles, Saturday.  I got the course map and followed it until I got to a freeway entrance (94 out of downtown SD) and elected to do another lap around Balboa Park.  I wrapped it up in about 4 hours (about 17-minute mile pace) and went to visit my sister for dinner in La Jolla.  Sunday morning I caught a cab to Sea World, and at about the mile 14 mark I waited for the race to come by.  I watched the elites, the sub-3 national class athletes, the age groupers, and somewhere about an hour later jumped into the fray.  Again, I walked more than I ran, but I was coming up against my feelings of failure, the disappointment I wasn't an official participant (it was a chip race, and I'd never show up in the results).  But on the other side of those negative feelings, I was doing something maybe for the first time in my life, that wasn't going the way I envisioned it, and I was finishing it anyway.  My watch read 6-hours, 17-minutes when I hit the 26.2 mile mark, and based on when I started the day prior, my unofficial time would have read 22-hours, 17-minutes.  By all measures of marathon finishes, I was a DNS (on Sunday) or a DNF (on Saturday).  Two half marathons in back-to-back days is not a marathon.  But I sent in those checks and wrote a letter to everyone who donated, "I am happy to reimburse you if you object to the way I completed this marathon, and here's why you won't find me in any official results...".  It was a huge turning point in my life.


Officially finished my 1st marathon 16 months later.

Even today, I still come up against the feelings of "I don't want to train today, I just don't feel inspired or motivated to do it." and some days, those feelings win out.  But more often than not over the past 13 years, I cast my feelings and lack of motivation aside, and ask myself, "what am I committed to?" and often, the answer is pretty simple.  When you ask yourself what you're committed to, and weigh it against what you're feeling, whatever is bigger wins.  So my commitments have become huge, 'larger than me' type challenges, such that my fickle and ever-shifting feelings can be good, bad or ugly, but rarely are they bigger than my commitment to the goal.

You won't win this battle every day.  But the more you play this game, the stronger at "being your commitment" which is essentially "adhering to ones principles" instead of empowering your feelings which can change moment to moment, day to day and are as unpredictable as the weather.

What are you committed to?
*post a comment below and declare what you're committed to!
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