I just got back from my morning ocean swim and run, which I got to do with my new friend, D. I’m honored to call him a friend because D sees me as I am today, and it slammed home on our run together when he noted that because we’re new friends he’s never known me as a fat guy. Which means the totality of his knowledge of me as a person is as a triathlete and writer. D’s second insight, which fully supports the first, is that he got great insight into his stroke technique by having his swim videotaped in a pool and analyzed by his coach. When you bring these two concepts together what you realize is that our internal perceptions of self are colored by knowing our entire continuum, whereas others learn who we are from distinct start points. Who we are at those start points define who we are to the outside world, and that is why I believe that human being’s ability to change is our greatest evolutionary capability.
D was with me on most of the swim, and on the second lap he offered stroke advice – my left arm wasn’t reaching as far as it should and my speed was suffering because of it. Sure enough, reaching past the point of internal calibration (or proprioception) resulted in a straighter swim and a faster time through the water. Much like Brian’s advice on Sunday helped immediately with my bike performance, so did D’s advice on my swim. (Note – I use Brian’s name and link to his blog because I want him to succeed in his coming career as a triathlon coach. I use D’s first initial because he is a friend and deserves his anonymity. I’ve had to ask family members on a number of occasions to respect my image privacy and remove pictures from the web not because I’m vain but because every person deserves some control over their internet image.)
D and I grabbed coffee afterwards and had a great conversation about life, attitude, and the exciting work he’s undertaking. It’s very hard to find people who are honestly interested in growth and actually undertake action to achieve evolution. Everything worth doing takes effort. My relationship with my wife is amazing, and it takes daily effort. If we don’t nurture our relationship by intentionally creating moments to grow together, our apathy will result in growing apart. Neglect is an active verb, same as activity. Both D and I agreed we had friends we’d seen grow old and stay single because they had no interest in changing. Or proclaimed an interest in changing only to get more cats and fully intractable in their ways.
There is something about triathlon people, and runners to some extent, that I’ve met that make them a unique combination of goal oriented and motivated to improve themselves. The first step is trying something new and challenging, like a multisport event. The second step is realizing that there are many, many incremental goals that can be achieved on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis. I think those that get bit by the bug are a distinct form of A-type personality, which at its worst is self-deprecating and devalues each past achievement to focus on the next goal, and at best is in a constant state of exploration, drive, and reward. Therefore sport can be a valuable goal for those of us that like the consistency of a piece of cheese for running the maze.
Because of this growth, rarely are we the same person we were a month or a year ago. Which is why D’s comment was so striking. He didn’t know me from anyone, I was as I presented myself without guile. As I mentioned in my post about meeting my neighbor, I am a husband, a triathlete, a writer, a screenwriter, a dog owner, sometime technologist, and so on. Most of the time I only get to the first three. What are your top 3? How have they changed over the years? Have you been responsible for the change or was it imposed upon you?
No matter how much I self analyze, nothing compares to someone else’s eyeballs observing objective data. I am 100% certain I will use coaching for my first ironman race. Given that my goals will be 1) finish, 2) no permanent injury, 3) don’t finish last, and maybe 4) set a challenging finish time and meet it, I must use experienced eyes and knowledge to help me achieve those goals. The 100th monkey effect is a myth. If it were true, every member of the LA Tri Club would know how to be a podium finisher. Knowledge is earned from hard work and effort, just like good relationships are earned and kept with effort hard work. In the same way I feel that any notes on my screenplays have merit (because even if they didn’t “get it”, that’s helpful to know), any advice I get to make me a better person or athlete is welcome because it informs me of something I cannot synthesize: external opinion. It is up to me to decide what to do with that advice.
Finally, my favorite fictional character is and always will be Batman. Batman exists in two poses: leaping off a building to attack the injustice he sees in the world, and hunched over a keyboard, microscope, or book doing research. Batman has Alfred and Jim Gordon to help him achieve his goals; even Ra’s Al Ghul was his coach for a while before he became his nemesis. Batman hates only one person: Superman. Superman obeys without question, he swears blind allegiance to country, right or wrong, and offers ultimate firepower to support an ideology that shifts with the political landscape. Superman needs no coach, never changes, and is an insufferable boor. Batman: tortured, alone, punishing himself in a constant need to change himself and the world – now that’s a triathlete.