In the dark of my hotel room, I took a Sharpie and wrote the word KEEP on my left thigh and the word RUNNING on my right. I hoped those words would carry me to the finish, but the proverbial wall smacked me in the face at mile 22. By then, KEEP and RUNNING were a smeared memory, running down my aching limbs.
Six months before this day, a friend talked me into running a marathon. At the time, I was a pack a day smoker, overweight, and out of shape, but on January 1st, I threw away my cigarettes and met her at a high school track for a run. Run might be an exaggeration. I wogged around the track once. The next week I made it around twice. Eventually I was jogging, and after a month or so I left the track and ran a few miles. Each run was a brand new start. I wasn’t consumed by the outcome, just happy to be doing something new, curious to see how far my legs would take me.
As my mileage increased, my confidence grew and I started focusing on the finish. No longer content with lacing up my shoes and “just” getting out there, I started setting time and distance goals for myself, imaging race day, planning for each mile and practicing for the moment I would cross the finish line and become a marathoner – in under 5 hours.
22 miles and 4 1/2 hours in, disappointment shattered my dream finish. I should have been celebrating, giving myself a high-five, I mean I just ran 22 freaking miles! Instead, all I could think about was my terrible time and the seemingly impossible distance ahead. It was decision time. How was I going to get through the next 4.2 miles? After some deliberation and a wee bit of a cry, I decided to tackle each mile like it was a one-mile race. I just needed to start. Again. And again. 4.2 more times.
In his book, Start: Punch Fear In The Face, Escape Average and Do Work That Matters, Jon Acuff says, “The starting line is the only line you can completely control. The start is the only moment you’re the boss of.”
I was the boss of that marathon, not because I finished, but because I started.
A few months back I started this blog and I wrote a couple of posts without much thought to where it would go or where my writing would take me. And then I got stuck. I hit the wall. I started thinking about the outcome, about my performance. Am I saying anything important? Are my words influencing or impacting anyone? Am I using too many commas? What should I write about next?
Focusing on the finish froze me out of the start.
To start writing (again) I had to let go of the outcome. I had to reject inertia and perfectionism, sit my butt in the chair, and start typing. I had to decide that starting was more important than finishing, that creating something – even if it turned out to be crap – was better than creating nothing.
What is it that you have been wanting to start? Let go of the finish friend. Take a Sharpie and write START on your left hand and SOMETHING on your right hand. Okay, don’t do that because you’ll look weird, but do it virtually, and then do it for real. Be a boss.
Want to run? Put your shoes on. Want to start writing? Butt in the chair. Want to sketch? Grab a pencil. Want to sing? Open your mouth. Want to lose weight? Step away from the candy corns. Want to_______________________? Get off Facebook, turn off the television, disconnect the WIFI and start.