All the “No’s” that led me here


My life is actually pretty awesome.   I don’t always feel that way, but when I stop and really think about it, I realize that I have so much to be grateful for.   I’ve always had a sense that I was going to do great things and, I don’t think I’m alone in this.   As I get older, the idea that I’m going to be remarkable, in any specific and tangible way, grows more and more distant; ever more remote.   It might even be a kind of hubris, but entirely human all the same.

“We all think we’re going to be great. And we feel a little bit robbed when our expectations aren’t met.” Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy

I want to say real quick too, that I actually like myself.   At least, most of the time, even when I mess up, I’m learning to laugh at myself and not take things so seriously.. not all the time, anyway.   What I’m trying to say here is that I can say nice things about myself without thinking too hard about it – and for some people, that’s a big accomplishment.


I’m not perfect.   I haven’t reached some special state that has elevated me above the masses.  I’m not really all that special, after all.   I’m just a guy who has some ‘yes’s’ under his belt.   And, at the same time, I’m just a guy who still hasn’t let go of all the NO’s!

There are a lot of NO’s.

My big think is that I’m afraid.  I’m afraid to interview with ‘important people’ so I say no.   I’m afraid to climb out on that rock with my friends, so I say no.   I’m afraid to apply for that job because I don’t think they’ll take me seriously, so I say no.   I’m afraid to sign up for that race because I’ve never run that far, so I say no.   I’m afraid of working out that hard so I can get to Boston, no.

So I was going to write this blog about all the NO’s, and sure, they exist BUT..  I’m not really feeling the “No’s” right now.  I can think of yes’s for every no, right now.   Right now I know that the road to greatness is mundane, persistent and consistent action; never giving up, letting go of the things that are hurting you, and being your own champion.

If I DID  want to wallow in my miseries, then I’m sure I could look back and see a series of fear-laden “No’s”.  No to myself, no to offers and invitations from others, no to flights of fancy that weren’t so flighty after all.

When I don’t have time

I want to do amazing things, when I don’t have time.  Planning.  Tomorrow.  Later. Future-tense.  I will get this cleaned up, weed-whack the yard, wake up early and run. I’ll finish making the brochures, design a booklet, work on a project, search for caterers.  

Starting next week, I’m off carbs!  Going to sit down and write up a schedule for home-gym workouts.   It’s going to be life-changing. It will be amazing. 

Someday, I’ll call the library and see about reading to little kids. That would be fun. I’ll raise money to fight cancer. 

But right now, I’m at work and I don’t have time.   Worse, I won’t feel like doing anything when I do have time.  I’ll buffer with alcohol, entertainment, food.. anything to while away the hours so I can go to sleep too late, dehydrated.  

Still dreaming about what I will do, tomorrow. 

The real heroes

The utter failure of successful icons

When we say that success will never come to those who don’t try or to those who don’t show up, we aren’t lying.   It’s completely true that not being at the right place at the right time with the right upbringing and the right pedigree (read: race, class, gender (read: white, rich, male)) will leave any given individual in the dust when it comes to success.

But we do love a good hero.  In sports, we think we can all be Lebron James or Michael Jordan, Tom Brady or John Elway or Jim Brown, Serena William, Wayne Gretzky, Pele, or Barry Bonds – and we never get it through our thick skulls that they are the very pinnacle, the very razors edge of greatness with thousands of so-called failures lined up behind them, as far as the eye can see.   In theater, in politics, in academia in any sphere whatsoever that we value and appreciate – we are told to behold the inevitable one guy or one woman who has, by the unrelenting power of probability, occupied the spot of ultimate success.  Behold, and wonder and worship!

They are really only heros because we compare ourselves to them.

And it is a continuum, and we pick our points of worship accordingly.   Proximity of aquaintaince has some effect on whether we esteem one person over another, to a degree. While the very top is secure in it’s position, a statistically greater person could be dislodged in our favor with someone we actually ‘know’, shook hand with or met somwhere along the line.

But I digress.

Tell me!  What is the value of a woman who succeeds at a given effort level over another woman who does not succeed despite having the same moxie?   What of the ten women who do not succeed?  Did they not work just as hard?   Could it be that they worked harder to no avail? Perhaps it is all an accident of the bus schedule or a driver who couldn’t be bothered with using a signal, thus creating confusion and therefore, indecisions – slowness.. a missed light.   Mayhap, the lilting language of one’s easy upbringing betrays a sense of confidence not-earned but inherited that makes all the difference.   Had any one of the ten other women been afforded the upbringing that allowed for european vacations each year as they grew into womenhood, perhaps the force of ‘what is rightful’ would have won the day for them as well, or for them, at all.

But these are messy intagangeables that get in the way of our hero worship.   It gets in the way of our deep love of awarding and attributing success to those who show ‘merit’, chutzpah, grit.. and our deep love of this cannot abide any hint of advantage, privelege or even cheating.

And they’re happy to tell us all the way to success; their sentances all begin with ‘Just..’

Not showing up!

By the way, this isn’t going to be a guilt-trip kind of blog.   If you’re braced for a verbal/written tongue-lashing, you might be disappointed.   It isn’t that we don’t need a kick in the pants sometimes, but that’s not my job here – that’s your job.   But you have another job too, and that’s what I want to talk about today.

We all have this script in our heads of ‘how things should be’.  In running races from 5k’s all the way up to ultras, we have this undefined image of how the race ‘should’ go.   Of course, things never quite turn out the way we plan though, do they?  We go out too fast, the weather is awful, our knee is bothering us on race day, we trip somewhere along the way or take a wrong turn, we can’t quite seem to dig ourselves out of a recursive negativity.   All these things and more can happen in races, they can happen to our plans, and they can happen in life.

Not only can they happen.. we all know, they will happen.

So something happens and our plans get wrecked.  We can’t make it to a meeting we wanted to go to, we can’t find the will to leave an aid station and continue on our journey or race, we can’t figure out how to write a proposal or create a strong elevator pitch for an idea that’s been knocking around forever.   But at that point, it stops being about that thing, whatever it is, and starts being about you.   Who you are.  How will you handle this setback, defeat or failure.  What will you DO, now?

And the funny thing is, it was ALWAYS about you, the whole time.

When those curveballs come, you need to find the original script – “So those plans got smashed.. what gives me the best chances of moving forward?”.   That’s how you show up, even when you couldn’t “show up”.   You brush yourself off, you take on this new challenge of forgiving yourself, accepting it for what it is and nothing more, and you let go of that self-abusive, useless and even damaging thought process.

Letting failure tear you down is the worst two-for-one deal you could ever take – but you don’t have to!

Heroes are..

Yesterday, I wrote a blog featuring Casey Neistat’s video about being a “Sellout”, and, in that video, he had an amazing quote that you have to see, “‘Sellout’ is a term invented by jealous quitters!”.   Still blows me away.

What are Jealous Quitters?

The poem by Marianne Williamson, “Our Deepest Fear” has this great line that goes, “there is nothing enlightened by shrinking so that others people won’t feel insecure around you”, and I think this really nails it.   It isn’t just that we are afraid that others will feel insecure around us, the fact is, other people WILL feel insecure around you if you are unafraid.   They will.  This is saying, in a fashion, that other people want you to fail to justify their own failures.   We both love and hate heroes because they have done something we won’t allow ourselves to do, they have done things we won’t admit can be done, and they strip us of our excuses for why we haven’t dont those things.

That’s why we call them “Heroes” – because we think that being a hero means that you are somehow different than the rest of ‘us’ and,  whatever that special something is, it allows YOU to do these amazing things in your life, but also allows US to keep making excuses.   We’re off the hook.  If we thought of you as a normal regular person that did these amazing things – we would have no excuse to stop trying.

I’m here to tell you, heroes are just normal people who decided, for whatever reason, to quit making excueses, quit procrastinating, and who quit trying to escape (alchohol, sex, drugs, exercise, eating, gaming, etc.) life, so they could focus single-mindedly on what it is they want, and how they intend to get there.

And one more thing, heroes seem to attract heroes, and heroic people do heroic things.

“Jealous Quitters”

“‘Sellout’ is a term invented by jealous quitters” – Casey Neistat

I was telling my wife, or at least, trying to tell her my confusion of having this idea, this thing that I wanted to do to make some money and chase my dreams, and how I was going to make that dream a concrete reality.  It’s confusing because I can’t see the path between here and now, and there.. and then.   It feels like I’m stumbling around in the dark.

There are some things about all of this that are challenging the very notion of who I think I am.  For example, there’s this very real temptation to hold a grudge against everyone that didn’t help me.. IF I even make it.   Can you see how ridiculous this is?  I’m actually fretting over things that haven’t happened because I’m feeling sorry for myself for the results of work I haven’t even done yet?   That just doesn’t make sense and yet, of the seemingly millions of things I need to do, I’m wasting my time with this kind of thinking? That’s just dumb.   I don’t want to be that guy – that’s not who I am.   I want to be the guy that just kept grinding and moving forward, inch by inch, totally focused on the path ahead, pushing and pushing and never giving up.   That’s the challenge.  That’s the real work.

So I was trying to articulate the big question mark between where I am right now with all the negatives and all the fear, with where I want to be and what it looks like on the other side.   Connecting those dots is a complete mystery.  I have no idea how that line gets drawn, but I imagine it zig-zags quite a bit and maybe even goes backwards sometimes.

There are those now who say and do things that make me think I have no chance.  That without really hurting me, they aren’t really helping me either.  But I can’t pay attention to that.

I’ll be over here grinding, if  you need me.  And when you call me a “Sellout”, I probably won’t hear that either.

Who do you think you are?

Tell me.  Why can’t YOU do this or that.  What is the big goal, the impossible goal YOU have set for yourself?  Is it Boston?  Is it one mile?  Do you think it’s impossible for YOU to run a mile in under six minutes?   Seven minutes?   EIGHT?   Why are you so unspectacular? When the question hangs in the balance, will you always say “NO!”.   You will always say no, but you’re only saying it to yourself.

Who are YOU to think you could achieve these goals you never even considered?   Other people scoffed at you and you scoffed right along with them.   You sided with your critics.. against yourself.  You keep doing that.   Why should anyone stand up for you when you won’t stand up for yourself?


Is that what you want?   To stay where you are?  Mediocre?  Playing the “At least…” game? I’m on to you!   You say, “At least I can be kind despite my obvious disability, or I can cover up my weaknesses by working harder than anyone all the time,.. I can hide this by doing that!” as if it is all somehow mutually exclusive to you being successful in goals you never dreamed of having.  “I’m not good with numbers and I’m not witty and I get nervous when people are talking to me and things get awkward.. but at least I can be kind to everyone I meet!”.     

Why can’t you be all the good things?

So, we begin to dream of being the kind of person who doesn’t apologize for their weaknesses and who stops trying to settle their weaknesses with their strengths in some kind of life-balance sheet.   But we’re still not free because we think, “Who do you think you are?”.  We level this age-old accusation that “YOU are NOT worthy!” or “You really don’t actually think you can do this, do you?  HA!”.

But you are worthy.   We are not afraid that we are inadequate.  We are afraid that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us” ~Marianne Williamson    Read the entire thing.  Meditate on it.  Stay on each phrase.  Stay.

And I have to say, if those thoughts aren’t occurring to you, you are nowhere near your boundaries.  You are playing it safe.  You have not pushed yourself or dreamed big enough to scare the shit out of yourself.

You are capable of so much more.