My high school football coach, Todd Alles, said many times during our playing days, “You’re gonna learn a lot about life playing this game!” That didn’t mean much to a bunch of 15-18 year olds sweating in the hot August sun during two-a-day practices. In fact, if memory is correct, we were probably thinking, “Yea, right!” as we continued running sprints and doing drills. Coach was right but most of us didn’t realize it till many years later.
Since my football days I’ve gone through several radically different athletic endeavors. Through sports I’ve come to realize the journey is often better than the destination.
I started lifting weights in high school to get ready for football. My body responded extremely well and I put on more than 20 lbs in three months. I was hooked!
While at Miami University I was the president of the weightlifting club for three years. During that time, I started competing in powerlifting. For three years after college I competed in bodybuilding contests. My whole life revolved around weight training and I thought my destiny was to own a gym.
About a decade after I stopped competing in weightlifting a good friend, Jud Beachler, owner of The Yoga & Fitness Factory, convinced a dozen friends to run the Columbus Marathon. I was part of that group. Marathoning was a radical change from weightlifting!
Despite a disastrous first marathon I knew I could do well in the sport. I just needed to learn from my mistakes then train hard and smart. Eventually I cut more than an hour off of my first marathon time. I made such rapid improvement that I set my sights on the historic Boston Marathon. Within a few years, I qualified for and ran Boston twice.
My last iteration was another radical change as I got involved with martial arts. I took up taekwondo to spend time with my daughter Abigail. I jokingly tell people; martial arts are great because you get to legally hit your kid three days a week. Of course, Abigail enjoyed taking some frustration out on her dear old dad which evened things out.
Our taekwondo school had a wonderful group of families and excellent teachers. By the time I stopped going (Abigail could no longer attend due to school and work) I had earned my 2nd degree black belt.
Here’s the biggest lesson I can impart to you. When you find something you love doing, a goal (a contest, race or test) becomes the reason to do the thing you love with more focus and intensity.
For me, each journey became better than the destination. That was great because oftentimes the destination was minuscule compared to the preparation time. For example:
- In powerlifting I’d train 4-5 days a week, a least two hours a day. I did that for four or five months to perform just 9 lifts (3 attempts on 3 exercises) in a meet.
- I conservatively spent 200 hours in the gym getting ready for a 20-minute appearance on stage for a bodybuilding contest.
- It took nearly three years, 600 hours, to reach a point where I was ready for my first blackbelt test.
- I would typically run 1,000 miles to get ready for a 26.2 mile marathon race.
The reward hardly seemed worth the effort except for the fact that I loved training and the anticipation of the day of the competition. Again, the goals helped me do what I already loved with more energy and enthusiasm.
To Do This Week
What do you enjoy doing? If you could do it with more focus and energy do you think you’d enjoy the activity and your days even more?
As noted earlier, many of the sports I was involved in over the years were activities I did, five, six and sometimes seven days a week. Reaching for goals made for a lot of really good days!
Whatever you love to do, set a goal three or four months out. Create a simple plan for how you’ll pursue that goal. Finally, begin your journey and see how it impacts you. If you’re like me, you’ll find more meaning and joy in each day.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the planet on the science of ethical influence.
Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was name one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by Book Authority! His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 100,000 people around the world!