In our last +1, we took a trip down Etymology Lane and learned that the word Identity has ancient Latin roots. It literally (!) means “repeated beingness.” Who you are, your sense of your self, is largely formed by what you do. Repeatedly.
And… We discussed the idea that if we want to influence what we repeatedly do, one of the most powerful ways to do that is to START with an Optimized Identity. To start with who you aspire to be.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole idea of flipping the identity switch quite a bit since my last Spartan Race.
I’d like to share a quick update and we’ll use my somewhat arbitrary yet nonetheless useful portal to enlightenment of becoming a World-Class Spartan Athlete as our context for philosophical exploration with the intention of applying any potential wisdom to YOUR life. 🤓
First, a little biographical sketch…
I played sports as a kid. Mostly baseball and soccer. I was always one of the best players on my team and made the All-Star team every year but I was also always the smallest. In fact, I was so small that as a freshman in high school, I was LITERALLY (!) (lol) the smallest kid in the whole school. 4 foot 11. Less than 90 pounds. (Dripping wet. Hah!)
Now, I happen to go to a private Catholic school that (I’m pretty sure) happens to be the only school ever simultaneously ranked #1 in the nation in two sports at the same time. (Go Mater Dei!!)
And… Let’s just say my athletic career ended abruptly at age 12. (Laughing.)
All of which is fine. I went on to become the editor of the school newspaper, president of the largest (nerd) club on campus and carried a 4.whatever GPA and all that jazz en route to UCLA, etc.
But my identity was smart nerd. Not Athlete.
Fast-forward a decade. I’m now 28. I sold my first business and had enough time and money to take a little time off to figure out what I wanted to do when I grow up. I read a lot, traveled a bit, etc. And, I got into triathlon.
I worked with some coaches. They put me on a 90-day training regimen (starting with a track MAF Test, btw). I did exactly what they told me to do. And, apparently, I had such quick gains that they told me I should train for the Olympics.
I didn’t give their comment much thought. I thought they were just being nice—which, of course, might have been the only motivation behind their comments but… I wasn’t an “athlete” so I didn’t even consider the possibility that I could actually be very (very!) good.
So… I dabbled in triathlon (anti-Mastery!) for a very brief season and then moved on to whatever I moved on to next—never even coming remotely close to exploring my athletic potential.
Fast-forward again. This time 15 years or so to a few weekends ago.
I do my third Spartan Beast. It’s almost exactly one year after my first one. Here’s where it starts to get interesting…
Context: Spartan Races come in essentially three flavors: short, medium and long (usually up and down mountains and/or ski slopes, etc. with varying numbers of obstacles). The short is a 3- to 4-mile “Sprint.” The medium is a 6- to 8-mile “Super.” The long is a 12- to 14-mile “Beast”
Before my first Beast, I’d done a Sprint and a Super but I’d never trained longer than my 3-mile daily hike so I didn’t even know if I could do the Beast. I (literally!) almost didn’t show up. I got to the starting line (always the most important obstacle!) and I did the Race at a leisurely pace. I finish it. (There’s no way I wasn’t finishing it. lol) I place a respectable but certainly not remarkable #1,270 out of 4,500 people in the Open division.
Now, we arrive at a few weekends ago.
I race this Beast with the competitive age-group guys. I place 7th out of those 149 guys which I’m pretty happy about as it puts me one step closer to hitting the target of being a world-class athlete via placing in the Top 10 for my age group in a qualifying event. (This one wasn’t a qualifying event so the competition wasn’t as stiff so it didn’t count, etc.)
Here’s what’s interesting.
Had I raced in the Open division, my time would have placed me #10 out of 4,500+ people.
So… In a year, I effectively went from #1,270 to #10—from the 71.78th percentile to the 99.78th percentile.
(Now, to be clear: In terms of competing with the truly elite guys, I have a long way to go. But I find that absolutely fascinating…)
Why is that relevant for our purposes?
Because I think the results had a LOT more to do with an IDENTITY shift than anything else. Sure, a year had lapsed. I trained a little more, I knew I could do that distance, etc. But what really changed was the fact that I was now living from the Identity of a World-Class Athlete.
I had made my decision that I was absolutely (!) going for the world-class standard and getting ready to see if my best could actually be the best in the world.
My Identity PROFOUNDLY shifted.
And so did my behaviors. And so did my results.
It has really made me wonder if my old triathlon coaches might have had a point… And, more importantly, where else I (and we) might be limiting ourselves in our lives.
All of which brings us (thanks for sticking in—you’re an Endurance +1er!! 🙂) to the point of Today’s +1.
How’s your Identity?
Are you limiting yourself in unnecessary ways?
Maybe telling yourself you’re just not _____________________ <- fill-in-the-blank-whatever?
What if that wasn’t true? What if you actually COULD be that thing you’ve told yourself you aren’t or can’t be. Maybe you can be super-healthy. And/or lean and muscular. An athlete even.
Or… Perhaps you COULD be happier or more courageous or more confident or more creative or…
So… Let’s remember that our Identities matter. A lot.
Let’s start with a powerful “who.”
Let’s choose our Identities wisely and remember the wisdom in the adage (thank you, Henry): “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
And this one is worth keeping in mind as well (thank you, Lucius): “It is not because things are difficult that you do not dare. It is because you do not dare that things are difficult.”