What I learned from the Ironman that changed my life

The Ironman triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride ending with a 26.2-mile marathon run. What went on from the very instant I decided to attempt it to finally finishing the race taught me more than I could have ever learned from a college degree of study.

“It was like anything that has ever been worthwhile in my life; it was hard, painful and memorable.” Michael Lantz

It was like anything that has ever been worthwhile in my life; it was hard, painful and memorable. I learned a great deal about the conflict of my body hurting and wanting to stop and my mind playing tricks on me, tempting me to quit.

If I had to sum up the top three things I learned about myself it would include these.

Commitment

I learned that my level of commitment is equal to the importance I place on my goals and dreams. When I decided to do my first Ironman on April 15, 2007, I was all in. I was not going to let anything get in the way of crossing that finish line. 

Seeing that which no one else sees

I’ve had my kids try and explain certain things to me that they could understand but I couldn’t. “Oh, dad!” they’d exclaim.

I understand things that I wished my kids would let me teach them. “Dad, that’s old stuff!” they’d roll their eyes back in their heads.

I’m sure you totally understand certain things that you wished everyone could see as clearly as you.

When I finally understand a truth it’s really a blessing to me. I’m sure you feel the same way.

I like the quote, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.”

It seems to me that the key for me to teach the truth to my children is recognizing when they are ready to be taught. Usually I know they are ready when they ask me for advice or help (I like it when they tell me how smart I really am when they learn to deal with their own children). At other times when they may be struggling and I have knowledge that will help them I’ll simply ask, “I used to struggle with that too. I don’t anymore. Would you be open to learning what I did?” Almost always they will say yes.

I’m sure why you see things that others don’t is that you were once the “student” who was ready to learn. You either found a teacher or the teacher somehow found you.

Now I know why blind people can see better than those with sight. It’s that “ready to learn” pair of glasses.

If pain is a great teacher, why do you avoid it?

FB-Pic-TempletMost people agree that they’ve learned a great deal and become a better person because they suffered pain. Yet everyone agrees that they do not like pain and avoid it. If pain is a great teacher and many people are grateful for what they learned, why avoid pain? Why not seek it to learn from it?

There are two kinds of pain; physical and emotional.

In the Ironman triathlons (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run) I’ve finished I’ve experienced physical and emotional pain.  I’ve experienced physical pain during the swim when I got kicked in the face and even on the bike when someone crashed into me and I went flying. But usually the swim and bike phases are relatively pain-free. But the run ALWAYS produces pain and a lot of it. ALWAYS!

I’ve experienced emotional pain when disappointment set in when I knew I was not going to set a personal record or the time a great friend of mine had to end competing due to injury and I knew how much disappointment she felt.

Pain has a way of teaching us better than almost any other method. The pain is deep and causes us to have to look deep inside us. It changes our physical DNA and brainwaves too, allowing us to become stronger the next time.

Most people avoid pain at all costs. Many people who are pragmatic or realist never set outrageous goals because they do not want to feel any pain; physical or emotional. Yet visionaries set unreachable goals that always create pain to achieve it. Many people can’t take failure because of the emotional pain. I am convinced the body naturally goes in a flight for safety mode to avoid pain.

But again, pain is a great teacher.

Consider a few facts. If you’ve experience pain and learned from it, are you now happier as a result? You didn’t die from the pain. Did the pain endure and not go away? Was the price of learning and becoming a stronger person worth the price of the pain?

I’ve begun to believe that I need to seek pain. I know it’s only temporary. I know I will not die from it. I know the reward will always been greater than the pain I suffered. So why not seek it?

Finish #8Take Ironman triathlon for a moment. As an endurance athlete about 90% of what I do is not painful. That’s a long easy swim,  run or bike ride. I’ve built up my endurance and its easy for me to run 10-12 miles without pain or a 6 hour 100+ mile bike ride. Going easy, though, does not build speed or strength. I have to go hard. I have to experience pain to stress my body so that it can adapt. I’ve learned to actually enjoy training induced pain. I only focus on the result of what the pain will create. It makes doing the hard and painful intervals go by fast. I’m usually sore and stiff for a day or two but it passes as my body grows stronger.

In my life I accept the notion that there has to be emotional pain to become a better person. Most of the pain for me is in conquering my fears. For the longest time I worked at conquering my fear of just simply calling people I knew and introducing them to my business. I would dread just doing the mundane parts of my profession yet those tasks are so valuable in building my team.

I’ve experienced, like perhaps many of you, the pain of seeing one of my children suffer. You learn to love more and be empathetic to their situation and needs. You learn to sacrifice your needs and time to serve them.  That emotional pain has strengthened me as a person and then my capacity to love and serve grows deeper.

I don’t know if you agree with me about my conclusion to seek pain but I really believe pain was given to us as a tool to grow and seeking to feel it and conquer it is actually for our benefit.