I love it when I f*ck up. Find it amusing. My kids love it too. They roll their texting eyes and go, “OMG dad.”
This morning in conversation with my fiance Sue, I was discussing a fun coaching session I conducted with a friend named Oliver. He’s got some talent for running and already has his swimming chops down. So I was downloading the experience of working with him and tried to relate his swim times. This is how it went.
It’s quite easy to misquote times in an innocent conversation. You just admit it and move on. I rather love finding out I’ve messed up badly. Some of life’s funniest circumstances come out of honest mistakes. While blogging about my personal history years ago I misquoted the date my son was born. It made it appear that he was a love child. My two kids conducted a side conversation, aghast and amazed at what might be true.
Then they called me: “Hey dad, were those dates correct in that blog?”
And they weren’t. And I was chagrined. And it was hilarious.
I’ve written more than 10000 articles online. Yes, that could be called neurotic. But I’ve also published a couple books, and material from those blogs make up those books. That’s still happening to this day.
This blog alone is written 5 days a week all year. That adds up to 260 blogs per year, and it’s been going for three years. That’s more than 1000 articles right there. I do it for love, yet it has also helped to get me paid work. So it’s worth it to me.
Occasionally I get detractors about things I write. I’ve gotten some facts wrong, or cited weak sources. It happens. But largely, and for every word I write, there has been strong consideration over what’s being said. My liberalism and writing about political, environmental and business topics goes all the way back to before Reagan. I wrote a column called Straight Nature in the local newspaper in 1980. In the 90s I produced my own page in the newspaper called Environs.
Even while working in advertising and marketing, I published articles in newspapers and magazines, and had a pen name to write for a local publication that our newspaper Publisher considered a competitor. So I’ve done this through risk and reward
I’ve also done some straight news reporting on track and field, basketball and one rare chance to cover a football game. To be authentic, I called a coaching friend and got down on the sidelines to get a real feel for the action.
All of this was unconventional in many respects. Because while I essentially got a minor in English in college, I was not a J school graduate. Sometimes that shows. I f*ck things up. I don’t know Chicago Style the way I should. I still type two spaces instead of one after a period. I think. Maybe not any more. I guess not. But my love of writing, and trying to convey original thoughts, as the title of this blog suggests, is something I deeply care about.
Which is why I get a bit aggressive with people who attack my writing based on shallow or dogmatic premises. Or who throw worn out cliches at a topic, and spout hole-riddled ideology and anachronistic theology.
Because here’s the paradigm. One cannot arrive at original conclusions lightly. These may run counter to traditional opinion or conventional wisdom. Some people just can’t conceive why that’s valid. To question. To challenge. To push the subject. But to me, that’s the same thing as running a race. Let’s see who can get to the finish line of truth first.
I once started a race and found a competitor next to me who asked, “What pace are you running today?” I looked straight ahead and replied, “Faster than you.” And I took off and won by more than a minute clocking 24:49 for 5 miles. Touche.
To me it’s the same thing with competition over thought. And for forty years I’ve listened to staid conservatives complain about the pace of progressive change and I’ve replied, “Try to keep up.” Because all the great changes in American culture have been accomplished by liberal and progressive thinking. No regressive thinker has advanced the cause of science, for example, or medicine. As a result, the real f*ck ups in this world are those who refuse to try, claim it can’t be done, deny the evidence, refuse the right to research, and blame others for the problems they create by being such massive dolts. Jesus lambasted his disciples for being such dullards in being unable to appreciate the meaning of his parable, which were metaphorical, he reminded them, so that everyday, common people could understand the link between earthly foundations and spiritual realities. Duh. But his supposed disciples still didn’t get it. He cowed them. “Are you still so dull?”
In other words, “Try to keep up, if you can.” Remember Doubting Thomas?
I’ve started coaching runners and will become certified in a couple weeks because I believe in helping others. It’s a liberating feeling to share what you’ve learned and see progress in those willing to listen. It’s a direct and gratifying pleasure to share your experience in ways that can clearly help people improve their running.
My fiance is a swim coach and is getting certified to coach triathlon as well. She’s an excellent coach. She has aptitudes for seeing the mechanical deficiencies in swim strokes and excels at correcting them. Now she’s also taking the experience she’s earned in seven years of successful triathlon competition to become a certified USAT coach. That same weekend she’ll be taking the course and competing in triathlon nationals, I’ll be in Ann Arbor getting my coaching certificate for running. We hate to be apart for all that, but that’s progress for you.
I don’t see my writing as anything different from coaching. Way back in 1998 or so I was recognized by my high school as a Distinguished Alumni for my work as a Writer, Environmentalist and Artist. That was nearly 20 years ago. A plaque hangs on the high school wall with my picture on it. I laughed to myself upon receiving it, thinking of the Groucho Marx quip, “I don’t want to be a member of any club that would have me as a member…” And so, rather than viewing it as an an honor, I’ve always taken that award as a challenge. In some ways, I’ve succeeded at that challenge. In other ways, I’ve failed. But I’ve always tried to fail forward, as they say. I’ve taken risks. Invested in training that makes me relevant in a progressive society built around data, content marketing and social media. That is my progressive side.
My conservative side centers around paths to success that have not changed. For example, the same training principles that held true when I was running my best times back in the 80s as a young man still hold true today. It is still true that a combination of long distance running, mid tempo fartlek and track workout intensity builds fast, strong runners. Add in some weight and cross training, for sure. But the conventional wisdom in all this is that there are supposedly no shortcuts.
Except the things one learns about high-volume training is that it is not always the answer. Not for everyone. Progressive thinkers in running now recognize that intelligent use of speed and intensity can replace junk miles. And you’ll get better results, feel better and maybe even look better.
Granted, today’s world records may be a bit faster at the super-elite level, but we still don’t know how many of those athletes are taking drugs or not. And we also expect progress over time.
But the empiric data holds true. This year’s Olympic Trials 5000 meter race was won in a rather slow 13:35 time. It was Bernard Legat who won it, but if I’d been in the race at my peak, I could have held on through 4000 meters perhaps. I would have been 1:05 at the finish, which is a full lap. So I’ll admit that I was never world class, but I was close enough to learn a few things about what it takes to get there.
Like all athletes, I f*cked up a few things during my training and racing along the way. Overtrained. Undertrained. Raced too often. Went out too fast. Or too slow. But I got it right in a lot of ways along the way. I still consider it a great gift to have had the ability and honor to win a number of races over the years. It’s quite a feeling, coming across the line in first place. Except that time my jock broke in a high school race and I had to hold my shorts tight to my thighs so my dick would not flop out. That was a hilarious f*ck up on my part. The moral of that story is to never wear a jock being held together by one string. But who even wears those old-style jocks any more? They’re part of an anachronistic past, like an Old Testament relic we don’t need to abide. A conservative ghost, you might say. And irrelevant, for the most part, to modern conversation. So we grow with the times.
I see this world of writing and political thought and social memes much as I do the training I still do for triathlons and running races. It’s a constant learning experience in which progress is key. You either build from what you’ve learned and adapt to what time and life gives you, or you regress to something in the past. It’s important to change with the times, but also to make them happen.
But it’s not a straight-line journey, which makes it all the more forgiveable when you royally f*ck up. You must learn to laugh about it, and keep moving. Over tarsnakes and rough roads, choppy waters and deep dishes of tempting ice cream, one must keep on keeping on. And never stop laughing at yourself.