Perhaps you’ve been through a phase in life in which you’re not so proud, or weren’t so happy. It’s quite common for example at 19 or 20 years old, to go all Goth in the head and question everything you believe. It’s moments like those in life when the whole world seems to be conspiring against you.
Of course, it can happen much later in life as well. Marriages can dissolve. Jobs end. Life is tough at times, no doubt about it.
The difficult part in many of these circumstances is that you are often not wrong at the time. A marriage can go badly. It may not be your imagination, even less your fault. And when a work situation goes sour and you feel like dead meat, the reasons may or may not be justified. Perhaps you went against the grain when the entire company was caught up in some mad scheme for profitability or desperate moves to correct some flaw in product or services. But being the brave one in those situations can get you fired.
It hurts badly when you’ve been lied to and told to keep your opinions to yourself. Even years later when you’ve been proven right about some situation at home or at work, it really doesn’t help much, does it? Being right simply isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be sometimes.
That doesn’t mean you should give in. But it can pay to learn from the circumstance while you’re living it.
During my junior year in college, the winter was cold and dark and miserable. Our track team was out in the murk and freezing wind training every day nevertheless. And every damned day felt like a race. No one would slow down and run even 7:00 mile pace. We raced every day at 6:00 pace. I made mention of the fact that we did not have to run so hard all the time, but was ridiculed for it. But rather than bite my tongue, I complained even more. That brought more snarky comments, and finally I snapped. Took off at 5:00 pace and went mad. Perhaps I got reeled back in but I don’t recall that happening.
That night or a couple days later my roommate advised me, “Cud, you just need to shut up and run.”
And I took that advice. And that winter I did set all my indoor track PRs. That spring, the results were decent as well. I’d learned the lesson of keeping my own counsel and not complaining.
Yet the following winter, a talented roommate and I made the decision not to go the route of daily winter training madness. We trained intelligently, running long runs slower and choosing our spots for speedwork. We separated ourselves from the main group and shut up and ran. Kept our own counsel. That spring I set a school record in the steeplechase that was later broken, but the results were there.
The things we learn
A couple years after college I found myself training with a group of highly talented runners out in Pennsylvania. These guys were 29:00-30:00 10K guys, and sub-2:20 marathoners. Their training methods, as I’ve documented many times in this blog, were radically different than those we abided by in college. Long, slow runs were just that. Long and slow, until the very end, when speed took over. Using that base as a foundation, I rewrote all my PRs from 5K to 25K.
We’d been doing it wrong in college. I was right to complain back then.
Still, no one likes a complainer. I certainly don’t. And so the right way to go about that circumstance if I’d wanted to change things back in college would have been to find information about the right way to train and introduce it to the group. Make a case. Convince the masses. This is how it works in the work world, in relationships and everything else.
I have this algorithm about communications. It goes like this: Complaint is a lack of respect. Lack of respect is a lack of trust. Lack of trust leads to a lack of love. And that’s why complaint is bad. It starts the cycle of negativity that sets off all sorts of other problems.
So you must introduce the right information, the right way and at the right time in order to effect change.
But honestly, we had the right information available. Everyone on the cross country and track team had read the books by Arthur Lydiard and training methods of Percy Cerutty. We all knew better. We were just too competitive and naive to adapt ourselves to that reality. Our coaches in many cases gave us the right workouts. We just ran them too hard. All the time.
Which likely held us back in some ways, and caused injuries. The five guys that came in as freshmen that had run under 15:00 for three miles in high school never achieved that level of accomplishment together. We all had our moments, but it wasn’t until some freshman came in to fill the gaps we’d left that we took second in the nation as a team.
That’s how it is so often in life. It’s not until we get far enough past a circumstance to understand it fully. It might be a bad marriage or a difficult work situation. When you’re in the thick of it, there’s almost nothing you can do to see around the present and gain a grip on what you should really do.
Except shut up and run. You’ll get through. And it will hopefully all make sense somewhere down the road.