While many of my peers are retiring or planning to do so in the near future, I have no plans to retire for another ten years or so. There are many reasons for that having to do with career shifts and dealing with the impacts of caregiving for a mother, a father and a wife for well over a decade, but that’s life. We adapt to circumstances the best way we can.
Full creative forces
Beyond those immediate concerns, the truth is that I have begun to feel the full force of my creative impulses come to fruition. It is an exceptional process when you put your mind to something and can do it directly and with intention.
This is true now in my writing, painting, relationships and fitness activities. Right now I have a book completed that is titled Rescuing Christianity from the Grip of Tradition. There is another book in the works titled Nature Is Our Country Club. I have a work of fiction titled Admissions that I originated years ago and am editing for publication based on a far better grasp of the writing process gained through decades of content creation. I have a children’s book series written and will illustrate when time allows. The foundations for a book I am titling Competition’s Son are contained within this blog that I’ve written for eight years. Nothing goes to waste. The book I wrote about cancer survivorship is already published on Amazon.com. It is titled The Right Kind of Pride.
Not the conventional, or retiring type
Long ago I adopted an idea that popped into my head while running one day. I call it the Transfer of Excellence. That is, when you set out to do one thing really well, it empowers you to apply the lessons learned to other life focuses.
I took up full-time running in late high school years and carried out that mission of competitive athletics through my late 20s. Other priorities finally demanded my time. During those fifteen years of competitive life, I did not become world class or win Olympic medals, but did learn how to plan for success, carry out the work to prepare for it, and execute in competitive circumstances. I won a ton of races, even beating thousands of people at a time. It wasn’t always easy, but it was worth it.
There were successes and failures along the way. Each taught me valuable life lessons. Following a success such as setting a running personal record, one learns to recalibrate for the next goal. That means even more training, focus and setting sights on new objective. That’s the most direct form of transfer of excellence. Building on success within a singular activity is the linear form of transfer of excellence.
Success also comes from understanding and building off our failures. Through self-examination, we learn to analyze the cause, objectify the outcomes and gather the mental fortitude to try again despite the presence of doubt or fear. My son Evan Cudworth is embarking on an incredible journey to help people process that brand of insight. It’s called Failure To Lunch. His full release is coming up later this autumn, but already he’s helping people come to grips with their own life processes. In his career a a college choice advisor, he’s already helped hundreds of people achieve their academic dreams by getting into premiere colleges the legitimate way.
Fear of success
We may not know it in the moment, but the transfer of excellence also takes place as an abstract force for other phases of life. When my late wife was diagnosed with cancer, my high school coach contacted me. The first thing he said was prescient: “Your whole life has been a preparation for this.” He was right. Learning how to deal with life’s obstacles is a major part of dealing with stress, anxiety, even depression in the face of fear––because fear is the enemy of all excellence.
Fear of success is also real. Anyone that has set a PR in any athletic pursuit quickly realizes that the stage is set to do even better, but it comes with tension. It can be difficult to cope with those expectations. Fear holds us back. Too quickly, we forget the lessons learned along the way. Instead, we concentrate on the reasons why it will be so hard to succeed again. We worry what others will think about us, how they’ll judge us if we don’t live up to what we think they want from us. In those circumstances, it’s easy to back off or give up in some way.
We’ve all done it. I’ve done it. You’ve done it. Entire societies do it. We’re dealing with the process of letting fear take over in America right now. All this bluster of Make America Great Again and the disgrace of abuse and lies is a massive attempt to hide societal failures behind a mask of aggressive triumphalism. It’s all based on a lie.
But it’s not uncommon for people to lie to themselves in order to seek a shortcut to success. Even world-class athletes and entrepreneurs and famous entertainers deal with fears of success and notions that they’re a fraud. That self-doubt and the mental games we play go hand-in-hand with fear of failure. It is the same way with anxiety as the flipside of depression. Self-ruminative thoughts circle around us like reality turned inside out. That’s what it feels like in the world today. It’s making us all crazy. That’s why it’s so important to solidify our own foundations for success and confidence.
Building on successes
That is where the transfer of excellence can come in handy. It is helpful to realize that if you’re struggling in some aspect of life––and we all do at times––we can look to our other successes for encouragement. Deep inside, we know that we have what it takes to succeed. We just might need to access it from another perspective.
This past weekend I completed my first 70.3 triathlon. It was a like a Road Trip to self validation. The race hurt those last five miles, but having been through discomfort hundreds of times in my career, I knew that I was nowhere near reaching the limits of my endurance. Sore toes and tired feet, exhausted quads and a tight back did not stop me. Nor will a few setbacks in life hold me back from persevering. I have more fight in me than most. So do you.
The feeling I get when doing a painting or other artwork is quite similar to the sensations during a really great run. It feels like some sort of mental depth is achieved, almost like my hand and mind are so connected that the paint or pastel flows from brain right out the tip or width of the brush.
When writing, I am drawn away from mundane thoughts by the challenge to create something original. It feels the same way on a bike, or while swimming when the body connects with a machine or the flow of water all around you.
Gearing up for success
I am here to make the case that this transfer of excellence happens in other aspects of life as well.
While the workplace can seem at times like the fulcrum of distraction, or when conducting business from home during the Covid crisis seems disconnected from the abstraction we all call “work,” you need to realize that it’s possible to draw out the better parts of your mind if you set fear of success or failure aside and access that part of yourself that loves and embraces excellence. It’s there within us all.
I’d like to hear your experiences along these lines. Your story is valid and valuable in every respect. This blog has profiled many people who work to achieve their own version of success. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share moments when you first experienced success in life, at any stage, and how you feel it transfers to other parts of life.
The transfer of excellence is where dreams and practicality meet. Let’s share that world, shall we?