Commit. Push.01 Feb 2013
Published in Offscreen Magazine, Issue #4.
"Why? Why am I doing this? This is INSANE!"
I can't ignore the pain my body is in, but can only continue to move forward successfully if I embrace the difficulties. There's no energy to spare on negative thoughts. Of course I want a successful finish, but my focus is on the processes, in the present. I concentrate on the things I can control: the fuel I take on, the pace I work at, the thoughts inside my head. I try to convince my body to repeat the motions that I have practiced, for hours, days, months, years. It's an extraordinary space, feeling at the limit of what your body and mind are capable of, transcending thinking in favor of just feeling, with absolute focus on pushing yourself forward. The awareness of what I achieved seeps in days, weeks later, and makes me feel incrediblyâ€¦ alive.
I started training for triathlon in 2009. Within a year, the benefits in my work life were tangible. Things that once would have intimidated or scared me, still did, but I felt able to start, to at least try, knowing I'd get through it. I failed to finish my first attempt at Ironman, in June 2010. Having spent nine months training to complete this event, I was devastated by my failure, for a few hours. But the benefits of my practice and experience outweighed the outcome of that one day. Sport encourages a willingness to put yourself out there, with no guarantees that it will work. The rewards of that approach ripple through every other aspect of life.
When I was first asked to speak at a conference, in 2010, my initial reaction was "No. Way.". I didn't have the skills or nerve to stand up and speak in public. But I accepted the opportunity, knowing I could apply the same approach from my sports training: learning from those who are more skilled and experienced; planning; practicing.
Through the planning and reflection that surrounds racing I am accountable for my failures, but also celebrate my successes, even the little ones. I take ownership of my strengths and weaknesses, and get support to help work on whatever limits my progress. These are processes that can obviously be applied to our professional practice as programmers.
Of course there are wonderful physical health benefits to regular exercise, but it's the mental processes that can perhaps have the largest impact on our work as creative makers. Pushing the boundaries of what we're capable of redefines who we are.
[caption id="attachment_748" align="alignnone" width="440" caption="Photo: Bob Foy"][/caption]