Don’t give up before you start

  • This was printed in March of 2015 in The Madera Tribune, a newspaper in Madera, California. This was the 94th installment of my weekly column, Mind Over Miles.

Last week I became guilty of a tactic that I hate the most — the built-in

excuse.

Before I explain, I’ll admit that I set out to write this column about someone

else.

This person notoriously announces a pre-race excuse before each and

every event. When they fail to meet their goal, they refer to their pre-race

excuse. When they do well, they boast about succeeding despite setbacks.

I was ready to point the finger and call the person out on it, but then

realized I needed to direct that finger right back at myself.

I was scheduled to run the San Joaquin River Trail Half Marathon on

Saturday, just six days after running the Heavenly Half Marathon. By

Friday, my legs were still sore and tight from Sunday’s race, and I began to

get nervous about the upcoming event. I started telling people that

Heavenly had done a number on my legs, and they were not feeling 100

percent for the SJRT.

Friends and fellow runners validated my excuse. “You ran a PR (personal

record) and got third place at Heavenly! Of course you’re sore!”

In truth, I was giving up on myself before I even started.

When the SJRT race began, I flew downhill on the first mile and realized

that my legs weren’t as beat up as I thought they were. I mentally

chastised myself for second guessing my abilities and level of training.

How lame of me to offer up excuses before the race was over — actually,

before it even began — and allow others to have low expectations for my

performance.

I gave it all I had, just as I have trained to do, and took home a beautiful,

handcrafted second place trophy.

This lesson in competition turned into a life lesson.

It’s all too easy to provide an excuse before you start something; think

about how common it is. We’ve all heard, or said, some version of, “I’ve

never done this before, so don’t expect it to be great”?

We’ve heard contestants on a singing competitions say, “I’ve had a cold,

so my voice is hoarse. This won’t be my best.”

A dinner party host might say, “I haven’t made this dish before, so I’m sorry

if it didn’t turn out well.” They may even say this if it’s a dish they’ve made

dozens of times.

Or how about the new hire who tells customers right off the bat, “It’s my

first day on the job,” even before they make a mistake?

In each of these cases, if the end result isn’t fantastic, the excuse for

failure has already been publicized and the person is more easily forgiven.

If the result is successful, the person earns praise because the “audience”

has been conditioned to hold low expectations.

Just because everyone does it, it doesn’t mean it’s right.

Strive to be the person who doesn’t offer excuses, but instead appreciates

the results they get after giving 100 percent.

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