It’s OK to be a Donkey

First of all, I’m not a genetically gifted athlete. I’m just an average guy who tries really hard. This is best summed up from a quote I had read somewhere a long time ago:

You are not a thoroughbred racehorse. You are a donkey. You may become a very fast donkey, but you will never be a thoroughbred.

On the surface it sounds a lot like some negative thinking. It’s really not. The top athletes are the embodiment of this sentiment though. They have the genetic disposition to physically succeed. Their interests coincide with their predisposition for a particular sport. It’s the perfect recipe for success, just with rare ingredients.

It makes sense that there are so few hugely successful athletes in the world, at least from a statistics standpoint. For reference, in 2014 there were 13,700 professional athletes across all sports in the United States. The population at that time was 318.9 million people. Do the math. That means only 0.00004% of the U.S. population were pro athletes in 2014. They weren’t all superstars either.

So what does that mean? Are the odds stacked so heavily against me that I should give up? If you’re only goal is to make it to a professional level of athletics, then the statistics may not look good for you. I’m not worried about the statistics.

Never tell me the odds. – Han Solo

More than any possibility of “making it big” is the fact that I have a sense of belonging in these games. I have found a group of people with whom I have a common interest. We may be competing against each other on paper, but our biggest competitor is ourselves. Nearly everyone I’ve spoken with since getting involved with the Highland Games has said the same thing. We’re always trying to beat our last throw.

I want to succeed. I tell myself every day that I will succeed. Before anyone else will believe in you, you have to believe in yourself. It doesn’t matter what goals you have, just speak it and believe it. The possibilities are endless with enough hard work and faith.

I may always be a donkey, but eventually I’ll be a donkey running races with the thoroughbreds.

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Think Right, Throw Right

Next month I will compete in the Smoky Mountain Highland Games in Maryville, TN. It’ll be my second event and it’s considerably larger in scope than my first. I wasn’t nervous about the first and I’m not nervous about the next. I’m probably more concerned about not having any apprehension than anything else. I think any normal person, with normal thought processes, would feel at least a little bit of fear or worry stepping into a larger playing field. It seems that I’m not that normal.

In preparation for the events this season I’ve been trying to practice as often as possible, with once a week being a goal. This is not always a goal that’s met due to factors like heavy rain (like this past weekend) or a holiday (the weekend prior). I did attempt to get a few throws in on Easter after church service, however. The results were not so good.

I’m still working on my form in the weight-for-distance event and decided that I’d start off attempting a few 2-turn throws. In my mind I knew exactly what I wanted to do; how my feet should land, where the weight would be through each turn, and when to release. I envisioned a perfect throw. What I achieved was no less than a comedy of errors. The weight and I danced, but not in a graceful or beautiful by anyone’s standard. I’m sure it looked violent and painful to anyone who may have caught a glimpse of our performance. The turns were forced and mechanical. The released was premature and off target. I resigned myself to a handful of sub-par single turn throws to clear my head.

I moved on to heavy hammer throws. I enjoy the hammers event; it feels good and I’m not too bad at it. I thought that I’d redeem myself with something I like. I made one really good throw. The next throw resulted in catastrophic failure of my homemade hammer setup. As I brought the hammer around for the release, the handle shattered and sent 10 lb plates flying across the field. Thankfully, I was alone that day and no casualties were incurred. I collected the remains of my useless implement and skulked back to the car. The seeds of self-doubt were beginning to take root.

At this point I knew I should have packed it in and called a day; to reflect on all of the mistakes and make mental notes of where I need to make form adjustments (as well as physical replacement for the broken hammer). I am not a man who readily responds subtle hints. This day was no exception and I pressed on, still convinced that I’d make this practice happen. My decision to work on the weight-over-bar throw sealed my fate. The area that we use for practice doesn’t have a high bar, so WOB and sheaf are done for form only. I threw once; it went up and came down as intended. Gravity hadn’t betrayed me yet. The next throw was the deal breaker. The weight came down on the handle, thus turning a perfect circular ring into a severely malformed D-shape. I gave up and loaded everything back the car. There was no way I was going to risk more disappointment by pulling out the fork and sheaf at this point. The practice was officially over for me.

I can laugh about it now. At the time it was devastating. I performed terribly, my hammer rendered useless, and my ring handle was almost totally destroyed. On the surface it wasn’t a productive day; I was disappointed and had let those seeds of doubt root a little too deeply than They should have. What I learned after the fact was that I persisted, even after the first (and second) setbacks. I get at it. Implements can be repaired or replaced. Knowing that I have the will to keep going forward when it seems like the whole universe is working against me is the best lesson to have learned that day.

Proverbs 24:10 (KJV)  – If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.

I don’t want small strength, in any form. I want strength in my mind, strength in my body, and strength in my spirit. All of these strengths are achievable. I had to look at my “failures” during this practice to see that perseverance was the driving force in what I was trying to do. I can do anything if I believe it and speak it.

2 Chronicles 15:7 (KJV)Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded.

Be persistent in moving toward your goals and never give up. Say, out loud, what you want to achieve. Believe it. Don’t let the seeds of doubt get their foothold and above all else, remember that you are never alone in your challenges when you have Christ in your life.

 

“Hello, Audience. I am Potato.”

This is exactly how I feel trying to write things down for this blog. I’m a pretty decent writer if you’re looking for detailed technical reports, graphs, and/or hard data. Creating something that makes an emotional connection is difficult for me. I’m a scientist and communicate like one…but I’m working on being more versatile in the way I connect with people. Just hang in there. I’ll try to keep this interesting.

Maybe I should start off by saying what this is all about. In short, this will be where I lay down my thoughts about being a competitor; how it affects me and how I affect the people I get to meet along the way. My goal is to offer inspiration; athletically and spiritually. I’m far from perfect in any respect, but I’m a work in progress like everyone else.

So why would I even think about getting in the Highland Games now? I just turned 40 this year. Admitting that is a small victory in itself…but it’s more about how you feel, what you think, and what you say that really defines your age, in my opinion. Most days I still believe I’m in my 20s.

Feeling good has been one of many important factors in my decision to compete. Just over a year ago I was sent to a spine specialist after I developed severe lower back pain. An MRI later and surgery was being presented as the only option to possibly alleviate a severely ruptured disc. My wife and I agreed that surgery was an absolute last resort and opted to try injections first.

The injections were successful. What many people failed to see is that our thinking and believing had to change before the body would respond. I had to know, without a doubt, that I was already healed. I had to keep believing this despite what my body was telling me, despite the doctor saying that I had one of the worst ruptures he’d ever seen, and despite others telling me that I was bound to be permanently crippled. I had to have faith. That’s a hard thing to hold on to when everything and everyone seems to be against you.

Mark 11:24Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.

So, we prayed and believed…and we prayed and believed. We would put aside the doubt and know that I was back to 100%. Eventually the body catches up with the mind. For some, it’s nearly immediate; for others a bit slower. The most important part is the believing and actually saying out loud what you believe. Regardless of the approach, recovery is a process with ordered steps.

Speak it. Believe it. Receive it.

The approach is simple, but effective. Don’t let a negative mindset or discouragement from anyone keep you from your full potential. We are all capable and able to do great things. We just need to vocalize in order to realize.

There’s Always a Beginning

Welcome to the very first post on my blog. I hope to encourage others by showing them that there are no limits to what’s possible as long as you believe. Sounds like some $89.95 seminar at the Holiday Inn conference room, right? Not quite. I’m no salesman, superhero or shining example of fantastic genetics; just an ordinary guy with a little bit of extraordinary faith. In fact, I never imagined that I’d be persuing a competitive athletic career, vlogs, or even church attendance in a not-so-distant past.

I, like many people, have that same story about being raised in the church and walking away when I was old enough to make my own decisions.That thread of commonality is probably one of the few things that most people would find as “normal” here in the South, if discussing your faith life wasn’t so awkward. What most people don’t seem to realize is that the people in the churches have that same story. It’s only the smallest percentage that have remained in the church throughout their life.

So, you may be asking, “What’s that have to do with me?” It means that it’s never too late to get reintroduced to your faith. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I had kept doing things my way. My health, my education, my opportunities, and my marriage would never have succeeded were it not for the love of Christ.

Success is the result of two things: faith and work. Philipphians 4:13 may be one of the Bible verses that many people in the strength community use, but they use it for good reason .

I can do all things through Christ which strengeneth me.  KJV

I also find motivation in this Latin phrase:

Labor Omnia Vincit. “Hard work conquers all things”.

When faith and work are applied together, then nothing is impossible.