This thought came to me a couple of weeks ago before a bike ride. I was having a discussion with a friend of mine who owns a jiu-jitsu gym. Sadly, the gym has been shut down for at least 3 months now. He was talking to me about what he was going to do membership wise, steps to take to reopen when allowed to, and the timeline for these efforts. I don’t know much about the business aspect of it so I could not offer much input. He and I usually discuss things that aren’t business related but more life philosophy related. Due to this ignorance, I did my best to simply listen, offering some encouragement and support. At one point, he mentioned that he may just shut it down; that this bold move would be okay with him. I wasn’t too sure about that. I didn’t say anything to him, but personally I thought that that would actually really destroy him on a mental level. Even spiritual (something all BJJ disciples experience after about 3 months).
After riding for about an hour I happened to come across an old farmer’s museum that was closed. I put the bike down and stared across a glass smooth pond. I thought about his sentiments. His effort to let ego go. Audacious. But then again, with my own ego, I thought a little more. He can’t close. He can’t close something that is truly part of his being. An extension of himself. I messaged him in regard to reopening, “It just has to get done.” He can’t live without that gym and I know that. He’s put in too much love. Too much effort. Too much pain. All to build up an incredible membership. It’s a special place. There really is a presence when you walk in. Honestly, I can’t explain it. There’s an aire. An aura. You can feel a film, a film of commitment on your skin when you leave. A residue of passion. A lure of transformation. I messaged him again and said, “Bro, you can’t close the gym. Too much of YOU is in it. You’ll lose much of your being if you decide to close. All that effort for X number of years to get to this point of success. You will do it again. It doesn’t matter what obstacles are in your way. You will figure out the solution. And the reason why? Because you have to. You have no choice. There’s no other way for YOU. Too much of your SELF has been implanted into the walls and foundation of your establishment. It just has to get done.” A pound of flesh is not too much to give in this circumstance.
Of course, failure is always an option. He’s fine with failure. He understands that failure is the fuel that drives you towards success. Cutting off that fuel supply, because of fear of failure, isn’t an option. It’s not an option when a part of you becomes melded to something you’ve grown. On the other side of this struggle is success. He gets it.
This line of thinking came to me a few years ago. My school was hosting a track and field invitational with at least 20 schools attending. The preparation prior to an event like this can be a bit overwhelming. I am fortunate to have the pleasure of coaching with my father who has about 40 years of experience. Following his lead, I have discovered things that people already know but sometimes simply need to experience for themselves to really understand why certain processes just work. He’s now into his 70’s and someone I guess you’d call a “Boomer.” But from what I know about the Baby Boomers is that no other generation after them can match their work ethic. I see it all the time in myself or with friends, that we all too often think there is a better way. An easier way. But as Ryan Holiday has written, “the obstacle IS the way.” You can’t simply close your eyes and hope to skirt the work in front of you. You take a step, turn potential into kinetic, and get the work done one thing at a time. Showing up early, bearing down, and ticking off each step of the process, relentlessly, gets you to a proper result. You don’t stop because you need some sort of mental break. Or because you don’t feel like it. You work until it’s completed. Have you tried it? It is possible to work through mental and physical anguish and still come out fine. Leave the phone home. You don’t need a glass of water. That beer can be a reward LATER. This process can’t wait until tomorrow. These “breaks” are luxuries we haven’t earned. That we don’t deserve. He knows this.
But what that generation had in simplicity of just getting to work, didn’t didn’t have in detachment from emotion. Losing a temper, yelling to get control, sarcastic digs, and the “because I told you to” attitude seems to be prevalent. And yes, I learned this habit too. Is it my father’s fault? Absolutely not. I recognize it and therefore should control it. I’m working on it.
So back to the track invitational… Our timer shows up and starts setting up his area and warming up the computers to make sure athletes are seeded and placed in the correct races, heats, and lanes. While this is going on, schools start to roll in. A local one came with about 40 athletes. None of them were in the database. The coach did not enter them properly in the days before the meet. Upon hearing this, my father exited the stadium to update me on the situation as I was directing bus traffic. He was fucking hot. Spitting fire about the incompetence, the lack of preparation, how it will hold things up. I looked at him and became the emotional polar opposite (as most of us do in this instance, the spite gene?). I looked at him and said, “We can’t get pissed off, they’re here, they’re ready, and we won’t send them home. Being mad about the entries isn’t getting us anywhere, it just has to get done. We have no other choice.” For the first time, that I can remember, he had a moment of clarity, dropped his guard, and said, “You know, that’s right.” Holy. Shit. I actually had to give myself a moment so I could revel in it a bit. Not that my dad is a prick. He’s one of the best things that ever happened to me. One of my best friends. Always supportive and encouraging. But this was different. He wasn’t praising an achievement, he was praising me on my perception of a situation. He acknowledged that some sort of wisdom had been laid out and opened his eyes just a little bit more. He let go of his ego and accepted it. He clearly understood that maybe this is a better course of action than yelling about a situation. We pitched in, helped the timer, got it done. Later, there was none of that reminiscing bullshit of “Can you believe that coach?” It simply turned out to be no factor. We had grown.
My father is a hell of a planner and worker. Put these together and you find some of the smoothest run cross-country and track events in the section over the past 40 years. I’ve learned a lot from him in this regard with organizing events. From this example, I stepped into organizing my own events. From the Rat Snake, to a three school elementary Turkey Trot, to organizing my own cross-country invitational each fall. What I had learned the hard way was that emotion simply isn’t a factor needed in the formula. These events have to get done. Because, like my friend and jiu-jitsu instructor, I am physically and spiritually attached to them too much NOT to organize them. The events don’t care about your emotions. Coaches don’t care about your emotions. The athletes don’t care about your emotions. When all is said and done, your emotions will have changed nothing. If they have, it’s a shallow change. A change without roots. A change with no change.
Shit just has to get done. If it’s shit you don’t like, that’s your fault. It still has to get done. What better way to think clearly? What better way to stay positive? There will be plenty of emotions from everyone else around you. YOU need to be the dependable one. Do it and do it right. It baffles me when I see colleagues or see friends simply blowing things off. How is this possible? Having to get it done is an action that simply becomes a moral imperative. It needs to get done whether you like it or not. Get it done. What other choice do you have?