Is your best good enough? Damn straight it is!

 

 

There are many opportunities in your day-to-day life to do your best. Sadly we don’t always take the time to do it. Sometimes we settle for less and tell ourselves that it will be good enough. We cut corners at work or at school, we short-change our families on our commitments to them, we don’t always give our friends the friendship they deserve. The problem with settling for less is it can become a habit then grow into a normal state for everything you do.

The other side of this coin is that conscious decision to do the best you can in every situation. There is a chance to step up and see what you can do almost every day. Sometimes the stepping up is a big deal and other times it is a small thing but either way there is a lesson to be learned, that everything you do in life matters.

There are plenty of activities that will quickly let you know if you think you can get away with less than your best. If you are a great bowler and you stop working at your score then you will quickly find yourself in the gutter. If you have been hitting home runs but stop being committed to your swing, foul balls and strikeouts are your new future.

When you do try to do your best all the time then you find yourself in a great new place. Living by this principle is a challenge but taking that approach with physical exercise is a great way to develop the habit. If I face a challenge to see how many repetitions of an exercise I can do and I keep going to failure then I know I’ve done my best. But if it starts to get hard and I decide to stop early then I have just shortchanged myself.

     Watching athletes I know push themselves to their limits is both exciting and inspiring to witness. With the recent Crossfit Open Games competition there have been plenty of inspirational moments and they don’t all come from the top athletes. It is often far more impressive to me to see someone who is struggling with an exercise continue to try even through repeated failures. When they do get it, the moment is so much sweeter and I am grateful for these glimpses at greatness that come from them. You don’t have to be an uber athlete to be great in my book. You just have to put forth great effort. To do your best is the reward. That your best doesn’t compare to what a stronger athlete can do doesn’t mean that your best wasn’t good enough, because it was. Putting everything into a physical challenge is enormously satisfying because you truly know then that you absolutely tried your hardest. If someone feels that your score was a lesser score because its numeric value was lower than another athlete’s, then they don’t know anything about effort.

With physical effort the measurable results make it easier to recognize that someone has done their best. It’s more subtle in other areas and often takes a bit more sensitivity to recognize. That person who is quick to lend a helping hand, the one who knows the importance of doing things the right way and following through on those commitments we all face. Those are people who inspire me and help guide me to making better choices. In the end I hope to be measured by the way I lived my life not what I accumulated in it. I hope to simply do my best in all things and to all people because ultimately I know short cuts are dead ends and the real route lies in effort and commitment and integrity. The great thing about this is we all know deep inside of ourselves what our best is. We know we’ve done a good thing when we help someone or do something that makes a difference. The secret is to see that inside yourself and make it your goal.

Every day is a new chance to try to do your best.

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The Right Stuff

    Thomas Wolfe wrote about ‘The Right Stuff’ in his book on the astronaut program. He focused on that particular quality that made someone capable of doing what so many others couldn’t imagine doing. It was beyond courage or bravery, it was the calm belief in yourself to rise to the challenge, to not back down, to step forward when others would step away.

Very few people become astronauts and live the life that Wolfe wrote about but that doesn’t mean that the Right Stuff isn’t in all of us. The problem is not so much that we don’t have it, its just been buried too deep. The Right Stuff is not laying on the surface in most of us. It needs to be pulled from beneath the comfortable surroundings of a life too easy. It won’t be found channel surfing or buying take out dinners. It isn’t hidden in the cushions of your sofa or in the glove box of your luxury car.

The Right Stuff exists in struggle. It needs to be worked at and respected. It needs to be put to the test. You need to be challenged by it. We enjoy comfortable lives and it is easy to make comfort a goal and a standard to measure difficulty against. If its easy then its good, if its hard then its bad, has become an accepted mantra.

To find that Right Stuff in ourselves we need to be challenged. For most of us we are going to have to seek out our own challenges and sign up for the opportunity to push outside of our comfort zone. Physical challenges are our modern arena for facing the unexpected and finding the courage to step forward.

There is so much to be gained from facing a challenge that you think may be more than you can do but still going ahead and doing it. The Crossfit Open Competition is providing that chance to many of my fellow athletes and I’m delighted and filled with pride as I watch them take on these unknown workouts each Friday for five weeks. They push themselves to the limits of their endurance simply to face the challenge. I watch them dig deeper than they thought they could to do just one more repetition, to know that they held nothing back, to prove to themselves that they were up for the challenge. Each of them searches inside and discovers that they do in fact have the Right Stuff and learn a bit more about what they are capable of.

Complacency is the enemy of the Right Stuff. The more you fight against that easy path and seek the more difficult route, the more you will discover inside. The more willing you are to see what you are able to accomplish, the more you will expose your inner strength.

You don’t have to be an astronaut to soar, you just have to believe in yourself and be willing to commit to living life at 100%. The Right Stuff is waiting for you.

Defining Moments

 

There are moments in life that are going to shape your future. Many of these are obvious; the day you got married, the birth of child but there are so many other moments that only in retrospect become recognizable as important.

The cross-country motorcycle trip I did with my brother when I had just turned 16 was definitely a defining moment for me. From that experience came a degree of confidence and independence that was far beyond my years. That trip matured me to the point that I related better with my older brothers friends than I did with many of my own.At the time I had no idea how profound the journey would be for me.

Another motorcycle trip that I made 10 years ago opened a door to a friendship that brought a bond that is close to what I share with my brother. After leaving from Vancouver with the intention of riding together to San Francisco the short ride turned into an adventure filled journey to Nevada, my first visit to Las Vegas, Utah, and Montana. Now Michael and I take a trip every year together and have ridden thousands of miles together, sharing unique experiences and trusting each other completely.

We make so many small decisions in life, never knowing at the time if they will lead to important changes or simply to be forgotten as just a passing event. The decision to try something new, to make a new start, to open yourself up to new possibilities can come around the corner at any time.

When a friend bought an inexpensive painting set years ago now and I saw what fun he was having with it, I was inspired to pick up a brush myself. Today painting is a huge part of who I am and where I see myself in the future. That moment triggered a decision for me and started me down a new path.

I made a decision a year ago to no longer be part of the West Vancouver Crossfit community. After coaching and training for years with them it was a very hard choice to make. I had many good friends there but since I was told I was no longer needed there as I coach I walked out of one door and into another one in Deep Cove. In that different location I found myself welcomed with by a warmth that astonished me. Now 12 months later I have made some very important new friendships that shape my outlook. Their support and love have allowed me to grow both as an athlete and as a person.

We all live with the results of the choices we make. Sometimes it is hard to make the connection between cause and affect but other times it does seem like karma comes rolling down on top of you.

In the end it falls back on you to do the right thing, to try to behave responsibly, be compassionate, to share your love, to be a good person. Those moments that can define who you are and what you are capable are, in fact right in front of you each and every day. They may not all lead to life changing decisions or profound new beginnings but they all help to guide you to making those right choices.

You never know when a defining moment may result from your actions so why not live as if everything you do is shaping your future. It’s all right in front of you.

A Blast from the Past

1970 bike trip

 

    The summer of 1970 seems so long ago but the reverberations of that year still ring in my head.  We listened to the Hollies, Credence Clearwater Revival, the Moody Blues, the Rolling Stones but we picked Steppenwolf for our theme song, we desperately wanted to be ‘Born to be Wild’.

This was the year I turned sixteen.  I raced out the door on my birthday to write my learners test.  After successfully completing that exam I couldn’t wait to get home with the paper validation that would open up my riding future.  I had spent the past year working at part-time jobs to raise the money to buy my older brothers bike from him and now finally I could ride it.  He had moved up to a 1968 BSA 650 Thunderbolt.  And so my first motorcycle would be a 1966 Suzuki 250 X-6 Hustler.

I began riding that bike before I had the license to go along with it, sneaking it out for late night rides around the neighbourhood.  So by the time I turned 16, I was feeling pretty cocky.  That attitude was tempered somewhat by the gravel burnout I mishandled on that first day of legal riding which resulted in me dumping the bike and scrapping my arm into a bloody mess.

Beginner’s mistakes behind me, my brother John and I began to plan for a ride that would become a journey which would connect us for a lifetime. With maps spread out and notepads filling up with lists, we planned for our great adventure, to ride from our home in Toronto across the Prairies to the West Coast and back again.

High school finally finished for the summer and it was time to go.  So on a warm July 4th evening we were ready to depart.  The entire day had been spent packing and repacking our minimal possessions and performing the final maintenance to our bikes.  A friend, Geoff Maher was joining us on his Suzuki 500 Titan for the first few days riding and after an early dinner the three of us rode down my parent’s street in Scarborough, an east end suburb of Toronto and headed for Highway 400.

Our first destination was not far, just 128 miles to our uncle’s cottage.  After leaving Toronto we headed north to Barrie where we stopped for tea and toast, what would be a staple to our diet on the trip.  After topping up our gas tanks, which for me meant .75 cents worth of Sunoco premium, we rode up Highway 11 to Gravenhurst, then 169 to McTier and Bass Lake.  We arrived just after dark and soon learned a lesson on parking the bikes.  We had lined them up in a row on the lawn and first the heavy Titan pressed its side stand into the grass and collided with the smaller 250 that then knocked over the BSA into my Aunt’s Chrysler.  Small pieces of wood were soon placed under the side stands, no real damage done except to our youthful pride.

We didn’t get far the next morning before mechanical difficulties stopped us.  My bike was sputtering along and while I had cleaned the plugs twice since we left Toronto, it was widening the point gap that finally cured the problem.  On our way north on Highway 69 we came upon an accident where two guys who had passed us earlier on a bike were now laid out on the road.  Both of them badly injured after apparently clipping an oncoming car and trailer on a curve.  We stopped and helped direct traffic until the police arrived, listening to one of them screaming as ragged flesh hung off his lower leg.  Solemnly we carried on to French River where we found a campsite at Grundy Lake Provincial Park for $1.50, having only covered 100 miles.  That night we lay under the stars and enjoyed the marvel of portable music via Geoff’s cassette deck.

     With an early sunrise and a desire to get moving we packed up our Canadian Tire pup tent then at a Sunoco station I filled up the 250 with $1.30 worth of gas.  Traveling into the grandeur of the Lake Superior region was fantastic.  We stopped past Sault Ste. Marie at the halfway point of the TransCanada highway for photos.  As we continued on the realization was sinking in just how big Ontario is.  The bikes were running well and I even managed a sustained run at 70 mph late in the day, with the X-6 only putting our 29 bhp this was high speed cruising.  We made it to White River where Geoff would be turning back and John and I would focus on our western goal.

During some time off in Whiter River we cleaned up the bikes and I discovered a missing spoke and several loose ones, no doubt a result of the accident I had been involved with in May when a GTO running a red light broadsided me.  When we arrived in Thunder Bay that afternoon we located a Suzuki dealer who could do a repair job the next morning.  We found a camping spot at Trowbridge Falls Campground and shared a site with a guy riding a Suzuki 500.

The wheel repair took an hour and a half cost me $9.50 plus a few extra spokes I bought just in case for .34 cents each.  Saying farewell to the Sleeping Giant as the Isle Royale National Park is known as at Thunder Bay, we hit the road again. Not far out of town we stopped to look at Kakabeka Falls.  Amazingly there were no fences and we walked out onto the rocky surface that the water flowed over before tumbling to the gorge below.  We had a good days ride until late in the afternoon a near mishap occurred.  John was in front heading into a corner when he saw a family of skunks crossing the road, so he jumped on the brakes but his army surplus pack had slid over the brake light and I didn’t realize he was braking.  I followed around the curve and now saw the skunks.  I applied all of the meager drum brakes’ stopping power and skidded to a stop where my bike stalled and I was left standing staring at the mother skunk now just feet away.  Fortunately maternal instincts took over and we parted company.

After spending so long to get through Northern Ontario we seemed to race across Manitoba.  There was no helmet law there so we rode for a little while without them but it felt too strange and exposed and we gladly pulled our protection back on.  Long straight sections of Highway 1 took us into Carlyle, Saskatchewan where we had hoped to stay with family friends.  We were told by the RCMP that the people we were to stay with had moved.  So we got a room in the CN hotel, rooms were $5 and the view outside was of a small town on Saturday where it seemed that drinking was the only activity.  Concern for our bikes meant we hardly slept and at sunrise we were carrying our gear down to load up the bikes.  By now the process of packing our bikes was simplified and performed efficiently without much thought.

We made it across another province and turned north at Swift Current on Highway 32 to ride through a string of tiny prairie towns, stopping in Abbey where our mother had grown up.  Further down the road we reached our relative’s farm where we would stay for a couple of days enjoying the western hospitality and the splendor of the wide-open spaces.

At this point we had traveled 1978 miles and our butts were feeling it.  With a normal cruising speed of 60 mph on the Suzuki we were not setting any speed records but we kept on going showing that what was missing in horsepower was being made up with determination.  Every now and then John would take off to enjoy the additional power of the BSA’s 52 bhp and push it over 90 mph.  I could only look on in envy and lay myself on the Suzuki’s gas tank and try to keep him in sight.  But mile after mile without the benefit of any wind protection on the bikes or our open-faced helmets we persevered, cleaning the bugs off our faces and jackets when we stopped.

While on the farm another broken spoke was discovered and with no bike shops available we did the repair ourselves.  Otherwise the bikes had held up well, the BSA was coasting along at these speeds.  A ride into the local town of Lemsford caused some interest from the old farmers hanging around the one store in town.  There we received the choice compliment from one weathered old guy who said, “those bikes are shinier than a hogs ass in the mud”.

    We left Lemsford and rode down to Medicine Hat, stopped in a bike shop there to check prices on a new chain but decided the $12 they were asking was too steep.  Once in Calgary we found a Suzuki dealer where I purchased a chain for $8.50 and installed it in the parking lot at the bike shop. At Calgary we had our first view of the Rocky Mountains, majestically poised as our next big challenge.  We stayed in the city and saw the Calgary Stampede, soaking up some of the cowboy flavour; a beaded headband was my big purchase there.

The next day we were into the mountains and seeing spectacular vistas around every curve.  After being awed by the incredible view of the green glacier fed waters of Lake Louise we stayed at a nearby campground.  In the night the campground was filled with noise as a mother black bear with a couple of cubs came looking for easy food items.  While campers jumped into their cars we moved into the covered cooking shelter and pulled our bikes across the two doorways into it and slept the rest of night in relative safety there.

Our day’s ride began with a detour to see Takkakaw Falls and on the way there two elk ran across the road in front of John.  We also saw our first moose, standing belly deep in a pond munching away on the water plants.  We stopped at the Great Divide for photos and generally took the ride at a more leisurely pace.  For a couple of teenagers from Toronto being in this ancient mountain range was nearly overwhelming.  In the late afternoon we were through Rogers Pass and watched the mountains retreat in our rearview mirrors.  We rode into Revelstoke, found a good campsite and enjoyed an evening by a campfire talking about the amazing roads we had just ridden.

For breakfast we stopped in a small diner attached to a gas station, typical of our eating places.  Inside there were another group, obviously on the road as well.  We got talking to them and discovered they were members of the Canadian rock group, Edward Bear.  This brief celebrity encounter pleased us both, especially the way they were impressed with what we were doing.  Bellies full, egos boosted and gas tanks refueled, we were ready to go.  Sticking with our TransCanada highway route we rode on through forest fires worried that the road might get shut down but eventually reaching Salmon Arm, then on to Kamloops, and then turning south at Cache Creek.  We reached Hope near dinnertime and inspired by the proximity decided to push on to reach Vancouver.  With the golden sunlight angling across the Fraser River we rode over the Port Mann Bridge and reached Vancouver just after dark, having ridden 412 miles that day.  We made our way to North Vancouver and eventually found Capilano road, off the then under construction Upper Levels highway.  A friend of John’s was staying in a basement suite near the private club she was lifeguarding at for the summer and we parked our bikes there.  The landlady who lived upstairs would not allow us to sleep in the house so we carried our sleeping bags across the street to an empty lot and slept under the stars.  We had done it.  We had ridden 3220 miles in 16 days.  Our final destination of Comox on Vancouver Island was within reach.

We spent the morning looking around Vancouver.  The ride through Stanley Park was impressive to two first time visitors.  After lunch we decided to catch the ferry to Nanaimo.  The fare was $1 for passengers and $1.65 for the motorcycle.  On the ride north we made a couple of stops to warm up with our staple of tea and toast for fifty cents and we were able to make it to Comox just after dark where we received a warm reception from an Aunt and Uncle.

After a couple of days rest we were ready to make the return trip.  Another 3,000 plus miles later we drove back into our own driveway, having accomplished what we set out to do.  Now we have families and responsibilities but we both still ride.  So much of the adults we became were shaped on the road together that summer and in the process created a bond between us that is still strong three decades later.