Monday, August 31, 2009

When the Cheering Stops

I remember one of the most exhilirating feelings that I have ever had as a former collegiate athlete was running at the historic Penn Relays. Each year my teammates and I would head up to Pennsylvania and run in "Super Bowl" of all track and field meets at Franklin Field at the University of Penn. I've never seen anything like the Penn Relays since then. Running in front of crowds of up to 80,000 people was amazing and the adrenaline rush was absolutely addictive. I lived for that trip every year.

However, while that was a great memory for me as a collegiate athlete, my most vivid memories as an athlete had nothing to do with being in the spotlight. Nope, I think most of my former teammates would tell you that they cherished (ok, maybe cherish is a strong word) the most brutal workouts that we endured at practice when no one was watching. Yup, workouts when there was no music, no applause, no cheering...just straight getting destroyed on the track running what seemed like an endless amount of 200's, 300's and no rest 400's. It was some of the most painful times of my life, but I learned so much about myself and how hard I could work when no one was watching. As my coach used to say, "What makes you great is what you do when no one is watching."

As a former athlete, I still take what I learned from my coach and apply it to my job today as the General Manager of a high end fitness facility here in Las Vegas. I still workout and attack my administrative work so hard that I feel like I'm back on that track at James Madison University ready to see if I have what it takes to continue on even in the face of pure exhaustion. You see, in our lives we show what we are really made of when we test ourselves not in front of an audience, but when the only person who is looking back at you is you. I'm here to tell you...if you need an audience to perform well then you have a lot of work to do towards becoming great at what you do. Anyone can get hype for the crowd, but ask yourself...can you get hype when it is just you and your task at hand? Your performance shines brightest in the dark, not in the light.

This is a lesson that can be translated into anything that you do. Don't go out and look for an audience of people to tell you how great you are. No, no...don't go out and ask for praise and look for nice things to come your way because you contributed your time and efforts. Go out in your job, your marriage, your volunteer time or whatever you do and be a champion who does not let his left hand eagerly tell his right what he did. Be a warrior who fights the good fight in the shadows of life. It is in those moments that you will truly find out what you are made of.

You know, probably my fondest memory of being a collegiate runner was partaking in our pre-Thanksgiving and pre-Christmas midnight workouts. We'd all try to get some rest in the late afternoon and early evening, but it never worked. We would all head to the locker room hours before our midnight workout in the dead silence of the winter in Harrisonburg, Virginia. It was cold and dreary outside and the track felt like concrete. I can remember warming up around 11:15pm with the lights shining brightly in Bridgeforth Stadium. As we warmed up we all had a look of determination and focus as we knew we were about to get crushed with workouts consisting of either 16 200's or 10 400's. Either way were were preparing for certain exhaustion that would last until 1:30pm or so in the morning. It was a time of fear, but also a time to test yourself against yourself and the elements. Even when I was dead tired during the workout, I stepped my weary body to the line for each interval. We all did. We banded together and completed one of our hardest workouts all year and afterwards we felt amazing. No applause, no cheering, no nothing. We just felt good because we shined brightly in the middle of the night.

Take with you the spirit of competition and excellence everyday in your life...even when no one else cares to look.

Until next time

Dr. D

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