I always keep in the forefront of my mind a phrase that constantly gets passed around by fellow elite endurance athletes the world over:
Your mouth is writing checks that your body can’t cash.
In other words, talk is cheap. We all know that person who is constantly talking about how tough they are. But that’s as far as it goes. Everyone can be tough if they never have to test their mettle.
It’s so easy to say you are going to accomplish something. It’s another thing to get off your ass and execute the often excruciating necessities required to get to the finish line.
Think of the flippant remarks we are constantly bombarded with from co-workers and associates on how they could do this or that if they wanted to. The fact is, they can’t. That’s why they only talk about getting fit or doing a 5k Turkey Trot or racing extreme ultra-endurance races. That’s why New Year’s fitness resolutions are always hollow 99% of the time.
Here I’m reminded of the word LACONIC. For the non-vocabulary-geek, this little used word means “of a person, speech or style of writing using very few words.” The word came to 16th-century English via Latin from the Greek Lakōnikos, this being the ancient word for Spartan.
The point? Spartans believed in getting shit done and getting it done right. They were a culture of excellence. And in a culture of excellence there is no place for idle talk, there is only time for action.
And effective action, action that is geared toward a self-actualization that is grander than we ever dreamed, demands that we leave our comfort zones. That we militarize our own sense of commitment and discipline in that Spartan ideal of excellence.
People aren’t defined by their 9 to 5 jobs. At least they don’t have to be. People are defined by adversity and their overcoming of it. We respect determination and endurance as a culture. But why merely as spectators watching professional team sports? Why are we a nation of Monday morning quarterbacks? Why aren’t we involved?
What can we learn from the Spartans? That we are defined by our accomplishments.
And suddenly punishing your body through mud and barbed wire and fire makes sense! This is the act of leaving a comfort zone and discovering your own level of guts.
No amount of talking will get you through a hard race. Only determination and the knowledge that you are doing something, instead of saying mere words.
Leaving normal is a necessity for greatness. There was nothing normal about the Spartans of ancient Greece, and that is why we still revere them today.