As this chapter of my life rapidly comes to an end on my last day of work for about 2 years I've had alot of time to reflect on my past and my development. In thinking about the places I've been and who I've become I'm startled by some of the influences that have shaped my path.
My boss suggested I read Robert Pirsig's "Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values." A specific passage I read helped drive home who I've become over the 7 years of my professional life and make
"To the untrained eye ego-climbing and selfless climbing may appear identical. Both kinds of climbers place one foot in front of the other. Both breathe in and out at the same rate. Both stop when tired. Both go forward when rested. But what a difference! The ego-climber is like an instrument that's out of adjustment. he puts his foot down an instant too soon or too late. He's likely to miss a beautiful passage of sunlight through the trees. He goes on when the sloppiness of his step shows he's tired. He rests at odd times. He looks up the trail trying to see what's ahead even when he knows what's ahead because he just looked a second before. He goes too fast or too slow for the conditions and when he talks his talk is forever about somewhere else, something else. He's here but he's not there. He rejects the here, is unhappy with it, wants to be farther up the trail but when he gets there will be just as unhappy because it will be "here." What he's looking for, what he wants, is all around him, but he doesn't want that because it is all around him. Every step's an effort, both physically and spiritually, because he imagines his goal to be external and distant."
In the past few years I learned that the goal isn't external or distant; that the goal is within your heart, within your soul. The work put in is about developing inner-strength and that the opponent is your mind, not someone else. The ego-climber treats the mountain as the opponent thinking he needs to defeat it, the selfless climber knows that his mind is the opponent, that the goal of the climb is not to get to the top the fastest but to enjoy every moment of the challenge. Of course you can also interpret Pirsig as saying to just enjoy the journey, flow with it and let it take you where it wishes but it's still the internal battle of your mind that allows you to get to that point.
It wasn't until this Ironman voyage started and I was faced with diabetes that I truly realized that the battle was between my ears. I think in too many things in life I had been that "ego-climber," but then it started to dawn on me that in the things I've been successful in have been things that I had to look deep into my soul to overcome or acting as the selfless climber.
Getting over Papa Bear on the Placid bike course isn't about screaming out it's name as your quads are burning, but rather remembering the path you took to be able to flow over that hill. Success in my life hasn't been determined by "defeating" something it has been determined by convincing myself to believe in who I am. The slogan on the back of my Ring The Bolus t-shirt may be "Defeating Diabetes One Tri At A Time" but to do that required me to embrace the challenge and enjoy the journey. The journey forced me to push myself to understand the disease, to be willing to try every avenue to define how diabetes would affect me; success is about trying again after a failure and learning from that experience. Perhaps I'm not just closing a chapter today, I may be starting an entirely new book.