There is a scene from Justified, one of my favorite shows of all time, in which the dialogue is subtly brilliant.
Art Mullen: Well, be smart, then.
Raylan Givens: Let me tell you something, there are other things than smart.
Art Mullen: Yeah, those are not smart.
Much of society would say that obstacle racing is not smart. They’re probably right, but I agree with Raylan that there is more to life than just being smart. Obstacle racing may not always be smart, but it nurtures an empowering worldview. One that evokes images of anti-fragility as described in Jonathan Haidt’s The Coddling of the American Mind . Through struggle and setbacks, obstacle racing creates a power that kills defeatist attitudes, gives purpose, emboldens, provides hope, and pulls many from the depths of self-doubt, depression, and emptiness. Mix in a pinch of positive reinforcement that comes from social media and people’s lives are changed for the better. But social media praise has a way of taking over an identity, and if it goes unchecked, can become addictive and manifest into a completely different power that overwhelms the rational mind. It can become self-destructive, ultimately driving us to run our bodies, minds, and self-esteem into the mud.
But there is an antidote if you are willing to look for it and accept it.
I first started thinking about this as I listened to a BROCR podcast with Alec Blenis. If you don’t know him, Alec is probably the youngest OCR OG around. Even though he’s been slightly removed from the OCR community for awhile, Alec always struck me as “heady”; someone who was calculating and smart about his training and racing routine. But some of what he said in this podcast wasn’t just smart…it was wise. And it is the wise who ultimately flourish in OCR.
Wisdom is about recognizing when we try to push beyond our limits merely for approval from others.
Wisdom is asking yourself whether you would enter an event if you couldn’t tell anyone about it.
Wisdom is recognizing and avoiding the addictive allure of social media affirmation for things that aren’t smart….particularly things such as “beast mode and putting yourself in situations to invite, hasten, or exacerbate injury.
But the most noteworthy element of wisdom I gained from that interview and what ultimately inspired me to think deeply about the issues associated with social media affirmation is the following:
Wisdom is not feeling the need to explain yourself to anyone for why you did or did not race…why you did or did not win…..why you did or did not finish.
Read that last point again and think about it.
If we can get to the point where it doesn’t matter to us what other people think about our obstacle racing performance, then we’ve scored a personal victory.
Alec may still be young, but that perspective would make a grandfather proud.