“Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.”- Ann Landers
Opportunities for us are everywhere. Most of the time we don’t see them staring right in front of our faces. When I started to get involved in running ultra marathons about 7 years ago, I didn’t fully grasp how most of us have opportunities laying around everywhere.
Every Day Has Opportunities We Don’t Utilize
Do you have a sliver of time that you could use to apply for a new job if your current one isn’t working out for you but you don’t take it? Maybe you feel like you don’t have time to train for your fitness goals.
Time always feels like it can be a problem. However, we all have mental time blocks each day that we protect.
Do you listen to a podcast on your commute that doesn’t really add value to your goals? Sure the knowledge may be entertaining and useful for you but maybe it isn’t pushing you in the right direction. Think about switching up your time with this to listening or watching a course. If you are driving, wait until you are finished and take a moment to write down all the takeaways that you just gained. This will help you retain the knowledge for future use.
I know how many times I have listened to audiobooks or podcasts and forgotten most of the information a few days later. Our brains only retain a certain amount of information daily, so we need to tell ourselves what is important and what is not.
Open Your Mind Up To Do Something Others Would See As Crazy
When I trained to do a GoRuck HTL, I didn’t know how I was going to train for it. I was working in a medical device warehouse for 10 hours a day and had a 2-hour round-trip commute. 12 out of the 16 waking hours of my day were away from home. That didn’t include the time I needed to just put clothes on and get my life together for the day.
My job was on my feet though. Often I was lifting totes onto tables and the thought occurred to me, “What if I turned my job into training for GoRuck events?”
The next day, I wore my rucksack to work with a 20 lb plate in it. Sure, I got some strange looks from my coworkers and my boss made fun of me a little bit singing the “Backpack Backpack” song from Dora the Explorer. I didn’t care. No one cared as long as it didn’t impact my job performance. I ended up wearing a 20 lb rucksack for 10 hours a day for weeks on end.
Sure enough, my friend and I ended up crushing the grueling 48-hour event and it was one of the most proud accomplishments I have made.
Fast forward to today, I am training for a 100-mile ultra marathon. My problem is getting more miles in for training. I also live in Chicago and hills are hard to find for training to run in the mountains.
What’s the solution to this problem? The two days a week that I go into my office, I will run the commute to the office by taking the train to work. I live 3.5 miles from the train station and my office is 2.5 miles from the other train station. This will allow me to get 12 miles in on the days that I go into the office.
The hill problem? I live on the 10th floor of my building in Chicago so I take the stairs. My office is also on the 11th floor of its building.
I hate using the cliche you have to think outside the box but that is what this is. Thinking outside the box means putting every option on the table. Even if the option might seem like it’s insane.
Once you lay out all your options and the only ones left are the ones that are insane, think about how you could make it work. If it’s possible, give it a try, and don’t overthink it. Just because you do it one day doesn’t mean you have to do it the next. The purpose of taking action is to be able to tinker with the problem and make sure that you do it better the next time. You could think through all the steps of a plan but you won’t truly understand it until you execute.
You Have To Put Yourself In The Arena
Opportunities won’t come knocking at your door. If you have some dream about working in secret for years to build something and then emerge something else you are kidding yourself.
You need failure. You need criticism. If you don’t have it, how are you supposed to get better? When we work without failure or criticism we end up falling victim to our own biases.
There may be people who think you’re crazy for being 30 years old and waking up at 4:30 am to go on a run and then working out again during your lunch break. Some people can’t understand the concept of working towards something without a clear reward sitting right in front of them.
Eventually, those people will stop criticizing you. It’s your life after all. You can do whatever you want.
Always Be Prepared For Opportunities
I’m not a religious person but I remember about 5 years ago I got interested in a Bible Lecture series. I have always been fascinated with anything to do with Theology so I decided to give it a watch. The one piece that stuck out to me was the story of Noah’s Ark.
For those of you not familiar with that story, the basic synopsis is that God told Noah to build a giant Ark to house his family and animals in preparation for a great flood that was about to come.
Everyone else thought he was a fool. Why was he building an ark so far inland? They all thought he was crazy. Noah was the original doomsday prepper.
The great flood came and Noah and his family were saved due to his always being prepared for the worst-case scenario. He was also always ready for his opportunity.
Noah was known as someone who walked with God. What it means to walk with God is to do something that others see as foolish. Always be prepared and ready for your moment to come.
Now what does this have to do with ultra running?
In ultra running, you must always be preparing your mind and body. I don’t want to run insanely long distances for the hell of it.
Running long distances is training for the body so you will always have the endurance to push through tough moments in your life. It’s a reminder in a semi-controlled environment of how tough I can be. Often, it isn’t the race that makes you realize you’re tough, it’s the journey of training that makes you realize that you are tough.
David Goggins has been quoted saying, “perform without purpose.”
This doesn’t mean that everything you do is meaningless. It means you should always train like there is something on the schedule even if there’s not. Always be prepared for something to pop up. I had a friend that asked me the other day if I wanted to do a 50K in the mountains of Oregon next month. Luckily, I haven’t stopped training and am prepared to run the race tomorrow if I have to.
Ultra running can teach you about the importance of recognizing and seizing opportunities in your life. Through my experiences in ultra-running, I have come to realize that opportunities are often disguised as challenges or hard work. Many people fail to recognize them because they are not willing to put in the effort or step outside of their comfort zones.
One crucial lesson I have learned is that opportunities exist in every day, but we often fail to utilize them. We complain about not having enough time for our goals or passions, yet we overlook the slivers of time that we could utilize more effectively.
Perhaps we have a commute during which we mindlessly listen to podcasts that do not contribute to our growth or progress.
Instead, we can switch our focus to educational content or use that time to plan and strategize for our goals. By making small adjustments and prioritizing our time wisely, we can make significant strides toward our aspirations.
Ultra running can teach you that we must put ourselves in the arena if we want to seize opportunities. We cannot wait for opportunities to come knocking at our door or expect success to materialize out of thin air.
Dreams and goals require dedication, perseverance, and hard work. Along the way, we will face criticism and encounter skeptics who doubt our choices. But it is crucial to remember that it is our life, and we have the freedom to pursue our passions and dreams, regardless of others’ opinions.
Lace-up your shoes, step out of your comfort zone and embrace the opportunities that lie ahead.
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