Was it really worth it? That thing you worked so hard for. Maybe it was a job you studied hard for to crush the interview, or it was a competition that you have been training for months or years for or just that goal that you have been sacrificing for daily. But after all of this, you didn’t get it. Maybe it was that there was just someone better than you, or you froze when you had to react and respond, or you got injured, or life just got in the way and you couldn’t go for it. We have all been here at some point. And when it happens, we slam ourselves with the question “was it really worth it???”
The Rolling Stones have a song that has an incredibly accurate and appropriate answer to that question: “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try, sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” Well, that sounds great but really it sounds kinda of negative and shitty!
Let me give you an example. When I worked for the fire service, it was always known that to get a job was extremely difficult. For some, it would take years to get a job. For some, there would be many, many tests, dozens of interviews and still not get the job. Then there would be another person that take their very first test and interview and they are in. I don’t believe that this happens because the one was just so much better than the other. But what I do know is that there was something that the first person NEEDED before they could really be ready to step in there. I'm not talking about not having the right information to answer the question. I mean more like they aren’t READY to take on that job: the responsibilities, the commitment, the ability to handle stress, whatever.
Here's another one: back in the late 70’s early 80’s, my favorite wrestler was Lee Kemp. He was a 3 time World Champ, 7 time National Champ, 2-time Pan-Am Champ. Basically, he was the best wrestler the USA had at the time. But with all of this, he never won the Olympic Gold medal. It wasn’t because he was hurt. It wasn't because he didn’t make the team. It wasn’t because someone’s better. He did all his training and preparing (much longer than most since the Olympics are only every 4 years) and then the USA boycotted the 1980 Olympics that were held in Russia. An outside source took his only opportunity away from every being an Olympic champ. But even with this crushing blow, he was able to take his past successes, his commitment to working hard and learning how to bounce back from such an unfortunate situation and become not only a successful entrepreneur but a keynote speaker for mental toughness and working hard. And 28 years after the boycott, he was announced as a coach for the 2008 USA Olympic Wrestling team.
And for a little more personal example: I was never one to do the CrossFit Games Masters Competition. That just wasn’t a goal or a dream of mine. But after I tore my ACL at the SoCal Regionals, I just couldn’t recover fast enough to be competitive in the Open division. And when my brother James did well through the Masters Open, he told me it would be fun to go to the Games together in the masters Division. I agreed and was pretty fired up at the idea.
In 2015, I went into the Master Division ranked number 1. I battled up against some other studs all weekend and ended up going into the finals tied for 1st place with Matt Swift from Australia and we had to a workout with Squat Snatches and Ring Muscle ups. It just happened to be one of his favorite workouts. Wasn’t one of mine hahaha! As it turned out, Matt won the title and I came in second. But this isn’t the example.
As the 2016 season come around, I had a full year of good training on my knee. I missed going to the Open Regionals by 7 spots which were massive since they only took 20 from SoCal for the new combined regions. But this was going to be my retribution year in the Masters!
My brother and I were in the same age group this year. We were doing a ton of virtual training together and got to actually meet up and train together. It was tough with all the training but really fun. Like a blast from the past from when we wrestled as kids.
We went into the Games strong and ready! On the second day, we had a quick double event where we had a Toes to Bar set with light Clean and Jerks and a Sprint, then a quick break and into 5 minutes to find a 1 rep max Squat Clean. I was sitting at the top of the leaderboard going into the event. I didn’t do great on the Toes to Bar event so I knew I needed to lift heavy in the Clean event. I hit 315 in warm up (and I hit 325 at home when I practiced the event) so I knew I could go big.
We start off and I jump immediately to 275. I pull it easily and stand up quick. As I get to standing, the bar flies off my shoulders. It was so light but the judge calls it a no-rep. I decide to keep going up. I miss the next one at 305, miss it again, then come down to 295 and miss it. Time ends. I got a zero. Come to find out there were a minimum work requirement and a zero means you can no longer continue in the event. I was out of the Games.
It hurt bad. Really bad! But I was able to cheer and coach my brother on to a 7th place finish. It was one of the most fun times I have had with him. He grew as a CrossFit athlete and our relationship grew to a new depth.
In all of our situations, ones that are successful (and I mean they turn out the way we wanted it to) and the ones that aren’t (where we don’t have the desired outcome), there is information for us that we need to pick up. The hard part is that this information might not even be very obvious for us to see. We might not see it all! (these are the toughest ones) But we need to pull our focus way back from “poor me” or “awesome me” and see the big picture of the situation.
The fact is that we don’t exist in these small little moments of time: the win, the competition, the interview, the job, the goal. These are simply pinpoints in our life. Sure there will be flashes of joy and pain, even extreme flashes. But life is a big swooshing swirled painting with many colors and designs. At the end, those little pinpoints of joy and pain will be micro-moments of the bigger and fuller view of our life.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t fight for these things you want, that you shouldn’t aspire to do great and wonderful things. But know that you will fail MANY more times than you will succeed, and sometimes it's out of your hands whether you do or not. And there is a ton of information that we can get from these situations to make ourselves and our lives better.
Yes, it sucks bad ……really bad, to not get what you work so hard for. But it's up to you to see what you learned by going down the path. Take those things and continue forward, knowing that you didn’t waste any time. You got exactly what you needed, exactly when you needed it!