I have no inherent talent for most of the things I do. I am a slow runner, a mediocre mountain biker, my skiing technique is average at the very best and, admittedly being afraid of falling and exposure, I get gripped way too easily. All in all, progressing quickly in any of these sports doesn’t exactly come easy to me.
Sure, I have decent endurance. But that doesn’t compensate for a lack in fast-twitch muscle fibers and technical motor skills. Yes, I can ride over 100 kilometres on a bike and I can run around at a slow pace for hours (when I’m not sidelined by Achilles tendonitis). But those aren’t exactly technical skills. Just watch me try to ski something technical or clear a rocky and steep section on a mountain bike; it’s not exactly flawless.
Luckily, I am not too competitive – at least I think so. Thus coming to terms with being a mediocre amateur comes easy enough. Yes, I do a lot of stuff. Yes, I move lots. But just because I do it does not automatically mean that I deserve praise for being “good” at any of it. At this point, I’m pretty sure I’d never place on the podium in an ultramarathon nor will I ski the gnarliest and most technical lines. While definitely a hyperbolic statement, it does feel as if there is almost an infinity of people out there who actually excel at what they do. Raw talent, years of training… You name it; they got it. I, on the other hand, do not.
Instead, I figured that I should relish in this lack of talent and natural ability. I am no freak of nature. And, honestly, it is likely good for us to enjoy doing things we are not particularly good at. Life is not a contest. Just because you are putting up a sweat and exerting yourself doing something you love doesn’t mean you suddenly have to strive to beat everyone else. Sure, I am as guilty as anyone using my GPS watch, Strava, and the like. I try to not let it get to me, though. Mainly, it is a handy tool to track my personal progress and to feel that extra bit of accomplishment we get from sharing what we’re up to with friends.
It is important here to make a distinction between getting better and striving to be the very best (like no one ever was). Of course I want to improve my speed, my strength, my endurance. And I love to struggle and challenge myself. Sufferfests are pretty awesome in their own, mind-altering way. But more than doing it in order to beat someone else, I do it to make myself proud of how far I have come. I want to improve, within my realm of average ability, to achieve happiness and confidence. I want to grow. I am an ex-couch potato who has already come quite a ways. But I want to go even further, just to know that my body and I are indeed capable of going places.
In that sense, I have really been enjoying those little improvements here and there. When I’m out on the mountain bike, every little technical section is an achievement deserving celebration. And I still relish in the feeling of accomplishment of having finally managed a single double-under, rope skipping. It was only one. But it was my very first one. Ever. And I had been trying for months.
For someone who got off the couch only a few years ago and who is out there not for podiums nor breaking records but simply for the heck of it – the sheer thrill and joy of adventure, the feeling of stepping out of the comfort zone, the intrinsic reward of progressing and being able to explore off the beaten path -, every little achievement deserves (and should be) cherished. It is, after all, an account of your personal growth in life.
I’ve got average skill and that’s cool.
I’ll never be a champion and that’s okay.
But I have passion and grit and I think that’s more important on any given day.