Friday, March 11, 2005

The Drive to Succeed

The big sign on the entrance to my company's gym says "PULL-UP CONTEST ! Register now ! Starts March 14th !" That simple sign, hand-written in blue marker on the flip-face whiteboard, has unleashed a sleeping dragon in many of the regulars at this gym. Including myself.

Previous to finding out about this contest, I had been thinking very casually that I would like to be able to execute several pull-ups unassisted. Since doing this involves a high proportion of upper body strength to body weight, and women are naturally at a disadvantage in that respect, I have always been intrigued by the idea of being able to accomplish this. I had successfully completed three unassisted pull-ups in the past, but did not give it much more thought until I saw that sign.

That sign was the spark that lit the fire.

The very same day that sign was erected, I marched straight into Sportmart, bought an adjustible pull-up bar, and had it mounted on my bathroom door frame. Previously, improving my ability to perform this exercise was merely a passing thought. Now, the dynamics have changed. Now, it's a contest. Now, it's time for me to throw as much energy and drive as I possibly can into improving my ability.

No doubt that my goal is to win the contest. I know I won't. There is a HUGE employee base here, and I have seen the pipes on some of the women that come into the gym. I know the very best I can do is give them a run for their money. But that won't stop me from striving to be the very best I can be. This is a challenge. My only response to a challenge like this is to step up and go for it.

The aura of "contest" was in the air this morning at the gym. I asked a fellow regular if he intended on entering. He said no way, he could only do ten in a row. My response was, come on ! Ten is great ! They have weight classes, so you'll only be against people your size ! Within minutes, three guys and myself were taking turns on the pull-up bar, cheering each other on, encouraging each other to do JUST ONE MORE, applauding each other for toughing it out.

Amazing what the concept of a competition brings out in us.

At the wall-sit contest last month, the gym staff had set up time trials so that two people were side-by-side at the same time. Two men, who had previously put up numbers of approximately 1 1/2 minutes, literally DOUBLED their times to more than 3 minutes when placed together. I'm certain both were thinking "He's not giving up, so heck if I'm going to !" The end result was an achievement far greater than either could imagine they were capable of.

Pride. Motivation. Tenacity. Desire to do better, reach higher, achieve more. All these things are innate in those of us who crave success just that much more than we fear failure.

The true competition is not necessarily between all the entrants, but within ourselves. Sometimes, it takes a challenge from outside of us to break down the barriers of fear and complacency and set us on the path to higher goals. Sometimes, it takes a leap of faith and unbased self-confidence to attempt what seems to be impossible at the time. Sometimes, it takes a push from someone else to motivate us to step into the unknown.

I remember once talking to a friend about blowfish, a Japanese delicacy that can be fatal to humans if not prepared correctly. Apparently there are a few deaths per year in Japan due to this. My first reaction was to boldly declare that I would never touch that stuff with a ten-foot pole. No way was I going to put my life in the hands of a pissed-off, overworked sushi chef with a big-arsed knife in his hand.

But then, came the magic words:

"I dare you".

Well now. That changes everything. Do I swallow my pride, wimp out, and meekly walk away in defeat ? Or do I step forward, stand fast and accept the dare ?

I am not one to shy away or back off in the face of a challenge, whether good-natured (like this) or serious. I embrace a challenge. I confront it. I savor it with every ounce of delicious defiance.

Yes, I'd eat the blowfish - but only if he who challenged me has the guts do the same.

So what drives us to succeed ? What is it within us that pushes us towards new frontiers, higher goals, greater achievements ? For some, it is the pursuit of knowledge and enlightenment. Others, it is the desire to set goals, to meet and exceed expectations, and to embrace the challenges that are presented to them. Others, it is to learn a new skill, meet new people, and expand their circle of influence. And for many, including myself, it is a combination of all of the above.

I know what my motivation is for this contest. It is that hand-lettered sign, posted prominently at the entrance to the gym. It is that horizontal bar, steadfastly attached to my bathroom door frame, that must be surmounted every time I pass it. It is that paper that I track my progress on with near-unintelligible chicken scratch pencil marks. It is the knowledge that I, even if placed last in the competition, have set myself a little closer to my goal.

That is my motivation. What is yours ?


Blogger Julie said...

Slinky Baby - you are so going to kick their asses in that contest.

I am in sales and nothing motivates me more than a contest. I don't care what the prize is, as long as I win.

You can beat those girls. Go for it!


March 13, 2005 at 12:07:00 PM PST  

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