Living in a small town is different in many respects. For one thing, you see people over and over- even if you don’t know them. Arkadelphia, AR, is not a big town by virtually any measurement, so it was easy to spot a guy that ran 1500+ miles a year. There were only so many places he could run.
Fast-forward a few years, and I was introduced to that guy when I started riding bikes. His name was David. He was incredible. He rode 5,000+ miles annually and ran 1,500 to 2,000 miles. That’s a bunch- in case you were wondering. He talked me into riding a 100 mile ride with him in Wichita Falls, Texas in August, and I had never rode more than 20 miles. It was a painful but good lesson in water and energy management, not to mention endurance. That was the start of our friendship. Over the next few years I logged many miles drafting off David. He was and is a determined person. It was well over a year into our journey together that I got to hear his story.
Early in David’s adulthood, they learned he had a leaking heart valve. It’s one of those things a doctor won’t fix until they absolutely have to. His mantra was to put off surgery as along as he could by being in the best shape possible. To accomplish that, he decided to ride and run his way to great conditioning.
After a few humiliating seasons where David out-rode me, the doctors told him it was time. The leak had gotten so large in David’s heart that something had to be done. The solution was massive open-heart surgery. When the surgery was completed the doctors told him that, over the years, he had essentially been running on 3 chambers in the heart, not 4. The leak was so great that one chamber was much larger and stronger than the others- doing more work in light of the other chambers being small. Now I don’t presume to understand all that, but what I do understand is that the doctor was impressed. David was spotting us all an extra cylinder and still out riding, and out running us.
David’s story impacted me greatly on a personal level. He had every reason in the world to take it easy. But instead, David took his condition in stride and faced it head on by running marathons and completing multiple 100 mile bike rides. He never complained once or made excuses. Through him I learned of perseverance, overcoming obstacles and how to face adversity with a positive attitude. He also taught me the idea of working at something to get better. When we first started, I couldn’t keep up, but he was patient with me and allowed me to “catch up”. In time we made a good tandem. David is amazing and I am still learning from him.
I’m realizing today how easy it is to make excuses. It’s easy in the business world to feel that we do not have the right team, the right budget, or the right skills to complete our jobs. We feel stretched by responsibilities, and the first thing that comes to mind is what we are missing as leaders- and as followers. But focusing on what’s wrong, often keeps us from focusing on, utilizing, and strengthening what is right. Perhaps we all feel a bit like David, noticing that we often have 3/4ths of what we need to get our job’s done. But like David, I wonder what would happen if we focused on the things that are working, and intentionally strengthened them- determined to not let them fail? I wonder who, like the doctors, would be surprised when we succeed, even though we have reason to give up and to give less?
Although our paths don’t cross as much as I would like, and David’s post op heart is not up to the speeds and distances that it once was, that doesn’t keep him off the bike or from his exercise routines. To this day, he still inspires me. Whatever obstacles you face, your limits are often self-imposed. Whatever excuses you have, most are just that, excuses. Goals, Dreams, they are there to attain- obstacles are there to overcome. You can do it.