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aka, how expectations of excellence can crush your soul

aka, how expectations of excellence can crush your soul

Seems counter-intuitive don't it?

But harken ye…

when I played golf up to 3 times per week I reached my own level of golf excellence:

I played on a cheap under-groomed $9-an-outing course with my wrestling coach/insurance salesman buddy.

I rose to the level of pretty averagely not too bad….

fighting for bogeys and an occasional par.  

My best game ever? 

I parred 5 holes and bogeyed another, ending up 5 over for 9 holes.  

This best game ever had the following impact on me:  it kept me coming back, giving me a false sense of an impending level of excellence that I convinced myself was right around the corner…yet I was never never able to attain.

Instead, I attained more of the same:

  • fighting for bogies while making an occasional par
  • chipping great one day, struggling to climb out of the bunker the next.
  • sinking a long putt one day… struggling with even the short ones the next
  • drilling it right down the fairway on the tees… struggling with grounders, hooks and slices the next.

You get the idea.  

Perhaps you've seen it on the mat – I know I have.  

It looks like this:

  • hitting a great shot one minute…getting buried underneath following a dive shot on the next.
  • firing up out from bottom one minute…getting stuck on the mat the next.
  • confidently shutting down the opponent’s shot one minute…getting dominated the next.

Those expectations of excellence arise from the moments of success…and the feeling that you can replicate that success every time.

But the moments of defeat slowly translate into:

  • he can’t finish his shots
  • if he’d just do that every time
  • if he just tried harder
  • and ultimately…"he can't win the big one”…

We all strive for consistency, but we rarely train to achieve it.  Instead, we’re constantly in search of the next magic bullet, the secret formula…

instead of doing what really gets us to this:

  • being able to drill that shot every time
  • finish every front headlock with points
  • confidently shaking off the toughest spiral and leg riders.
  • knowing exactly how to start every match…how to set up every opponent…and how to finish every shot
  • more importantly…having the skill to do it consistently…every time.

We wonder why we don’t reach those levels but the answer to doing so is clearly in front of us.

Here’s where it starts.

wrestling lessons from the road

Just got a road bike. 

She’s a beaut, too.  Picked her up from a retired professor for a fraction of the retail cost. 

Here’s what convinced me to buy this bike:  when test-riding it, I wrecked it twice.

Heeere’s the rest of the story:

Those of you who follow me on instagram already know about my affinity for bikes (and a summer beard but that’s for another time).  

Recently I’ve been intrigued with the idea of getting an actual road bike (I’ve had a mountain bike for years, and more recently, a commuter bike).  What’s always held me back is this:  I was never overly comfortable on a road bike.  Its just got a different feel to it…

the drop handlebars, the design, the different positioning and riding style…



I had almost convinced myself that I was just never going to get a road bike…

until the salesman at Trek said, “Once you’ve ridden a road bike, you’ll never go back.”

I test-rode one of their top road bikes at the store….twice.  Started to get more comfortable with it.  Still, the price was a lot higher than I was ready to spend.

Then I spotted it.

I stumbled across it in the online sales ads…

road bike – MY SIZE (small!) – for a fraction of the Trek store price.

I had to check it out.

I set an appointment and went to see this bike.

Its owner was a nearly 70 year old retired professor with a neck issue – which led to him having to give up this bike.

Now here’s where it gets interesting.

This bikes pedals are ‘clip’ pedals.  They require special biking shoes that ‘clip into’ the pedals…

which I didn't own.

“No fear”, the ole professor said “you can borrow mine.”

Well, I’d never worn clip shoes or ridden on pedals like this but I had already determined one thing:  this was one SWEET bike.

  • Incredibly light (only 16 lbs, we have a cat that's heavier) and well crafted….
  • very well taken care of…
  • looked brand new…
  • very few miles due to his health condition cutting short his riding…
  • and priced waaaay under retail value.

If this bike was a fit, this would be a heck of a bargain.

The only way to find out though,  was to give ‘er a spin…

wearing Ole Professor's bike clip shoes.

What could go wrong?

So I took the bike for a spin around the block.

One problem though:  I forgot that you have to clip out of the pedals before you come to a stop…

otherwise your feet will be stuck in there and you are going to fall over on your side.

Which I did.

After 3 very nice, concerned drivers saw me laying over on my side, still attached to the SWEET bike, and asked if I was okay, I sheepishly reassured them I was fine and I freed myself from the bike, stumbled to my feet and jumped back on the bike.

Then I headed down the road again.  

I approached another stop sign, with cars approaching.

This time by gum, I was prepared!

I quickly unclipped my right shoe and put my foot down.

Then, gradually, the bike started to leeeeeaaaan to the left….

where my other foot was still clipped in.

You guessed it. 

I kept leaning to the left, and couldn't get unclipped in time…

and over I went again!

3 more concerned drivers immediately asked about my welfare again.

“YES I'm fine, I'm just an idiot.”

Now I headed back to this guy’s house, pulled up and got off the bike.

Told him I wrecked twice.

And then I made him an offer.

Why would I do that?

Why make an offer for a bike that I couldn’t even ride yet?

Even though I wasn’t skilled enough to wear clip shoes yet…

and I wasn’t totally comfortable even riding a road bike yet…

I could immediately feel this bike’s power when riding it… and could see the  potential for being able to enhance my riding – go farther and more easily, and have a much greater riding experience….

IF I was willing to learn.

I’d have to learn the ins and outs of riding a road bike (its a different ride than  other bikes)…

and learn how to ride with bike shoes and clip in to the pedals…

and overall, raise my skill level.

Hence – maybe you've noticed some of the instagram pics where I’m practicing riding in my bike shoes.

Like anything else, its taken sacrifice to get where I want to go.

I studied specific riding techniques so I could become a better rider.

I also studied specific techniques (from my friend Chris at the Trek store) so I could use the bike shoes with the clips.

Then I started practicing….

using the same techniques, over and over again until I get them right.

And then….

more practice.

Just like learning wrestling technique, I have systematically trained to ride using precise techniques and movements.

NOT a conglomeration of different ways of doing things.

That way, I can keep practicing one method, and drilling it until I get it right.

Its always better to learn one system of doing things and get good at it.

There’s the key to long-term success…whether in wrestling or on a road bike.   

As for my biking – I’ve still got a ways to go, however….

I became proficient enough with my new road bike to enter Pelotonia and ride 25 miles to raise money for cancer research.

My daughter and I handled the ride pretty easily…easily enough, in fact, that we decided to bike the extra 7 miles home after the event was over.