Saturday, August 1, 2015

Why Not Me?

There's an opportunity at my company to speak in front of an audience about an inspiring or uplifting story, something that connects with people, sort of like a Ted Talk. Those selected will be coached by a professional storyteller to tell their story in front of 150 people. They've done these talks in 2 of our sites already, and after I watched a video of one of the stories, I knew I wanted to do it.

So I submitted the application and received my invitation to the audition that's taking place in a couple of weeks. Bring your story and be ready for 5 minutes of questions from a panel. And also, watch these other videos to prepare.

As I watched the videos of my coworkers telling amazing stories, I felt doubt creeping into the pit of my stomach. The stories were about overcoming the deaths of loved ones to find deeper meaning in life. Or they're talking about how having cancer has taught them to treat each day as if it's your last. What do I have to contribute? A fun story about a triathlon in Norway? I didn't feel worthy. Why me?

As I agonized over this, I looked at a quote from Craig Alexander that I have taped on my desk. It says that everyone has doubts. Even an Ironman world champion asks himself, "Why me? Why should I be the one to win? But you have to turn it around. You have to ask yourself, why not me?"

At that moment, I knew what I wanted to share. It's the power of those words, "why not me?" I started asking that question almost 2 years ago, and it's changed my life. Once you say it -- "Why not? Why shouldn't I go for it? Why not try?" -- it all starts to happen, even though you may not notice. Changing the way you view yourself is what starts to change everything. There was a day in November 2013, when I said, "I want to be great at something." I made a decision. I asked, "why not me?" And then I started training like crazy.

A few months later, Dawn and I raced a half ironman in Tyler, TX. Our roommate was Maggie Rusch, one of Dawn's teammates. As we made small talk in our hotel room, Maggie mentioned that she was racing Norseman in a few months. "I've always wanted to do that race," I said. Maggie mentioned the blueseventy contest to win an entry that had been advertised on Facebook for several weeks. She asked me if I'd entered it, and I replied that I hadn't yet. "Why not?" she asked.

My journey began at the Tyler Tri.
I couldn't stop thinking about it. Why hadn't I entered the contest? Because I was scared. The race is hard, it's across the world, it's so far out of any kind of comfort zone. But my new self was asking, "why not?"

So I entered the contest. As the days went by, my votes climbed, and it looked like I had a shot at winning. Instead of thinking, "Why me, why do I deserve to win this?" I thought, "why not me?" My change in thought process isn't the reason that I won the contest. But it was a powerful change nonetheless.

A few months later, I raced at Buffalo Springs 70.3  as a "long training day" in preparation for Norseman. Dawn, who was spectating, yelled at me 3 miles into the run, "You're in 3rd place. You need to start running." For the next hour and a half, as I ran, again, the doubts bubbled up, "I'm just not that good a runner. I don't understand how I'm in 3rd place." There was a chance that I was running too fast, that I'd blow myself up and end up walking to the finish line. But I wanted that spot on the podium. I wanted the opportunity to go to 70.3 Worlds.

Buffalo Springs
70.3 Worlds
As the miles went by, my confidence grew, and I thought to myself, "why not me? I deserve a spot on the podium just as much as anyone else here." It's a change in mindset. I held onto 3rd in my age group that day and I earned a spot at 70.3 Worlds. I did it because I let go of fear and went for it.

This doesn't mean you'll always succeed. When I jumped off the ferry to start the race at Norseman, I believed that I had a shot at a mountaintop finish and a black T-shirt. Why not me? I'm fit. I've trained. I'm just as ready for this as anyone else here. On that day, I didn't reach the goal, but the power was in believing that I could. That's what kept me going on a tough, tough day. I believed that I'd make it until I was told at the cutoff that I didn't.
Same thing with my first attempt at qualifying for the Boston marathon earlier this year. I missed it by 7 minutes. But when I started that race in Houston in January, I believed I could qualify. It's the power of positive thinking that gets you moving in the right direction.

As you begin to change your mindset and you start to believe that you can accomplish great things, you lose fear. That's the first step. Fear of failure will stop you from throwing your hat into the ring, and then you don't even give yourself a chance. Someone once said that if you don't try, it's 100% certain that you won't succeed. But if you do try...well, then the sky is the limit. I really believe that.

I love how the lessons from ironman carry over into "real life." In the past several months, I've challenged myself on more than one occasion to say, "why not me?" One of the biggest was when I applied for a position in our Singapore office. I didn't get the job. But knowing that I wouldn't be afraid to take it, to move across the world and start a new chapter in life, was incredibly empowering. Believing that I deserved it as much as anyone else who applied  - well, that was huge too.

I feel lucky that it didn't take a major life event to teach me that life is short and that we should make the most of every day. If I'm selected to speak in front of my coworkers, I'll challenge them with this, and I'll challenge you now with the same question. Ask yourself - why not me? And see what happens.

The next challenge for me is Ironman Lake Tahoe in September.