When my clients finish a competition, I will ask them to write a story for my newsletter about their journey. I do this for two reasons. The first, is that it motivates others who are considering competing but have not yet done so. The second, is to bring closure for my client. It is beneficial to reflect on the journey and to appreciate the accomplishment that they have achieved.
It is easy to set goals, make lists, and then set more goals, and make more lists. But sometimes what gets neglected is the appreciation of the achievement of a goal. The revelation in the fact that a vision at one point, you did not believe would even be possible, actually came to be your reality. The best part of setting goals, in my opinion, is achieving something you did not think was possible, and then marvel in the fact that you were able to pull it off.
This month I wish to diverge away from fitness for just a moment to share with you my story of getting my degree.
Appreciating Goal Achievement
I was sitting backstage at the Sacramento Pro in 2009. Usually you can find me relaxing in a chair, eating my food at regimented intervals and basking in all that I have accomplished over the past 16 weeks or more. But at this show, for some reason, I was uneasy. I was not relaxed. I perseverated over the long challenge that I had faced in order to get to that particular show. So much chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, and neuromuscular therapy, just to get my body to do the bare minimum required to get in competition shape. I have a special rule that has allowed me to be an active competitor for 20 years, and that is, if it is not fun, I am not doing it. My face went flush and the words just came out. “This is not fun.” I couldn’t believe that right in the middle of the competition experience I was having this revelation. The next words that came out stunned me. I said “It is time to go to school.” Notice I did not say back to school, because other than getting a certificate at the junior college in web design and photography, I never actually went to school. I graduated high school, but that was the extent of my formal education.
Back in Glendale California, two days later I trudged to the local junior college to begin my quest. In high school, I was an athlete, and athletes did not have to advance very much in math. As long as you were on an organized team through the school, you weren’t even required to pass pre-algebra. Naturally, I didn’t. Imagine a 39 year old business owner in a basic math class at a junior college. The first quarter, I wanted to crawl under a rock. But I committed early on not to make excuses for my age, or feel the need to defend my story.
I had a series of 6 math classes to take, starting from basic math, all the way to statistics. This would be my Achilles heel if I let it. But I didn’t. I decided, that I would take whatever class was given to me, in order to fulfill my mission of earning my degree. I decided to have peace with the journey.
After I completed my first quarter, I noticed the strong resemblance that going to school had with a fitness competition. It starts out easy, it gets harder over time, and the last four weeks other life events become second priority. The quarter system is also around the same length of time as a competition prep, 15 weeks. All I needed now, was a coach. I went to the transfer advisor and he carefully laid out my plan of action. I followed it with precision. I visited him every quarter, some quarters several times, in order to guarantee that my plan was executed properly and I would be a candidate to transfer. Once I had the plan in place, I just locked in to my goal and progressed forward.
The most difficult part of my experience early on was figuring out the workload required to get A’s. I would use A students as role models and I would ask them how they studied and I would model their techniques. When I wasn’t getting A’s, I would change my plan of action. I would often go to the professor’s office hours to ask them how I could improve my study habits. I didn’t complain about getting B’s, I just went to office hours, and explained to professors how I was studying and they offered advice on how to streamline my efforts. This was a valuable experience that I would need once I transferred to UC Davis.
Never give up on a dream, just because of the time it will take to accomplish it.
Start something. Anything. Make a goal and just do it.