A Distance Runner's Advice on Tackling Big Goals
Back in High School, my composition teacher gave me a copy of Zen and the Art of Archery.
I wasn’t much of a reader back then. I was cross country runner-- and the few hours I had away from school and the trail were spent on videogames. But, I was flattered by this gift and the unfamiliar word “zen” held promise of mystical secrets. I slogged through this book. It was possibly the most dry, obtuse, thing I had ever read up to that point in my life. But, I persevered, sometimes only reading one paragraph at a time.
Accumulation is everything.
If I had to put together a list of insights from Eugen Herrigel and his tale of learning Kyudo it would look like this:
Be your skill.
Strive to infinity.
The impossible is ideal.
The outcome is not important, it is the practice.
Humility is the way.
You can imagine your objective to be any shape, distance, or size you desire, whatever helps you.
Perspective is infinitely malleable.
A practice is the process of smaller thoughts and actions. You can recognize this and strive to perfect each of the components individually, adding them together to create the complete practice.
Perfection is impossible.
Perfection is obtained the moment you allow it to happen.
Nearly as informative as the contents of the book, was the gift of the book itself.
Funny, Zen in the Art of Archery was, for me, a lesson of Zen in the Art of Learning. Which, after all, is the subject of the book.
Mr. Larson had lain before me a presumably impossible task. He had given an irresponsible, underperforming youth a thick esoteric treatise by an old German Philosopher about Japanese tradition and philosophy. But, moving into impossibility, Mr. Larson made it possible.
The practice of reading that was about as challenging and humbling as learning Kyudo.
I could spend hours on a single page, only needing to review the page for another hour after reaching the bottom. But, the book had started with a challenge. An oath to completion. That was between the author and his teacher. But, it instilled in me the same sense of commitment.
I am eternally grateful I am to that teacher who did not assume to place limitations on a “child”. I am eternally grateful to the author for sharing his experience, no matter their ephemeral and confusing nature of his story.
This impossible tale subtly gave me the impossible perspective to travel through an impossible life.
This made all things possible.
In running, in learning, in all things complex and worthwhile: