13 July 2010

Valor is only misguided if you quit...

It's that time of year, again: my annual bout of waxing lyrical about finding inspiration from the Tour de France.

Sylvain Chavanel, one of my favorite riders, has spent the past decade building a reputation for misguided valor: he’s known for making crazy escapes (breaking away from the peleton) and going on his own for a hundred miles, often only to be caught again a few kilometers from the finish. “Pointless heroics”, was a common response, as he rarely got the pay-offs in the big races. But for him, the possibility of success was worth a hundred failed efforts. That's the kind of never-say-die attitude I'd like to emulate.

Despite his boundless enthusiasm for the big gamble of a risky break-away, he also knew when he had to sacrifice his own interests for the good of the team. And he learned from experience; he learned when and how to make the escapes that might actually work - brashness coupled with experience. And this year he wound up getting it right. Twice. In one week. A stage victory and the Maillot Jaune. His victories made even sweeter by the fact that his teammate and friend, Jerome Pineau, earned the polka dot jersey of the Best Climber at the same time.

Watching things unfold there was a lot to admire and inspire. Reaching for the impossible with audacity and tenacity; boundless hope guided and supported by hard earned experience led to success. It would have been easy to have given up on such seemingly fruitless efforts years earlier. But knowing the goal and keeping that in mind, instead of the spectre of failed efforts, was probably a good part of what led to success.

My dad always says “There’s no such thing as can’t.” But “can’t” is an easy excuse some days. So I watch the tour, I watch the exploits of Chavanel, and Pineau, and I watch their joy in success. And I think about the projects and plans I have that seem impossible; and I know I just need to keep going, even if I fail 10 times, or 100 times. And like all the great riders, I need to know when to step back briefly from a goal for the sake of others; but stepping back from a goal doesn't mean losing sight of it.

Not giving up, but growing in understanding and ability, so that one day that almost ridiculously foolish exhibit of heroic effort will bring the greatest result. And if you’re really lucky, may even bring that result even twice in the same week.

No comments:

Post a Comment