Friday, May 19, 2023

Three life lessons from a race track in Kakumdo

Dear Reader,

Last week, when I wrote about why you need to write down your goals, I promised to share what I do after I’ve written down my goals. And I will do that. But in a later post.

Today, I thought I'd share an experience and its hard-won lessons that have carried me a long way indeed. I actually have several such lessons tucked away in my system that kick in to help me when the need arises.

Where the lesson was learnt

Today's lesson comes from my days of competing against others in athletics. 

I still think of myself as an athlete. The difference is that I compete against myself these days. It's always a competition against ourselves even when it appears there are other competitors. They too are competing against themselves.

In middle school (University Primary School, Legon), I run the 4 x 400 m race, 800 m, and 1500 m races. Those were the longest races at that level. Therefore I was considered a long-distance athlete. The year I finished high school, I won first place in my individual races and contributed significantly to the team that won the 4x400 m race. Therefore I was adjudged best female athlete, along with the lady who dominated the sprints.

I went on to Wesley Girls High School, where I discovered that there was an even longer race. The 3000 m race. I won that too. And went on to compete at the Inter-colleges level. More stories from there too, which I will share later.

I've shared the highlights of my athletic history to establish credibility as someone who knows a thing or two about becoming a champion.

One of my favourite life lessons is something I learned on the race tracks. What did I learn? And why should you care?

Why should you care?

Well, life may be likened to a long-distance race. And I find that my hard-won lessons on the race-tracks have made me stout-hearted. This is important because one needs courage to do difficult things. My difficult thing is to achieve good success as an entrepreneur. My dream is to enable ordinary Africans to experience the fullness of life through products made for their everyday lives. It's a difficult task. Similar to a long-distance race. And I find that what keeps me on my course, is my God, this software that I have in my brain. And the few fans that I've been blessed to find along my journey.

What did I learn?

Well, I learned many things. I hope to share all of them over time. In the hopes that it will help you as you run your own race.

Lesson 1 - the winners don't always look like the winners

I learnt that the winners don't always look like the winners. This always always happened in the long-distance races. As soon as the race starts, some people would run with all their might. They would be looking like the winners. When they do this, everyone in the race is tempted to match their pace. And some athletes yield to the temptation. Once some athletes try to take the lead at this point, the competition actually escalates. They fight among each other and burn up all their fuel to appear to be winning. Meanwhile little old me is behind. Running slow and steady. Little old me might as well be singing along to John Legend - "Even when I lose I'm winning". "Even when I lose I'm winning" is as true in love as in life. I'm not watching them. I just know that I know that I know that the winner of a 3000 m race is not determined at the 500 m mark. One by one the initial winners fall aside and I win the race.

You must not follow others blindly.

Lesson 2 - don't be afraid to look bad

I also learnt how to look bad without giving up. I find that a lot of people will do anything to look good. Now learning to look bad is a superpower. Many people will die before they look bad. What I have found is that it is the looking bad that forces you to get good. If you're not willing to look bad, you won't get good.

Lesson 3 - learn to love what others consider boring and monotonous

I also learnt how to run without encouragement from others except my own assessment of my place in the race. And my understanding of how much fuel I still had in the tank, compared with the distance I'd covered already and how much more lay ahead. The thing with long-distance races is that because of their length, most people don't follow the race from beginning to end. Supporters don't have attention spans that long. Therefore, as a runner, it's you and your God, and whatever software you're running with. No fans. No gyama. No cheering. Nada. What this builds in you is the emotional resources to do hard things for the right reasons. The gold does come. But the gold tends to come only at the end. So you need to enjoy the process of covering laps. The field at Wesley Girls High School was a mere 200 m track so I needed to run thirteen laps around it. And after running those laps in daily training, one just gets to enjoy the sheer process of covering your laps. In the end, that is what the race is really about. To get you to find meaning in something that others would consider boring and monotonous. To quote Steven Covey, it is there that "you win the personal victories that precede the public victories".

Kakumdo is the suburb of Cape-Coast where Wesley Girls High School can be found.

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