The Winning  Spirit
Life Lessons Learned
In Last Place
Four Winning Strategies


Four Winning Strategies

In November 2007 I completed my 20th NYC Marathon.  It took me and my team 28 hours and 45 minutes to complete the 26.2 mile course. Actually, that was significantly faster than my all time record of 33 hrs and 10 minutes set in 1999. 

As I'm sure you can imagine, the daily challenges of living with both Multiple Sclerosis and Diabetes are magnified a thousand times along the Marathon route.  My two trusty magenta crutches, countless friends and the amazing letters of support from people I meet all over the world in the course of speaking are all an integral part of my team - with me every step of the journey.

Over the years and the miles, the Marathon and Multiple Sclerosis have certainly been excellent teachers.  They've taught me the value of faith, humor and discipline.  They've shown me that humility and vulnerability are the precursors of strength. They've enabled me to redefine the words win and achieve, and in the process, develop some winning strategies that have served me well - not only on the Marathon course but in everyday life. 

                                   1. Create A Dream

A dream is a unique and individual experience woven from our highest hopes and greatest expectations.  The most effective dreams are custom-built masterpieces of personal architecture.  They are rich in color, sight, sound and detail.  The creation of a vibrant and compelling dream exponentially increases our likelihood of success.  Dream big!

                  2. Find Your Purpose And Make Your Plan 

No matter how compelling our vision of the future may be, without a purpose and a plan it just remains a remote fantasy exiled to the land of reverie and perpetual longing.  It is the alignment of our intentions with our core values and the setting of achievable goals with measurable outcomes that ultimately transforms a dream into reality.

When I first decided to "run" the New York City Marathon there was no reason whatsoever to believe I could actually cross the finish line.  In an attempt to bring clarity and sanity to a commitment that most of my friends and family thought was crazy, I sat down with a pencil and a notebook.

I began to write about "Why" I was determined to do it.  Not "How" I would do it, but "Why."  If I didn't have a really great reason for doing this, then the first wave of adverse circumstances would surely prove insurmountable.  I realized that by doing the Marathon I was taking a giant step towards salvaging my life from the ravages of Multiple Sclerosis.  I was no longer willing to accept the limitations of a sedentary lifestyle.  I wanted back everything I had surrendered to MS over the years.  In the name of self-preservation and life extension, I had become the ultimate spectator.  It was time to once again become a player.

Once I had my "Why" in place, it was time to figure out the "How."  I made a list of all my assets and all the reasons I thought I could do the Marathon.  Right at the top of the list?  A highly developed sense of the absurd.  The fact that I'd decided to "run" the Marathon was certainly proof of that!  Second?  A really great sense of humor.  A handy asset in any situation and an essential companion in the rigors of Marathon training.  And last but not least, the ability to pursue and achieve a long-term goal.  In other areas of my life, I had been able to envision a multi-task outcome and formulate a plan to get there. Barring serious, unforeseen complications of my MS, I could see no reason why the Marathon wouldn't be the same.

I made a second list of all my deficits.  Potential liabilities that might thwart my plans or put a damper on my dreams.  Limited hand-eye coordination.  Unsteady gait.  No strength or endurance.  The sheer and sometimes overwhelming unpredictability of living with MS.

Finally, I made a third list.  It contained all the ways I could fix the items on the second list.  I thought up very tactile, down-to-earth strategies.  I could play pinball to improve my eye-hand coordination.  I could enroll in an Afro-Brazilian dance class to improve my gait.  I would do aerobics and weight training to improve my stamina and endurance.  Baby steps and giant steps, each one would move me one step closer to the finish line.

              3. The Power Of Circumstances And Beliefs

No matter how great our dreams are and how good are plans are, somewhere along the way, we're bound to hit what runners call "The Wall."  It's that point in life when we feel that we have absolutely nothing left to give and we still must go on.  Walls come in many shapes and sizes.  They can be personal, professional, financial or health related.  The one thing they all have in common is the fact that they are infrastructures built of the mortar and brick of circumstances and beliefs.

Every hour of every day offers us an endless array of choices, chances and consequences.  For better or for worse, we make up whatever it is we make up about them.  Ultimately, it's never really about the circumstances.  It's about the context we hold them in, the power we vest in them and most important of all, what we believe about them.

Many people are vanquished and totally devastated by unexpected setbacks while others utilize those same circumstances as a challenge to create life-affirming solutions.  We must never underestimate the power of our beliefs.

Beliefs are not always factual and frequently aren't even logical.  They are simply an organizing principle which we use to explain and give meaning to our experiences.  We can change our beliefs at any given moment. When we challenge their validity and restructure their content, we take that all important step of counteracting the power of adversity, and ultimately begin the process of dismantling the "The Wall."

                4. Acquiring And Utilizing Resources

When training for my first Marathon, the first race I ever participated in was completed on a bone-chilling February morning in an ice-sheeted Central Park in New York City.

It took me three hours to complete the three mile course.  By the time I got to the finish line, there was no finish line.  No medal to be had.  No commemorative T Shirt.  Not even a cup of hot chocolate to brace myself with for the long cold trip home.

I had learned two very important lessons that morning.  Lessons that no one could ever take away from me.  I knew that no one could ever say no to me ever again for anything I really wanted in life.  And I knew for sure, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I had what it takes to go the distance whether it's on the Marathon course or in real life.

These two revelations, in addition to many others, became an integral part of my dreaming, planning and believing.  They were invaluable not only in the course of training for that first finish line.  They became permanent entries in my own personal data base of resources, wise allies that I could summon on a daily basis and utilize in an infinite number of situations.  I learned to value the process and all the gifts and opportunities it offers along the way as much as I learned to cherish the finish line.

Quite appropriately, one of my finisher's medals is inscribed with the words "Success is a journey, not just a destination."



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