Decisions made well ahead

Walter - Ellicott City, Maryland
Entered on July 29, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe our most impressive moments as humans are the result of quiet decisions made well before our moment. I have seen this repeat itself in my life as well as those around me. The amount of time between decision and moment scales itself to the difficulty of what we aim to achieve.

I discovered the nature of this truth in my youth racing motorcycles. Racing may seem an odd place to find worldly insights. But behind the noise and spectacle of racing there lies intelligence found only if one looks hard enough. Like any other sport, those that excel in motocross spend countless hours practicing to develop a kinesthetic intelligence that only comes with repetition. The obstacle one faces can be difficult and scary to overcome. I always paralleled motocross to what a gymnast must go through when developing skills for the uneven parallel bars. Timing and strength need to be coordinated to overcome the challenges of height and speed. A gymnast can swing up to over 15 feet into the air with no protection. On a motocross bike, the rider can get to heights over 20 feet while moving at very high speeds. Both these tasks require great nerve and determination.

In motocross one of the obstacles most feared is called the ‘double jump’. The nature of the obstacle is as the name implies. Two ramps spaced near each other. You can roll over both jumps or to save time you can hit the first one faster in order to clear the second one. Sounds easy enough and when you watch the professionals on television it looks so. But when one tries it, the complexities of executing on it make the task daunting. As a youth, I would study the more skilled riders as they accomplished what I could not. I looked at what gear they were in, how they sat on the bike, what speed they were going. Somehow when I tried to copy it I would always come up short…which usually meant either an extremely bumpy ride or a broken bike. Then I discovered the trick. If one commits to making the jump 1 or 2 turns before the obstacle, then everything falls into place.

By committing to the jump well before facing it, I would be able to build my speed, position my body and subconsciously do everything I needed to do to make it over. I learned that making up my mind right before the jump only led to hurried decisions and panicked execution. Making my mind up ahead of time allowed me to face my fear with confidence.

Once I discovered this nugget of truth I started applying it everywhere in my life. If I wanted to get through engineering school, I had to make up my mind well before taking classes that I would make it through. Believing ahead of time made the difficult portions of the training seem like bumps in the road. Before getting married, I decided this IS what I am going to do and I will do everything in my power to make it successful. Any day arguments seem laughable when compared to the obstacles my wife and I have overcome. That early decision to believe that I can succeed is what has set the course and subconsciously helped me to make better decisions along the way.

The reality we have is the reality we make. Of course not everything will be perfect. As humans we have the innate ability to adjust to our circumstances. As humans if we all decided to form the reality we want well ahead of our moment of truth, all the demons of indecision and fear would be left aside and we could realize the world we would like to see.