The quote in the title is from Sasha DiGiulian, a 23-yr-old world-champion professional climber and a soon-to-be Columbia lion. I learned about her recently. Her quote rang with me and is stuck in my head now. Human being’s most primal and universal enemy is fear. When you read about Sasha, at once you’ll think she’s crazy climbing trails like the Murder Wall. But, you’ll learn that managing fear is another skill she acquired with her climbing technique. She does this by shifting her thoughts away from what-ifs and directing them instead toward next steps. Eventually, her fear crystallizes into focus, leading her to the summit.
If I fear or am nervous about doing something, I cannot sustain without actually going through it. Whether it is giving a talk to a crowd of three hundred or walking up to converse with a pretty lady with an on-the-fly icebreaker I come up with, I just can’t go to sleep with the fact that I didn’t confront myself to do it. And, as Sasha’s quote nails it, I attest that such actions certainly yield life’s greatest rewards!
I cannot survive and progress without thriving on challenges and competition. I owe my academic achievements in college and professional successes at work to them. That wasn’t the case, though, in my fitness routine. For the longest time, since I started going to the gym regularly (sometime in 2007), I was primarily using the treadmill, elliptical, and bike for cardiovascular exercises. When it got terribly mundane, esp. with the stationary machines, I switched to running outdoors on the side roads. Last year, I completely stopped cardiovascular workout at the gym and started running on the beach instead. Running on the beach provides with three major benefits:
- The (scenic) environment is away from the city’s vehicular and industrial pollution.
- The beach surface is soft on your knees than a paved cement road or the treadmill belt.
- Running on the soft beach surface—both wet and dry—is more challenging as you dig out your feet every step of the run. As a result, running on a flat surface feels a lot easier after.
But, since the time I started, I was running on relatively flat and semi-wet sand. And that, too, got monotonous. I wanted further change and more challenge. I observed that the uneven mounds on the beach; and the soft, dry, & unevenly dug-up sand were the surfaces to try next. Personally, I love anything off-terrain, whether it’s off-road driving or trekking. After I switched to the uneven and soft sand, my running has become so much more challenging, exciting, and exhaustive. Every time my feet slip or get stuck, it provides me a teasing challenge to pull myself out and continue running. In the process, I also develop my stabilizer muscles—the muscles around the periphery of your major muscles in the legs—as you turn and twist for traction control. I sweat more, burn more, and feel satisfied more after finishing the run.
Take fear like a challenge. Repeated failures progressively irk me to keep retrying until the achievable goal is attained. After experiencing many failures, the few academic and professional successes I have had, have solidified my mental strength to just not give up. Even if I’m fighting my battles alone, I realize that I’m alive… to (change my approach, if needed, and) keep trying. And, like they say, what doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger.