in life

I Against I

I can call myself a runner now. I’m pretty sure a successful 10 mile jog and consistent 4-7 mile runs over the past year at least allow me to add “Runner” to my Twitter bio, right?

I told myself at the beginning of this year that I was finally going to get disciplined about being active and getting healthy. What started as a struggle to keep my legs moving for even a mile has led me to discovering something that not only has me feeling healthier, more energized, and confident – but has taught me valuable lessons about staying motivated, focused, and driven.

The only sport I attempt to be decent at (if you can call it a sport) is golf. My love of the game stems from the mental challenge more than the physical (because, let’s face it, I wasn’t built to push around 300lb lineman on a football field or sprint up and down a soccer field). In golf, you compete against yourself, and only yourself. Sure, there may be money or glory in the way of a “championship belt”, but at the end of the day, you are your only obstacle.

Running is very much the same. During a run, the only voice telling you to stop is your own. The only pain you feel is self inflicted. And (aside from running in a race), the only finish line is the one you set for yourself.

That’s why it’s so empowering to push through the pain. To ignore the voices in your head telling you to let up. To meet your goals and in short, overcome yourself.

So much of our focus is on those around us. We use competition to benchmark our own goals, to set our own expectations, and to make our own pace. But if you focus on simply being better than those around you, are you REALLY focused on being YOUR best?

Seth Godin hits the nail on the head this morning.

If you’re going to count on the competition to bring out your best work, you’ve surrendered control over your most important asset. Real achievement comes from racing ahead when no one else sees a path–and holding back when the rush isn’t going where you want to go.

If you’re dependent on competition then you’re counting on the quality of those that show up to determine how well you’ll do. Worse, you’ve signed up for a career of faux death matches as the only way to do your best work.

Self motivation is and always will be the most important form of motivation. Driving with your eyes on the rear view mirror is exhausting. It’s easier than ever to measure your performance against others, but if it’s not helping you with your mission, stop.

With everything you do, the focus shouldn’t be on being better than the man running next to you, but rather to be at your best.

You may not win the race, but if you’ve overcome yourself and defied your own odds, the race has already been won.

Add Your Voice


  1. Great post, Matt! In summary, one that reminds me of my favorite quote ( from “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young” written by Mary Schmich and published in the Chicago Tribune as a column in 1997, and made popular within Baz Luhrmanns’ “Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen) video):

    “Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind; the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.” 

    Happy Monday!


  2. Another great post, Matt. There’s something to be said about the power and importance of self-motivation. Competition may drive you so far, but if you really want to be the best you also have to compete against yourself. Push yourself to the limits. 

  3. this isn’t related to this post, but I just stumbled across your blog and realised I was wearing exactly the same clothes as the picture in the title – right down to the colour of my vest! it’s 3.30 here in London, and I know most people would disapprove, but it just feels so right!

  4. love this post, i’m the same way about running. When I got an injury and couldn’t run in the mornings before work, I became frustrated. I didn’t get as many creative ideas (i’m a writer) and I didn’t feel challenged. Stick with it man, I got 5th for my age group(19-20) in the Detroit Half Marathon last year and I started out as a non-runner. Only you have the power to push yourself.