Monday, June 06, 2011

The perception of investment....

When I was much younger, still had knees and ankles that could support me and was striving to make a solid contribution to my high school soccer team, there was an incident between my coach and my dad that has become a life lesson to me on any number of levels.

This moment occurred when my dad came to pick me up from two-a-day practices in the pre-season. I had run track the previous spring and had been training quite hard over the summer in order to be in good condition for the fall season. I had put the hard work in, and yet the coach seemed to remain unimpressed by my output. I was leading the sprints, had a good foot on the ball and was doing well in the intra-squad scrimmages. Still, little to no positive feedback.

I had spoken to coach, and he had said that I was "doing just fine...keep working at it." Not much to go on, in that I felt that no matter what I was doing there seemed to be no real change in my status.

My dad approached the coach and asked him what was going on. He told my dad that he just "didn't get" me, in that I was first on the line (and first over the line) and that I seemed to be making solid contributions...but that I just didn't seem to be sweating enough. To my young mind, that made no sense. I got upset that with all I was putting out, the fact that my shirt wasn't wet with perspiration seemed of such little consequence.

With age (and now with no knees to speak of after years of soccer, rugby and martial arts), I am having an Epiphany. The coach wasn't indicting my lack of sweat stains...he was lamenting that I had potential I wasn't living into....I wasn't sitting back on my heels. By no means...but at the same time, I had not committed my whole self to the effort. For his own sake, he wanted to see me break a sweat as a sign of my own willingness to push not only to my limits, but perhaps a little beyond them.

I confess that a great deal of my life is lived withing what I think I am capable of (sometimes that is more than I really am able to deliver, but for the most part I keep a healthy safety margin with regard inside the limits) when it comes to personal abilities. Giving my all is a tough thing for me to tender...in some ways I fear it, because when I get that far into something I often feel myself getting into a dark, competitive place where victory is an all-or-nothing enterprise. In other ways, that sort of commitment also takes me away from being lazy. Another past-time that has plagued me.

What a balance it is, to measure hard effort in proportion to visible effort...to be willing to let people see you sweat as well as being willing to work to and past the point where sweat (both physically and metaphorically) are apparent.

When it comes to relationship, people want to see us as "all-in" in proportion to their investment. Not being perceived as sweating enough is evidence to many of a lack of mutual investment...and sometimes it really is that...

...and sometimes, it isn't. The hard part of that event in my life as I see it now from 30 years out, is that I am finally coming to a place with a two-fold realization...the person to whom my sweat matters the most is myself. I am responsible for finding and then pushing past self-limitations; and as well to be willing to offer up and demonstrate that I am willing to sweat it out with those I love and respect.

...and here we are in NJ, getting ready for several days of 90+ degree heat and high humidity. Sounds like it's time to sweat a little, and show a little love, respect and grace to those around me.

Pardon the pit-stains, folks...really, it means I care. ;)

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