Last night I was feeling terrible. I had stayed home due to sinuses but I had on my workout schedule to go run. I really wasn’t feeling up to it, but I knew that if I didn’t go, I would be setting myself back. I needed to do something, at least a little, so when we got back from church I changed into my running clothes, laced up my shoes, and started out on what was supposed to be a 3.1 mile loop.
I learned this lesson back at The Citadel when the Director of Bands, Major Day, brought in an old tuba player he knew. The tuba player either played with the Commandant’s Own or the President’s Own Marine bands, but I don’t remember which. What I do remember is he played my part for Stars and Stripes Forever from memory. And he played it on the tuba. Since my primary instrumentation was flute and piccolo and he played the piccolo part on tuba, I was picking my jaw up off the ground. I couldn’t believe a brass instrumentalist had that kind of embouchure, especially someone who was supposedly retired.
Major Day brought him in for a reason. He wanted to inspire us and to motivate us to work harder. He did so with that gentleman, who also took part in our spring concert. Major Day did ask the man what was his secret for success. The man’s answer wasn’t surprising, as we had heard it before. But after hearing and seeing what he had just done, most of us took it to heart. Here’s what he said, as best I can remember.
“Practice every day, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. If you’re sick, get out of bed and do those 15 minutes. And don’t just practice what you like. Practice what you need to work on. Make those 15 minutes matter. Of course, you should practice longer, but don’t neglect a practice. Don’t ever skip one. “
Running last night was about giving my 15 minutes. I have a goal to be able to run long distance again. Skipping last night would have been detrimental to that goal. So I went. I hurt. I cut it short, only going 1.66 miles, but I went. I’m still not able to run the whole time, but I did run over half the distance. I made progress. Maybe I didn’t make the progress I would have liked, but I still took a step forward.
It’s easy to make excuses. It’s easy to give in to the circumstances. It’s easy to find a “legitimate” reason not to do something. However, if you want to reach your goals, you need to push forward, even when it’s hard. We grow during times of adversity. And if we want to truly accomplish a goal and master something, it’s going to take consistent effort, even when we’re not feeling up to it. Case in point:
Watching this master do a simple bo kata reveals a lot. His moves are precise. They accomplish the purpose for each strike and block. He has more hours practicing this kata than he can probably remember. And likely he practiced it when he was hurting, when he wasn’t feeling well, because it needed to be practiced. It needed to be practiced if he wanted to be at that level of performance.
And that’s a key way to get an edge: to work when others aren’t willing. So when you aren’t feeling well, when you are feeling tired, still look to make some progress, any progress, on your goals. Each time you work when others don’t, you either gain ground if you’re behind, or you extend your lead if you’re not. Also, for skills that require continual practice, you don’t backslide. You at least maintain and maybe even improve. Therefore, even if it’s only 15 minutes, take the time to make progress.