Friday, August 19, 2011

Being Perfect Is Boring

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’m a sucker for inspiration. I’ll take it wherever I can get it: Hallmark Greeting cards, fortune cookies, Lifetime movies. I don’t think it matters if it’s delivered in a corny and cliché fashion, I am open to the greater messages underneath.

Okay, maybe not this one:

Here's where I found inspiration last night: Soul Surfer. You know the movie – the one based on a true story about teenage surfer, Bethany Hamilton, whose arm was chomped off by a shark. Against all odds, she came back to surf professionally.


I wanted to watch this movie with Emma, my ten year old daughter, to see what her take away would be. I knew she’d love the allure of Hawaii and the pretty teenage girls, but I wondered if she’d get the bigger message underneath.

With our big bowl of popcorn between us on my bed, we watched the story unfold. It was predictable to say the least. Girl is on top on top of the world destined to do great things. Girl experiences tragedy, almost dies, loses a limb. Girl wants to surf again, but can’t keep up. Girl goes on an eye opening trip to Thailand after the tsunami and realizes that “love is the answer.” Upon her return home, girl makes a huge surfing comeback because she has realized the meaning of life.

As Bethany crested that final huge wave that put her on the podium, I tried not to show Emma I was tearing up. She gets all wigged out when I cry, not understanding I cry out of emotion, not necessarily because I’m sad. But, she worries. As the credits rolled, I turned towards Emma.

Me: “So, what did you learn from that?”
Emma (without missing a beat): “To live your dreams no matter what.”


Later she came up to me and said, “It is easier to have  two arms. But, having two arms is perfect. And, it’s more exciting to not be perfect.”

Dang, she’s smart.

Funny thing is, none of us are perfect even if we have two arms. The way I see it our job is to know that we we have “imperfections,” but never be limited by them.  We’re often told we can do whatever we want to do if we just set our minds to it. If you accept this philosophy, keep in mind two things:

1. It’s okay and even ideal to dream big, but be prepared to fail many, many times. No one, and I mean no one, flies through life unscathed, especially while aiming for lofty goals. Remember this Nike commercial and what Michael Jordan said?

I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career
I’ve lost almost 300 games
26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot…and missed
I've failed over and over and over again in my life
And that is why I succeed.

2. Understand that your success might look a bit different than you imagined it. We always have  vision in our minds of how things are going to go. I will run a 3:45 marathon. I will not walk. I will take a GU every hour and I will drink water at every aid station. I will not have to poop during the course of the race.

You will probably finish the marathon, but what happens between miles 1 and 26.2 might be very different than what you had planned. Remember when my husband Ken trained his ass off for his first marathon last spring? Remember how he was on track to run a 3:43? Remember how at the half way point his hip gave out and he had to walk many of the remaining miles? Remember how despite all of that he finished the marathon anyway?

Always be willing to see the small achievements in everything you do, even if all does not go your way.  Learn from the experience and set your sights for next time.

Ever have a race go differently than you’d planned? What did you learn from it? Two years ago and against my better judgment I ran a half marathon with a piercing pain in my foot. It hurt every step of the 13.1 miles. By the time I finished I had to be carried to the car. Diagnosis? Stress fracture. I learned that I was a dumb ass and that it’s okay to back out of a race even if you trained for it and paid for it. I also learned to never go to bed with an itchy bum, but that was a different race



  1. Great post. I think we could all use this reminder to celebrate our accomplishments, whatever they may be.

    And remember, "he who stands on toilet, high on pot." :)

  2. My daughter and I watched this movie the other night, too. We LOVED it! We both cried.
    It's such a great lesson for this old gal and for my wee girl, too!

  3. I am strong believer that if you can't celebrate your own accomplishments then why the hell should anyone else waste their timing doing it for you.

  4. I took the last few lines of this as my "quote for the day"! Nice post

  5. I think this may be your best post yet! Rock on, girl!

  6. Great post! It's ok to dream big. I did for my half IM but as you know I fell down. That movie was awesome!!

  7. Yes IIIana, if I've spelled that right.
    And yes, I've had races go all pear shaped on me. That is why blogs exist.

  8. Love this! We watched Soul Surfer as a family and i loved it and my kids definitely got the message. Great movie.

    And Emma sounds super smart!!
    I always tell my kids that sometimes the things that happen to us that seem to bad and unfair are blessings and opportunities in disguise.

  9. Love this! I ran my first half marathon a few years ago and trained EVERY.SINGLE.RUN with my friend. I went into this race knowing she was going to be with me every single step of the way. We were going to push each other. She went into it with a different goal in mind and took off.

    It broke my heart that I had to run alone for the first time. I may or may not have cried for a mile and wanted to quit, but I snapped out of it and said I am running for me and only me. I told myself I was only using her company as a crutch to get through something I didnt think I could.

    And what do you know...I finished. And then ran 2 more, alone.

  10. Great Post! Thank you for the reminder that none of us are perfect; that it's our imperfections that make us great...

  11. You are awesome.

    I don't know if a race has gone exactly according to plan EVER. There is always room for improvement no matter how hard I train and or plan.

    I take nothing for granted and hope that one day, some day I will execute a race perfectly but until then I will keep working my ass off to get there.

  12. Great post!!!

    To answer your question, yes. I *will* run a race differently than planned.

    Was going to PR my Sept 10th marathon, then a severely strained calf muscle happened 3 weeks ago. Boo.

    Now the half is going to (hopefully) be an easy LSD run *if* my body is up for it. Life happens.

  13. Great post.

    I just got given "oh! the places you'll go!" (Dr Seuss)

    I loved it. It starts by showing how you can follow your big dreams, but tells you how sometimes you will fall, or not get what you want. Great book. I think I'll give my kids copies when they graduate high school (since this one will surely be trashed by then.)

  14. Ya know, it's based on a true story - it's SUPPOSED to be predictable. ;)

    And Confucius say, "Man who walk through airport turnstile sideways going to Bangkok."

    And "Better to be pissed off than pissed on."

    I'm anxious to see this movie. My girls are much younger than yours but maybe someday they'll be that smart, too.

  15. Dude...I am about to hit "publish" on a similarly-themed post... you and I are uncannily attuned... and it goes back to the armpit vag days. This is just perfect. And Emma is leaps and bounds ahead of the majority of adults! You are instilling amazing insights into that girl... go, mom! Go, Emma! Wow...

  16. @Heather: so the question begs to be asked...are you still friends?

    That is heartbreaking. I can see training together but agreeing you'd run separately in the race, but if it was a surprise on race day to not run together...that just stinks.

  17. I was unfamiliar with the Michael Jordan Nike ad that you referenced, which sent me to YouTube to check it out. I then proceeded to veg in front of the computer for another HOUR or more checking out other inspirational videos. (I'm a sucker for them, too.) It was time well spent, though. Thanks.

  18. My daughter read the book and loved it so we went to see Soul Surfer. It was an amazing mother daughter film! I love it when she says' "I didn't come here to win. I came here to surf!" As much as I like to win or place in a race I use that motto...."I didn't come here to win. I came here to run!" Your daughter is very smart! You taught her well! As Jillian Michaels says...."Perfect is boring! Perfect SUCKS!" I have to tell myself that every now and then. *smile*

  19. I love how smart your daughter is! I haven't seen the movie yet but am familiar with the story.

  20. Emma is one brilliant kiddo!

  21. Dang! Your daughter has a good head on her shoulders. I am just now (barely) figuring that. In fact, I still struggle with it. You made one cool kid.

    I would like to see this movie, a. because I want to be a surfer when I grown up and b.I think that girl is one badass biznatch and completely inspiring.

    Great post!

  22. That's one bright girl! Although I love any post with a TWSS reference, I sure like reading about your insights and lessons learned!

  23. If you don't fail now and then, how will you ever learn?!? I keep wondering when I will stop failing, though....somewhere along the way a few years ago I pissed off someone pretty bad and they're lettingme know. But maybe I think I'll be a lot stronger, and hopefully wiser, when this all comes to a hault!

    Your daughter takes after her momma!! :)

  24. The thing I learned from races that don't go as planned is that you have to keep an open mind about what could happen. Some planning is good, like to bring a bit of extra food, and that spare tube, and to scout out where the porta pottys are.

    But when the unexpected happens it's important to understand what is really happening. Yes, the race is important, and it's good to dig deep to finish, but you have to think about the long term. This body is the only one we get, and for almost all of us it has to last a long time yet.

    They say that pain is temporary, and often that is true, but not always. Bugger yourself up and pain could be permanent.

  25. Love this! I think so many of us don't back out of races that we've trained and paid for....out of stubborness, etc. Thanks for the reminder that there is always another race.

  26. My sister nursed the most inspirational lady yesterday. She was in to have a diaphragmatic hernia repair. And how did she get the hernia? Unloading besser blocks from her car boot. These blocks weigh around 15kg (33 lb) and she'd unloaded 37 of the 42 bricks when she got the hernia. Thing is she's 73 and she was born without arms. She was unloading them perched on a stool with her feet!! Amazing!

  27. Girl, I loved this. So dead on. Thank you.

  28. Great post! It's all about rolling with the punches! That Emma is one smart cookie....must be in the name! LOL! I have an Emma too!

  29. I was so humored by the chinese fortune that I couldn't focus on all the good for the soul words that came next.
    My little girls want to see the surfer movie ... looking forward to it.

  30. I love this post!!
    I've noticed that the more failures you have the sweeter victory is.

  31. I watched Soul Surfer a couple weeks ago. It really stuck with me too. Great story.

  32. I like what everyone says here, but especially what Michelle said about being imperfectly perfect...God gave us intelligence and the capacity love and be loved and to achieve great things; he gave us doubt and fear so that we could recognize the goodness inside us and see the value in fighting for it; and he gave us free will so that we can choose our own paths and grow. Being perfect is boring because it isn't human!

  33. I really love point number one. I am big fan of admitting failure. That's why I don't do "A, b and c" goals. I have a goal, I work for it, sometimes I fail. And that's how you get better.

  34. Really great post Beth. I watched Soul Surfer with my girls too. The acting was bad and of course being a true story the plot was predictable but I bawled like 3 times (blaming it on PMS but it was a touching movie). Love the Michael Jordan quote. I had forgotten that...Great perspective and reflection here!! Good for me to read this morning. I have had a few races go down not exactly as I planned....a little marathon in June perhaps but I hardy remember that....hmmm.

  35. Well, for me the race that went different than expected was.. a 1/2 marathon I had trained for and had put all my heart and sweat into it. Problem was that I trained inside for it due to cold weather. Three weeks before my first road race I took my runs outside only to find that I could not even run 1/2 a mile!! I just about collapsed in the park where I was running. Next day I went to the Doc only to find out that I have asthma and is caused by trees and grass!! They are everywhere!! I did not get to run my race and now have had to change my goals. Keep in mind that I have never given up, I have just had to adjust my idea of what my body can do and work with it not against it. Now Im training for a 1/4 marathon in two and going to see how it goes.Wish me luck!

  36. I was trained and ready for a cycling event only to have my equipment fail. Came back the next year even stronger and finished stronger than I expected.

    Also, thank YOU for all your inspiration. We have a group at work for a health & wellness challenge, I am the captain and I have used some of the inspiring things you post in my communications to the team.

  37. I work in a profession that relies on external validation more than most jobs do. It's that much harder to understand this point that success follows repeated failures. It's hard, but otherwise life is crushing. And we can't have that.

  38. I love this! Nope, we don't always have control over what happens but we can control what we do with it and how we move on.