Posts Tagged ‘John Wooden’

Fortieth Birthday Interruptus

March 15, 2011 Leave a comment

My 40th birthday is coming up and I have no plans.  I did have a plan but it fell through. I was really excited about it, too. Back in November, I made a goal: to be stronger, more flexible and have more stamina by my 4oth birthday. I was going to showcase the fruits of my labor by putting together and performing a pole routine. I pretty much put everything else in my life on hold and trained up to two times a day, six days a week. By February, not only was I totally on track to meet my goal, but I also had choreographed and executed two pole routines! (You can see practice video here, this is not  my birthday routine, it’s the other one.) I was definitely stronger, more flexible and had more stamina.


By mid-February, I knew I would be ready for my March 18 deadline.  Then I got injured. My fault. I got overzealous, overtired and, ultimately, overtrained.  I just recently got the ok to start swimming again, but it’s been a month since I’ve been on the pole. It breaks my heart to know I can’t spend my birthday with my beloved chrome stick.  No joke, my eyes are welling up right now as I write this.  But I’ve had a month to think–some of those thoughts weren’t so friendly, but some were really helpful.  My favorite thought is one I borrowed from the late, amazing John Wooden: Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do. It’s really easy to get hung up on the things I can’t do. I can’t swim, I can’t get on the pole, I can’t practice contortion, I can’t perform my routine on my birthday. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.


This is not helpful and, actually, it isn’t even true. Technically, I could do all of those things, but I would risk doing serious damage to my body and putting myself out of commission for a very long time.  I chose not to do those things.  That was the first thing I had to get right in my head.  Then I could focus on what I could do. Let me just say that I tend to be a very dichotomous thinker, an extreme all or nothing kind of person, so this piece does not come naturally to me at all. I really had to work for this one. Fortunately, I started reading a really good book by sport psychologist Terry Orlick called In Pursuit of Excellence even before I got injured and the book is all about focus and mental training.  I knew I could practice my routines in my head mentally and visualize cleaning up my tricks and transitions. So I did and continue to do so. This breeds other productive action:  I can get quality sleep, I can stay on top of my nutrition, I can get my endorphin fix by laughing with a friend. I can. I can. I can.


I also learned that I can choreograph a whole pole routine without getting physical using paper, music and my imagination. And I did. (If you’re keeping track, that makes 3 routines in all. Not too shabby!). I can also perform my birthday pole routine on a day other than on my actual birthdate. And I will. Maybe the training I really needed was more mental than physical. Maybe, instead of thinking about all the things I haven’t accomplished by the time I reach 40, I can think about all the things I have accomplished so far and focus on setting and achieving new goals that actually have meaning for me now. Maybe instead of making a big deal out of one day, I can make a bigger deal out of a whole decade. I can conquer a lot more in 10 years than I can in one day. I can do it while loving the actual getting it done part like crazy while not desperately clinging to the outcome, too. It turns out that I don’t get permission to do whatever I want just on my birthday, I can choose to do whatever I want on any given day.  I can and I will. So can you. Will you?



You’ve Got Skills, Use Them . . .

August 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do. ~ John Wooden

I’ve been going to aerial classes for close to two months now.  There are a lot tricks and poses I cannot do yet. I don’t have the stamina specific to aerial training to tie moves together into a fluid combination. I don’t know how to transition from one move to the next. I have difficulty with basic wraps and I forget preparations for tricks I learned a week before.  I have limited flexibility in my back and shoulders. There is a lot I can’t do.

There is also a lot that I can do. I can listen to and observe my instructors as they teach me a new aerial skill. I can practice what I have seen and heard. I can make mistakes and learn from them. I can grab a piece of fabric and make a loop around my foot and then I can grab the other piece of fabric and loop it around my other foot.  I can point my toes. I can make my knees straighter.  I can climb. I can get frustrated and choose to keep going anyway. I can try a different approach. I can ask for help. I can watch the experienced performers I train with and learn from them.  I can stretch my shoulders and back everyday.  I can push myself a tiny bit past my comfort zone each time I practice.  I can focus.  I can give my best effort.

I already possess the most powerful abilities that will help me achieve any goal I pursue: I have the ability to learn, try, practice, fail and try again.  So do you.  Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do.