Tough, Tougher and Toughest Critics

1891000_608271409241788_1949149654_nI remember I had a health teacher back from my freshman year of when I was in high school who sticks out in my mind for 2  distinct and pretty much unrelated reasons:

1) She was an Indiana fan while I was a Syracuse fan and our teams met in the 1987 NCAA Basketball Championship Game with that SOB Keith Smart his the game winner to down my Orangemen. (Thankfully, I’ve seen the light and I am all UConn now); and

2) She once told the other freshman health class that she thought I was someone who was extremely hard on myself, even if I kept a demeanor suggestion I was cool as a cucumber.

Why in the world she felt A-OK with describing this fact about me to 40-50 of my classmates is completely beyond me… but she was pretty accurate.

I’ve long been my toughest critic and, over time, I think I’ve only gotten harsher, in many ways.

I’ve even said if I saw someone else getting treated the way I treat myself, I would think whoever was doing that to them was a complete jerk, worthy of a smack in the mouth.

I had many years in my 30’s where I watched a few different people close to me go through the tremendous struggle of dealing with leukemia. It offered me a tremendous amount of perspective on what is truly difficult in this world versus that which is merely annoying. Funny how many people confuse those two things… well, until you see it firsthand and cannot fathom how you ever saw it differently before.

The positive of this is I complained less.

The challenge is that I probably overdid this and would never gripe or let out what was really bothering me on some issues because they paled in comparison to other struggles.

That’s why this photo (snagged from Elephant Journal) grabbed my attention to serve as a stark reminder that as much as accepting challenges with a detached sense of stoicism is good, balance is also a good thing.

It’s that funny dichotomy of that which makes you successful can also be a tremendous weakness.

To be as philosophically nerdy as possible (you know, the whole reason you come to this blog)… I need to balance out my Marcus Aurelius reading (stoicism with The Emperor’s Handbook) with a lot more Shunryu Suzuki (Zen buddhist with Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind).

Think of yourself on this point for a minute as well and I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t find a plethora of nuggets from your day where you are a brutal self-critic.

I figure 42 is as good of a time as any to learn to be a little nice to myself anyway.

Great goal… but damn, that is a seriously lame mid-life crisis.  Thankfully that’s a myth anyway.

Elite vs. Elitism: Know The Difference

Working to be the best is something I’m all for.  Heck, part of the point of this blog is to detail a little bit about how I am trying to do that with my own life… along with the requisites victories and stumbles that come along the way.  There is a tremendous amount of skill, dedication, discipline and sheer willpower that goes along with the quest to reach that pinnacle… to become part of the elite.  To say I admire those who make that commitment fully is an understatement.

However, elite is something that differs greatly from its annoying cousin that often likes to tag along with it.  That snot-nosed little brat would be the never acceptable elitism.  These two traits don’t always have to travel together as an inseparable pair… but damn it, sometimes they just do.  The sad thing is that they really never need to.

Allow me to illustrate a bit:


This is always one that stuck in my craw a little bit – the way people tend to elevate one band or artistic while simultaneously putting down another for “pandering to the masses” or just being “meaningless pop”.  The latter category would tend to be for music like this from Ke$ha:

And the critically-acclaimed darlings would be something more like this from Arcade Fire:

I can almost sense the level of utter disgust from some reading this post… even though you are doing so in the future.  Yeah, I’m kind of a seer like that – freaky right?  My point is that regardless of why someone may like Arcade Fire and feel repulsed by Ke$ha, I have pretty much zero patience for those who sneer at others for listening to “lesser” music.  If you don’t like Ke$ha, don’t listen to her and the world will just continue spinning along on its merry way with nary a blip in the scheme of the cosmos.  It’s the fact that elitists really are looking for a means by which to set themselves above and apart from others… in this case via their musical tastes… that simply falls flat.  Ke$ha sells a lot of MP3s and albums because people like her music (even if they don’t want to admit it to their friends).  If people like it, why is that such a bad thing?



Hoo boy, does this ever happen in the world of strength, fitness, training, exercise and so on.  It’s not enough to be looking to improve yourself or get stronger/leaner/faster/healthier/more awesomer… far too many people are compelled to take that next step from shooting for elite to acting like the elitists will all know and love.  Powerlifters do this.  Bodybuilders do this.  Crossfitters do this.  Triathletes do this.  Hell, I’m sure this even happens in curling, Wiffle-ball and lawn bowling (as this photo proves to a weird degree).  Need I continue?  It’s a disease that doesn’t reside with any one particular clique.

Again, the difference between the two is that someone shooting to be the best is focused on doing what they can… or really… what they must do to improve while elitists focused more of their time on why others are less.  It’s as if the actual work to be better is too hard, so hey, we can look better if everyone looks worse.  YAY!

And truth be told… if you have to resort to acting like an elitist ass to make yourself look better or to feel better about yourself, that’s pretty much the first sign that you were never that great to begin with.

Be humble.  Be great.  Probably one of the most powerful combinations I know.

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