Accountability. It has taken me a few years to not cringe when hearing the word. You see, back when I played volleyball, our coach had us do an exercise. Everyone had to write down a one-word goal, much like the one-word mantras going around the blogging world right now. We then built a "pyramid" of sorts, where a handful of words made up the base, others made-up the middle section and that word, accountability, sat at the tippy top of the pyramid. Literally, a pyramid of cut-out pieces of paper that was taped to the locker room wall. We'd be sitting in the locker room during half-time and the coach would point to the wall. To "accountability".
That was our team's one word for a season.
But I hated it—because in my mind, accountability didn't matter all that much in the team atmosphere. I felt like no matter how hard some players worked in practice, during weights and during strength and conditioning sessions, hard work didn't necessarily correlate to talent, playing time or to success.
Maybe that's why I like triathlon so much: more work, harder work tends to mean faster times, more success. It's a simpler equation: what you put into it equals what you get out of it, barring the occasional flat tire or bad race day mojo. And even if you don't podium or qualify for Kona because of girls ahead of you, you can still "win" a race—heck, even the person who finishes last can "win", if they're judging performance against themselves. There's no black or white "winner/loser" scenario—which, by the way, makes it a lot easier to be friends with the girls you are racing "against"—it's not like volleyball where you actually celebrate with the opponent misses a serve or shanks a ball. There's not a lot of luck involved. It's just who put in the most work leading up to race day and who executed the smartest race plan.
To this point—of true accountability—I've decided that 2014 is the year I make peace with the word and bring it back into my vocabulary. To hold myself accountable, I'm putting it out there.
As I was scrolling through old Notes on my phone the other day, I came across three things I had written down for myself in January of last year. It was titled "Dream Big - 2013." At the time I wrote these three goals, they felt impossible. I don't think I told anyone that I wanted to accomplish these, let alone accomplish them within the next twelve months. They were my BHAGs.
Just one month after writing this crazy goal down, I got hit by a car and broke my collarbone: no running for 8-weeks, no swimming for 12. At one point, I told my coach that I was still going to do the 140.6 I had already committed to - I just was going to make the mental downshift from "competitor" to "finisher" and treat 2013 like a rebuilding year.
Well, at some point between my resignation to focus on "just finishing" and the first race of the year, I found my fire. And somehow by the end of the year, I had ticked off all those BHAGs (and more!) I set out to achieve. I didn't look at this list every day - in fact, I forgot the note on my phone actually existed until going back and scrolling through months later.
However, just having the goals out in the universe seemed to make them all the more likely. It's funny, Greg LeMond did something similar, at the age of seventeen. Putting pen to paper can motivate in strange ways:
Along those same lines of dream big thinking, I was at a tech conference where I got to see Marissa Meyer (formerly of Google, now CEO of Yahoo) speak. She mentioned a successful college friend of hers and her attitude toward to do lists, She said,
'Look, I just make a to-do list every day in priority order from most important to least important and celebrate the fact that I'd never get to the bottom of it, because if I did, I would have spent a bunch of time doing relatively unimportant things.'
That's part of why it's okay to "Dream Big" - better to map out the possibly unattainable than a bunch of relatively unimportant things. So in the spirit of accountability, putting in the required hours of hard work and dreaming big - fingers crossed for no more near-death experiences (two in a year is enough, thank you) - here are my 3 BHAGs for 2014....ish (maybe leading into first half of 2015):
All three of these are insanely lofty for me but since I accomplished everything last year even with a major set-back, time to set the bar even higher. Yep, there's a bigger possibility of failure but the risk is worth it for the added motivation!