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Dean’s Letter: Pain, the Way of All Champions

The people who come to me for coaching are people broken, in pain, who have failed, who have been beaten and who are fed up with it.  They come to me because I am a teacher, but my lessons are no good unless they have already been taught well by the real instructor in life:  pain.

Life is sometimes hard to figure out.  One day it is impossibly hard, the next day everything starts to click.  One day you don’t know how you will keep going another step, and the next day your faith is renewed and the world seems to be in order once again.  I am in Maui as I write this, on my every other year vacation to paradise.  My parents go to Maui each winter, and when we are there with them we visit this church that is held outside, right on the surf in Whaler’s Village. Yesterday it helped me see why I had been through some of the challenges I have faced.  The pastor talked about how when things are good, it is much harder to appreciate the divine support that guides the universe.  We think we know the answers, we think that it is us making everything happen.  In reality we are just links in a chain, being moved around and around thinking we are doing the pedaling.

Another way to think about it is the question “What makes a champion?”  What is the nugget of impetus that drives us to improve, instead of just doing the same thing again and again.  Without seeming trite, it is the sand in our bathing suits that causes us to go rinse, or the way someone kicks our butts that makes us want to “not let that happen again”.  Pain and discomfort is our real teacher.  Pain is our friend, our guide and our mentor.  We learn the most important lessons when we have failed or been unlucky.

The pastor said “You don’t get closer to God when things are good, most of the time you need to be brought to your knees, to be stripped of all hope, to think there is no way out, to see the divine and put your faith in him.”  Pain is our path to enlightenment. Pain is what will get us to the promised land.  And if Pain or failure is what will help us improve the most, then why don’t we seek it out?  Why don’t we purposely go find failure and misery so we can learn and improve?  Look at the most successful people, they are often the most tortured by a previous pain, and their life mission is to never let that kind of suffering or vulnerability happen again.

Riding your bike is an excellent example.  You have a goal to do the Chelan Century and you have heard about McNeil Canyon, perhaps the toughest climb in the Northwest.  You choose pain and suffering.  You choose to commit to this event because it will force you to adapt, to train, to do yoga or core work, to go to Chelan camp with me (had to sneak that one in there), to get a bike fit, to diet, to buy expensive wheels, to make changes.  Your reward?  Suffering for the hardest 5 miles you can imagine.

You are picking challenge and pain over the easy road.  You are using pain and possibly failure to be your guide and mentor.  You are a bike rider.  You are a life champion.  You pick the road less chosen because it is hard.  Because you will need to grow and improve, because that is the way to get better and possibly, just possibly, reach enlightenment. That is the path of the rider, the path to a stronger and more fulfilled life.  So if you find yourself on a road of pain, a path of misery, a Death Climb, keep going and know you are right where you should be.  Know that you are learning important lessons and growing in a way that would not be possible if you were breezing along.  Know you will be better for, because pain is the way of all champions.

I raise my glass and salute you, the chooser of pain, the welcome of misery, for a fantastic 2015 filled with pain and disappointment, and the reward that goes with it.

C U on the road,

Craig Undem

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