Who do you respect and why? I’d bet London to a brick that whoever you chose, it was somebody who did what they did well.


We respect those who do things well. For example, our Mothers because of their selfless devotion to us, and people like Bruce Lee who makes the impossible seem effortless. They both do what they do incredibly well. Bruce Lee and our Mothers, on the surface, seem worlds apart, and they are, but in essence, they have a lot in common. Primarily they love what they do, and are willing to do the seemingly mundane repeatedly until they get really good at it. For Bruce Lee, this meant practicing the same movement over and over until it became reflexive. For our Mothers, perhaps, doing something like correcting us ad nauseam without losing patience with us. If you want to, in turn, be respected/successful, understand what it is that makes you respect others and follow their approach.


There are of course still many “heroes” like Mothers and Bruce Lee types but arguably less and less these days. I believe this is down to people’s mistaken belief that participation equals achievement. Let me explain this as it relates to running.


In 2013 the marathon participation rate worldwide peaked at 19million people but since the 1990s the mean marathon finishing times have been getting slower year after year. I believe that everything one wants to understand about who we are at this time in history and what is to become of us can be seen in these figures and the trend going forward doesn’t bode well for us.


I don’t read anything negatively into the increased participation rate. I mean to actually decide to get off one's bottom, and decide to run a marathon, in a world dominated by industries whose first priority is to sell us bad food and lifestyles is hard to do. All credit to those that can buck the trend to keep us consuming for the sake of it. Still, the trend to do things without a view to doing them better is very alarming.


I don’t like the fact that I can beat people half my age in races. And I actually get annoyed when people ask me “Did you finish?” and not “What was your time?” It’s not that I see myself as elite, far from it. But I do believe that we ought to respect effort in ourselves and in others and honestly make that distinction. It is a dangerous false equivalency to say: we are all “winners”.  It is not only false it is a lie that stops people from further participation and improvement. This idea of doing something once and crossing it off “The Bucket List” is, in my view, the scourge of our times.


I don’t care if your new PR for the marathon is 5 hours 5 minutes or 2 hours 12 minutes, if both times are better than what had come before, that is all that counts. In all aspects of life, we ought to strive for improvement and encourage it in others and not fall for the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”


Doing things without a mind to do them better isn’t what made our Mothers and Bruce Lee loved and respected, and it’s not what will give us the love and respect of others either.


(Please share this post with your social circles)

Bruce Lee