Have you ever walked in to work and been handed the assignment no one else wanted?
That’s how I was feeling when Bryce told me, “I told them we’d review this new book…something about Spartans. It’s on your desk.”
I knew about the Spartans. Or I thought I knew. They’re the crazy mud racing people, right?
Historically, Spartans come from the prominent city-state in ancient Greece. They were unique for their social system and constitution, which focused on military training and excellence. Hard-core training began young, and Sparta was recognized as the overall leader of the combined Greek forces. Even Alexander the Great steered clear of Sparta, and he attacked everyone.
Thanks for the assignment, guys. Sigh.
Time to Spartan Up!
Well, once I finally stopped procrastinating, I picked up Spartan Race Founder Joe De Sena’s book, prepared myself for some rehashed rah-rah life lesson motivational stuff, and began reading.
By page two I was hooked. I stayed up waaaay too late that night, being entertained, enlightened, and inspired by his Spartan journey & message.
And I quickly discovered that the subtitle, “A Take-No-Prisoners Guide to Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Peak Performance in Life” is a spot-on description. No fluff.
De Sena skillfully integrates his riveting personal background story with the tale of how Spartan Race came to be, weaving in a historical recap leading to society’s current focus on immediate gratification and discomfort-avoidance. And throughout, he contrasts it all against the Spartan code.
Spartan Up Highlights
If you’re completely happy with every aspect of your life right now – including your career – then click back over to email or Facebook right now.
But, if you have any intent to continue to increase your skillset & grow throughout the rest of your life, read this book. I promise not to nag any more than that.
But I will list a few of De Sena’s points that resonated with me most:
On life’s unpredictablity: “The whole race is unpredictable from start to finish, whenever that might be. This can be maddening for the type A personalities who need to prepare for and control everything. They can’t, just like they can’t in life. There are too many variables, too many unknowns, too many twists and turns that cannot be anticipated. In contrast to Ironman, Spartan Race is much more a reflection of life as most of us live it. Discipline is one thing, but another aspect is the complete fluidity. In life, one doesn’t know where the start or finish line is. You need a different mindset out on the Spartan course. The rules of the game are constantly shifting, so your frame of reference has to shift along with them.”
Responding to life’s obstacles: “In a Spartan Race we always confront competitors with mud puddles and swamps, things you only run through out of necessity. These obstacles help condition them for ‘the mud’ of everyday life, the stuff that drags us down, or at least tries to. Maybe you didn’t get that promotion, but we teach you to persevere in your job anyway. Maybe you got dumped, but we still want you to seek a new partner with a positive attitude. When you’re already fatigued and struggling, the addition of mud can make for a toxic mix, exacerbating the desire to surrender. So every course has at least one mud trap somewhere along the way. It wouldn’t be a Spartan Race without one.”
Regarding society’s definition of stress: “The easiest way to convince your body that sitting in traffic is not worthy of a stress-induced freakout is by showing your body what real stress feels like, in the controlled setting of your daily workout.”
What are we focusing on? How is it limiting us? “If you don’t shift your frame of reference, if it becomes fixed and immutable, you become closed off to the magic and joy life has to offer, focusing instead on the trivial and inconsequential, inflating their significance to outlandish proportions because, after all, that’s how you view the world.”
Getting what you want out of life & what it requires: “Spartan racers subject themselves to a hellish test of will and physical strength rather than sleeping in on a Saturday morning. They do this because they want something more out of life than comfort, mediocrity, and a fancy toilet bowl brush.”
Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is
As I read this book, I discovered that many of De Sena’s points are concepts that I’ve been teaching my 11 year-old daughter. Really good stuff.
But I realized she may be seeing these ideas as merely lip service.
You see, I stated above that I’ve been “teaching” it. But I haven’t exactly been “modeling” it.
So it’s time. Time to stop reminiscing about the high school runner I once was, or that triathlon I did before my kid was even BORN. It’s time to get off the couch. And away from this screen more often.
After last Sunday’s breakfast conversation, my daughter and I are registered for the SoCal Spartan Sprint at the end of the summer.
Wish us luck – I’m told there will be mud.