Do the reading (aka my favorite fartlek)

A guy asked his friend, the writer David Foster Wallace,

“Say, Dave, how’d y’get t’be so dang smart?”

His answer:

“I did the reading.”

(Borrowed from guru Seth Godin for your reading pleasure.)

Seth goes on to make the point that the preparation part is not always fun, but it’s important. He ponders why we believe we can skip it and still be so dang smart. (Perhaps thoughts like this are why he is so dang smart.)

While the quote is about learning, this point is true in everything. Success in work/parenting/volunteering/learning/sports/etc requires intentional, pointed effort. Sure, coasting is easier, but you sure won’t reach the end goal any faster if you don’t strap on the helmet and go for it.

This (inspiring but albeit basic) thought occurred to me this morning when I was running fartleks. I rounded a corner and prepared to speed up, and thought “oh good, my favorite fartlek!” Two years ago, I didn’t even know what that was (besides a word that makes my kids giggle). Then I decided to “do the reading” – to put some pointed effort and intention into my running. No way will it make me the best runner, but it’s helping to make me the best runner that I can be. Can’t skip it and expect to get faster.

How can we skip the hard part? It’s what makes the accomplishment sweet. Otherwise, what’s the point?


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