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‘Just do it’ is more than a shoe motto

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I think I've mentioned before that I am a runner. Sort of. Not really a happy one, or one by nature. I run because I know that it is good for me (if I do it right), and because there are very few ways to build up cardiovascular endurance as effectively as simply putting one foot in front of the other for an extended period of time.

At any rate, the hyper-competitive nature of my personality compels me to want to be better at it, which means running faster. So, I started doing some research into exercises to help speed, and different processes I could engage in to improve my split times, and so forth. And, in the end, they're all great and useful, but do you know what I realized it all boiled down to? That, if you want to run fast, you have to run fast.

I know. There's nothing slow runners like more than a good tautology.

What I mean by that is that all the exercises and training regimens in the world are not as valuable as simply resolving to run faster for an extended period of time, until your body is used to doing it at that speed. That is how you learn to run faster. It's really pretty simple.

All things considered, I'd still rather be chasing a basketball around the court.

It's the simple answers in life, it seems, that kill you. The more complicated the answer, the more subjunctive clauses and dependent phrases, the more loopholes and excuses you have to avoid doing what is necessary. Not so with simple answers. You don't suppose it's just coincidence that the Ten Commandments uses only 300-ish words, but the U.S. Tax Code requires a semi-tractor, a forklift and Dwayne Johnson to haul around?

You want to become a good trumpet player? Play the trumpet. For hours and hours every day, play the trumpet. (This one, I know from experience as a teacher, is an answer that drives students crazy.)

You want to become a computer programmer? Then program computers. Learn to write code, learn to write in different languages (are there still different languages? Is Fortran still a thing?), and then simply write. Isn't that what Malcolm Gladwell told us made Bill Gates special?

Speaking of writing, also from experience, you want to be a writer? Then sit down and write. Every day. 500 words, 300 words, a Haiku, something, just write.

The simple answers don't give you a lot of wiggle room, is the problem. And also the wonderful solution. Once you are forced to abandon all the different "buts" and "what ifs" that keep you from taking your interest and turning it in to something productive, you end up with just you and the thing, whatever it is. That's a confrontation that you can understand and overcome.

By the way, this is not necessarily a philosophy I would adhere to in life-threatening circumstances. "You want to be a swimmer? Dive in a lake." There may be some necessary preparations.

But, generally speaking, life presents very few Gordian knots without simultaneously presenting a sword with which to cut through them. Next time you face a challenge, try to avoid the tendency to discover all the complications, and go, rather, for the simple answer.

Oh, yeah, I might have forgotten to mention: "simple" is, in this context, NEVER the same thing as "easy." Quite the opposite, actually.

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His novels are available at MichaelJAlcorn.com

Michael Alcorn

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