The Gap...Chasing Dreams While Managing Life

I have to say that I’ve been truly touched and overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from so many folks during my quest to break the world record and complete 60 ironman triathlons in 2018. A series of comments from my friend Chris Miller, however, really touched me and got me thinking more about what doesn’t get shared in Facebook posts or casual conversations. I want to share some of our dialogue on Facebook and add more to it:

Chris Miller: Will Turner, you are truly creating legacy. That’s an amazing thing to do in an entire lifetime – yet alone while still here on mother earth living; and truly alive inside challenging yourself so repeatedly.

I have to admit, I started cheering you on after hearing of this quest…casually and on the surface with a ‘like’ and an occasional comment, but I have to say it’s going deeper as it goes on and I wanted to share more with you.

I’m truly inspired and intrigued by the ‘gap’ that passes before I see your next post. Not the ‘what you’re actually doing’ between these Herculean OYO (On Your Own) ironmans; as I can’t even imagine the fun, pain, recovery, experiences, and anticipation for next one you must feel.

The ‘gap’ I’ve been exploring myself (for a while now) is the ‘stuff that matters’ that nobody else sees or thinks about. It’s the grind, the work, the mental recovery and build of athletes, entrepreneurs, struggling cancer patients, or bullied kid that has me in awe and wonderment? This ‘gap’ of good times and bad; celebration, and doing is life itself. Your races must be amazing but also could pass like a fog when in the zone. It’s the ‘gap’ that builds legacy and causes success or failure to steer us to our destination or an unknown lost path. When time allows; I’d love to hear or read more on your thoughts of this ‘middle time’ and what it means to you. How did you get here? How did you fill it; break through it; or perhaps beaten by it (even if momentarily).

I’ve been fascinated to observe my own ‘gap’ shrinking with more tasks, to do’s and distance between the child with dreams, or student with ambitions has morphed into a Dad, husband, son, and 47-year old adult with a 30-year old mind and aging body. I’m driven and wondering why it (the gap) of selfishness and dreams seems to shrink for many with the increased demands of everyday life. The chaos of clutter, emails, wider network-but less deep relationships or time to develop them, piling to do’s (of which most of just don’t matter) where does the road lead and are we following a path we built or someone else steered us on. I’m intrigued by people’s ‘purpose’ and ‘direction’ and building more time for the ‘gap’.

Your quest has reminded me less is sometimes more; and more can result and actually become less. Plan B’s and attitudes are a blessing and necessity; but even more than that is the ‘will’ (pun intended) to plan, execute, and believe for you <yourself> no matter what while doing daily and moving towards your goal.

I’m in envy and awe of your focus to have created and now protecting this sacred time for yourself each day – nobody runs, swims, bikes, or cheers for you like you do. Your kindness to thank others is beyond words and appreciation; but thank yourself often on your journey and not us. You deserve it and earned it.

Many get lost in the chaos of everyday life, and you are showing the world it’s possible to not only dream as a kid to do the impossible but to do it and enjoy it; and share it. Kudos – as the adventure spirit still lives!

Some Excerpts Of My Response To Chris: First and foremost, Chris I am so appreciative or your kind words and enthusiastic support. Your comments brought tears to my eyes in a very affirming and powerful way.

You’re absolutely right that so much happens in the “gaps” that goes unsaid… the good, the bad and the unvarnished rawness of it all. Sometimes it’s just the mundane, other times it’s the profound…each taking a seat on this journey. This morning, for example, I awake and see the first bands of morning sunlight splash across Mt. Whitney. It’s breathtaking…the mountain, the snow-capped peak with clouds dancing around it, as if rejoicing for this glorious day that we’ve been given. Trust me, it’s not always so awe-inspiring, but taking the time to notice and be present is a gift of this journey that I’m on. I think it’s sometimes easier to capture and record these in our heads when we’re in such places as I am now, at the foot of the Eastern Sierras. But we all have them before us every day…your son’s laughter, your wife’s smile or that first sip of coffee.

My Additions, After More Thought & Time To Reflect: When I read what I wrote to Chris above, I had to chuckle a bit. It was true that I had this amazing morning at the foot of Mt. Whitney. About an hour later, however, I was broken down on the side of Mt. Tom with an electrical fire in my car, towing my new camper. Even more interesting is about 20 minutes before, I had a conversation with my traveling companion, that I was going to only be focused on the positive for the day. Partly inspired by my exchange with Chris and an Eckhart Tolle quote that I had recently read, “The basis for true change is freedom from negativity. And that’s what acceptance implies: no negativity about what is. And then you see what this moment requires: what is it that is required now so that life can express itself more fully.”

I think I was being tested. Here I was stuck on the side of a mountain road, 20 miles from the nearest town on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. And I had just proclaimed that I was going to banish all negative thoughts for the day. No complaining. No whining. Only focusing on the positive.

Long story short, we were stranded all day. But despite the conditions, I didn’t utter a single complaint (and that was really hard). And before the day was over, a guardian angel, DJ, an auto mechanic from the town 20 miles away, gave up his planned Saturday of watching the local parade and hanging out at an outdoor festival to work tirelessly to get us back on the road safe and sound. I could go on and on about DJ and how he went above and beyond, but the point is that he was a true gift in a time of need. Did DJ appear because of my being open and appreciative of the day, casting positive energy instead of negative? I’m not sure. But I do know that I am forever grateful and am reminded that we all need each other and should be appreciative of what is given or done for us. (And look for ways that we can pay it forward.)

My car experience is a great reminder that it’s easy to get bogged down with the clutter in our heads, which is often negative and unnecessary. But because of my pledge to focus on the positive, my outcome was different. Instead of me bemoaning the fact that my plans were blown for the day as I was stuck on the side of the road for hours and hours or me getting upset over the expense of the repairs and towing, I looked over at the majestic peak of Mt. Tom, snow-capped and breathtaking. Again, I felt gratitude (even though it was a little forced), for being able to slow down and take in the beauty around me. And at least in the moment, I knew what Eckhart Tolle meant when he said, “The basis for true change is freedom from negativity.” By eliminating the negative, whether it’s the thoughts in your head or your verbal outbursts, you’re able to get rid of unnecessary and unproductive distractions. I have to admit, it’s challenging and I have not mastered it at all. But my self-awareness is keen and my desire is strong, so I know I’m on the right path.What if we all took the time to be in the present moment, focused only on the positive that surrounds us. Would we start to get a better grasp of living fully? Would we be able to “live our bold?”  

What does this have to do with “the gap?” The gap, from my perspective, is life. It’s how you fill your day and where you put your intention and focus. Do you put it toward the good, making a positive difference and bringing your gifts to bear? Or do you use it to restore yourself so that you can be ready and able for the next thing. Since my ironman races and events have to be completed every six days, on average, I understand the need for focusing on my recovery and restoration. For me, preparation for the next event and restoration to recover for the next are huge  – mentally, physically and spiritually.  I have realized that self-care is paramount. I can’t be my best version of myself and expect to achieve my huge goal if I don’t incorporate practices that will restore and refresh me. For my daunting goal, it’s an absolute necessity, so it’s easy for me to see the value and make the time. There is no way I could stay on my record setting pace if I wasn’t on top of my game. In contrast, I think in our every day lives, it’s easy to put off the self-care as we rush from one task or obligation to the next. What would happen if we all made self-care a priority and worked the rest of our lives around it?

I’ve also simplified my life so that the important things get done and I continue to fine-tune, going deeper into what is important and meaningful for me on this journey and how I can serve others. My purpose is very clear and to veer off-course is not an option in my mind. Yes, I am what one friend called “freakishly determined.” But it’s because I have committed 100% to this journey and it’s role in fueling my purpose of serving others. So each day, I know exactly what needs to get done and the extraneous stuff goes by the wayside. It’s so clear to me that, like Chris, we all get bogged down with too much clutter in our life and work. It becomes habitual, but not valuable. Simplification, in a world of excess, allows me to do what matters most and it’s very liberating to let go of everything else.

In addition, this quest of mine has allowed me (for the second time in my life…the first time was when I took off two months to travel New Zealand) to get out of my day-to-day routine and all the busy activities that normally consume me . While I’m still working virtually as I travel and complete my ironman events, I have intentionally cut back on my day-to-day schedule and eliminated all tasks that really aren’t serving my best interests or priorities. I don’t think I’ll go to my grave wishing that I spent more time answering emails or addressing some random to-do list item that really doesn’t matter in the long run.

So, as I manage the gap, I think of some guiding principles: purpose, focus, intention, positivity, gratitude and simplification for starters.  And there’s probably one more that ties them all together. It’s love. Do what you love…follow your passion and purpose. Be with those you love…spend time with those who support and encourage you and that you can support in return with an open heart. Spread love…being of service drives passion and purpose and makes life fulfilling. And while you’re at it, ditch the stuff that is cluttering your life. If you do, I suspect the world, and your journey in it, will forever change.