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I know you're thinking that someone like Meb has an incredible amount of innate talent. For most of us, even if we trained like Meb, we would never have running times like Meb. As it is, he runs a marathon in just over the amount of time it takes me to run a half marathon. What is it na superstar like Meb could say that would resonate with folks like us? Plenty. Here are three of my takeaways for those of us either working or finding ourselves in the Trenches.
1. Always have a goal, or two, or three. Meb always had a goal for a race, and then he had a back up goal, and a back up to the back up, ALLof which would mean to him that he got the bet out of himself. He created all of them BEFORE he started the race. For example, his goal may have been to win the race. If it became obvious that he wasn't going to win, then his goal might have been to place in the top 4. If it became obvious that he wasn't going to be able to meet that goal, then his goal might have been to run a certain time, or just to finish. If Meb met ANY of those goals, then the race was a success.
Here in the Trenches, clients know what they want. What they don't do is really think about what will happen if they don't get what they want. When we sit in negotiations and the other spouse rejects our client's offer, the client often struggles to find another position that will be acceptable; and they are usually not successful at that time, in that room. Their struggle is at the table when it should be before they enter the room. If they pin all of their hopes on that one thing, then not only can they not think of a back up, they also feel like the negotiations have failed. Think how much better a client would feel if they know that they are going to fight as hard as they can for the thing they really want, but if they can't get that, it would still be a success if they got something else instead, or if they picked up a piece of information that would help them come up with a new settlement idea in the future.
Those of us who toil in the Trenches could also learn a thing or two from him. Many times, we go into a mediation or a negotiation with our only goal being to settle the case. Sometimes that's not possible. There are other goals we could have as backup if we gave it advance thought, but we usually don't.
2. Practice gratitude. All the way throughout Meb's story, you see instances of gratitude. His family escaped war-torn Eritrea, and made its way, slowly and painstakingly, to the United States. They suffered a lot in the journey, but you won't hear it from him. He expresses gratitude for being able to leave Eritrea when many could not. He's grateful it gave him the opportunity for an education and his running career, when so many others did not have that chance. He's grateful for the fans lining the race course, cheering him on, even in races in which he suffered great pain, injury and disappointment. He's grateful to be able to inspire others. He's grateful to have a wife who understands him and supports his work. Gratitude exists at every turn of his life, even when he is forced to drop out of a race.
This lesson isn't new for this blog. Gratitude is a practice. It's an important practice that serves us all well, especially when things are not going as we have planned. If you don't exercise it often. then gratitude desserts you when life doesn't go as planned. It's especially important to exercise it when things are going poorly. It doesn't matter how small the thing for which you are grateful; it is the practice of gratitude itself that has the power to lift you up and sustain you.
3. Community is vital. What I've noticed through all of Meb's books is the constant emphasis on the importance of community, on every level. The community of his family, without whose support he couldn't focus on his running or be the ambassador for running he is. The community of runners, who train together, talk during races and sometimes even cross the finish line together, hands united. The running community that pulls together no matter whether they're Meb or the 16 minute miler. The community of country which Meb felt keenly when he won Boston the year after the bombing. Meb describes getting a catch in his throat when he passed the point in the New York Marathon where one of his colleagues had died the year before. Meb's description of running Boston the year after the bombing is amazing: he wrote the names of all the people who died on his bib, he crossed himself when he passed the spot of the bombs, he got choked up when he realized that an American was going to win Boston in the first post bombing year and what that represented to Boston and America. What's fascinating about Meb is his continuous multilevel view and appreciation of all of his communities.
Folks in the Trenches are suffering a crisis of community. Their identity as part of the community of family is changing; they are losing part of that family because of their divorce, and the part they aren't losing is changing. Their position in their local community is changing; they find out who their real friends are...and aren't. It is overwhelming and crushing to discover that not only is your family changing, but so is your immediate world. Most people have more levels of community to draw on than they think. It's just that when large parts of their world are falling apart, they don't think about it or look for them. All you need is one level to form a base to rebuild the others. Trust me, I've done it. Look for a community, search for it: it's there.
Alright, I have a fourth takeaway from Meb. 20 miles is halfway. I know, a marathon is 26.2 miles, so 20 miles isn't really halfway. The race, however, is won between miles 18 and 26. The person who goes out too fast rarely has enough left to win. Most of the strategy and the moves toward the lead take place well past mile 16. If you don't have the stamina and the training to pick it up and surge toward the end, then you won't have a chance of winning or perhaps even finishing. Life here in the Trenches is like that. Most clients approach a divorce like a 5k, and enter into it going full tilt, which is what you do in a 5k. Life in the Trenches moves a lot slower than that and a case takes longer than you think. Treat it like a marathon you want to win, not like a 5k you sprint. 20 miles is halfway. Build up your stamina, plan for the distance. Here in the Trenches.