There’s some foreign tune rattling the Starbucks speakers above me.
Behind, two guys laugh and joke about their adventures the night before. Beside me, a man attempts to sell a couple on something. Insurance, I think. Their voices blend together with a dozen others, occasionally joined by espresso machines spewing steam and metal measuring cups clanging against a legion of coffee beans.
Is it always so loud in here? All these noises crashing together in my ears, a dissonant symphony of distraction.
I stare at the coffee cup before me as it begins to perspire, trying to focus in on something, anything to cut the noise. How did I let this happen? I had three things to bring: a book, a computer, and headphones. Without the third, the first two seemed so useless.
Maybe I should just leave. I could read and write, at home, couldn’t I? Of course, I never do. I tell myself I will, but it never seems to happen. That’s why I came out in the first place, to get away from distractions.
I could just try again tomorrow. Take my coffee to go, enjoy the rest of the day and come back the next day. But I’ve come so far. I’m right where I set out to be, and I’m about to turn back now?
I am Bilbo Baggins at the beginning of The Hobbit, and I have forgotten my handkerchief.
And with that, I take every ounce of focus I have, I open the book before me, and I begin reading.
Distractions always are and always will be
This past week, I’ve been sick. I’m talking headaches, mood-swings, a fever, body aches, and for the past 3 days, every time I swallowed, it felt like shards of glass and rock were going down my throat.
It hasn’t been a fun week. I powered through work, but outside of that, I got very little done. Especially the past two days. So when I woke up yesterday, feeling considerably better, I told myself I was going to go out and take care of things.
For me, that generally means holding up in a coffee-shop, headphones in, music cranked, while I read, write, check over finances, buy something online, review some things for work, etc.
That all changed when I forgot my headphones. It was Saturday, and coffee shops are busy on Saturday and everyone is apparently stupidly loud on Saturday, and I was suddenly trying to do things that required focus in a loud environment while my brain was operating at around 65% due to the recent sickness.
I might as well have been trying to garden in the middle of a battlefield.
I was ready to just say screw it. I was still kind of sick anyway, and when you’re sick, you basically have a pass to do whatever the heck you want. But I decided to stick it out. And you know what, I had a very productive day. Maybe I would have gotten more done with headphones and a healthier state of being. Maybe I had “deserved” to just take the Saturday off, and take care of business on Sunday.
But I realized that the next day would be filled with it’s own distractions. And with new distractions come new excuses. If I gave in now, it would be just as easy to give in then.
So I stayed. And guess what.
About half way into my stay at Starbucks, my friend Wil showed up by sheer coincidence and let me borrow some headphones he happened to have sitting in his car(which I’m wearing as I write this). It’s crazy what can happen when you decide to push through the distractions and excuses.
On a day where the world seemed to be telling me to give up, I held out.
What makes a great runner
I heard a trainer say once that the thing that makes someone a true runner is that they run on the days they don’t want to. The days when it hurts. Or they’re tired. Or the weather sucks. The difference between a runner and someone who occasionally jogs in hopes of avoiding type 2 diabetes is that a runner runs on the good days and the bad.
Not only that, but they push themselves harder on those days. On the worst days, they give their best.
That’s not just a great way to define a runner. That’s a great way to define your life. On the worst days, give your best. On the days when you’re most distracted, focus that much harder.