Standing On Top Of Boxes

Parc del Segre, La Seu d’Urgell, August 2 1992

The loud auditory beep sounds briefly but clearly in this eerily quiet moment.

The line transitioning from one phase of life to another is crossed.

In this moment, contentment surrounds us.

But being humans, we begin to search for confirmation of exactly how content we are…

The scoreboard that overlooks the finish line at the 1992 Olympic canoeing venue in La Seu d’Urgell projects the time and score of the athletes who just completed their competition run.

Following our second and final run in the Olympic race, the digitized display confirms this next level of contentment — we improve upon of our very strong first run.

Although we are currently the race leaders, there are still 10 more doubles canoe teams waiting in the start area for their turn to come down the river channel. Any of them that complete the course in less than 122.41 seconds would surpass us in the final standings.

And every one of these teams is capable.

Although one clock has stopped, another begins.

A few minutes later and surrounded by some coaches and team staff, Scott and I stand on a patch of grass separated from the river by a pedestrian walk-way — close to the river… but not too close.

There are several sources of race information available us — the race commentator, reactions from the spectators, voices shouting through walkie-talkies, and short glimpses of our fellow competitors passing by on the river channel close to where stand.

But, the only information source that is reliably transmitting to us right now is our coach, Fritz, who is literally running alongside every remaining doubles canoe team still navigating the river channel.

As Fritz chases each team paddling on the water, he would approach us, come to a hard stop, and say, “Looking good.” Nothing more. Nothing less. Then, he starts running again.

One by one, each boat initiates its own transition. One by one, each team starts the next stage of life with a number on the scoreboard greater than 122.41 seconds until… all 10 boats had crossed.

Fritz returns to us for the last time with new words.

“It’s done. We did it.”

Paddling a river is a challenging dance. We agree to move, change, and align with a powerful force beyond our control. Sometimes, this dance offers a unique rhythm that is beautiful when found… but can be so easy to miss.

Where does the resistance lie?

In the rigidity in which we grip the goal, which is affected by:

Perceptions of safety.
Clinging to outcomes.
How much is enough?

The loosening of such a grip initiates The Practice Of Transition:

Letting go
Adaptation
Gratitude

The most common post-Olympic question I receive is:

What did it feel like to stand on the top step of the podium as they place an Olympic Gold Medal around your neck?

It feels great but, it also feels… anticlimactic.

It is as if the whole world prepares for the magnitude of this moment — except for the people who let go of the result to focus on the dance.

Our practice of transition did not prepare us for a timeless result or a recognition of this result.

The Practice Of Transition simply prepares us to be slightly improving dance partners.

With gratitude, — Joe

Standing On Top Of Boxes is a part of my continuing Sunday Morning Joe series, The Pursuit Of Contentment On The River Of Uncertainty.

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I coach seasoned professionals, who feel stuck in place, to thrive in transition and bring focus to what matters most without compromising their lives.

My personal experiences winning an Olympic Gold Medal, serving as CEO of a national sports organization, and my current “Simple, Slower, and Less” lifestyle in the Catalan Pyrenees help to form accountable and transformative collaborations that see my clients create their next and most impactful chapter.

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