The Start Is the Hard Part


Though no one who knows me well would ever accuse me of being an athletic dynamo, I did have a brief stint where I was on the track team. I was a sprinter. I wasn't brilliant, nor was I bad, just solidly right there in the middle. I won a few races. I lost quite a few more. As any runner will tell you, the race can easily be won or lost before the starting pistol ever fires because—for the sprinter, at least—the hardest part of any race is the start.

I hated finally getting the call to the track, finding my way to the lane, getting in the blocks, and hearing the ready, set… Hated it. My heart would begin to pound, my palms would sweat, and I'd squeeze my eyelids shut and will myself to be anywhere but where I was at that moment. I would hear the voice of my coach in my head telling me to "visualize the win," and I would do my best. But the majority of what flashed across my mind's eye were all the ways I could potentially fail.

What if I false-start? What if I slip out of the block? What if I trip? What if my shoe comes untied? What if I roll my ankle, fall into the lane next to me, and the runner cleats me in the face as I scream like a 6-year-old girl? What if...

BANG! We race.

When the race has begun, all the agony morphs into something else. Like energy sparked into heat, all that anxiety and adrenaline turn into the fuel that propel you forward. Once the race has started there isn't the time to think about all the things that could go wrong, of all the people in the stands who might witness your failure, of the mistakes of the last race or the worries of the next. All the runner can think of is willing the hinges of every joint to flick faster and faster, and the only thing the runner sees is the white line in the distance.

For the last two weeks I have been standing at the starting line of one of the season's biggest races in terms of creativity, Christmas. The beginning of the idea is there, the pieces are ready to be pulled into place, the theme is on my heart, but the starting pistol is silent. There are a million reasons I could list for why this race hasn't started, but the fact of the matter is that they're still waiting for the runner to get into the blocks.

Today is the day. Ready, set…

You may say be asking, "What if my project is a marathon? Hmm?" I've never been much of a long-distance runner, though I've tried. I know that the long runs give you all kinds of opportunities for mental meltdowns and physical paroxysms. The marathon is a whole different beast than the sprint, I'll give you that.

But I'd like to suggest that there aren't many projects that aren't sprints. Where's the finish line? Is it 2 hours out, 2 weeks out, 2 months out, 2 years out? That's just the 50-meter, 100-meter, 200-meter, 400-meter dash.

Life is the marathon. The next project, that's just a sprint. And life, thank God, doesn't give us the option of hemming and hawing at the starting line. Otherwise, I'm sure we'd never get out of the gate.