Know When to Stop…

I came across this quote from Alice in Wonderland while reading Dan John’s new book Intervention and it made me think of something…

I think the hardest thing – at least for me – is admitting that I’ll never be perfect or complete in any area.

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end. Then stop.”

This is a great quote because it is so profoundly simple – if you have a goal all you need to do is figure out where you are (Point A), where you want to go (Point B) and go until you get there. This underscores the need for both goals and ways to assess where you are currently but the part that really struck me was the last two words.

Then stop.

I realized that so many of us fail to actually do that. We have a problem, find a solution and then fail to realize when it is time to stop and repeat the Assessment/ Goal/ Solution process. We just keep hacking away with what we’ve found long after we should have started working on something else or using a different method.

Improvement is not a static equation and what we need to be working on and the methods we need to be using are not the exact same as they were when we first started riding or training. I have the same problem with this that everyone else does and I have been guilty of both hanging onto the same specific methods for too long or getting too hung up on a particular training tool.

I think the problem boils down to two things. The first is a lack of clear goals. I see this all the time when I talk to new clients and ask what they want to achieve. Usually I get a pretty general answer, like “ride faster” or “have more endurance”. I’ve written an article before on why having clear goals is the secret to success but I think that there is something else at play as well.

I think the hardest thing – at least for me – is admitting that I’ll never be perfect or complete in any area. It is hard to walk away from something when you still feel that you can improve some more on it, yet that is exactly what we have to do. We have to be alright with being “good enough” in some areas so that we can figure out where we suck and how to improve those areas.

You see this mindset in mountain biking with the pedaling-centric training workouts so popular with mainstream fitness programs. While pedaling is an important part of riding you have to stop making it the centerpiece of your training program and work on other things at some point.

Same with equipment – you can only buy so much performance and at some point you have to stop worrying about how you are going to upgrade to being a better rider and focus on something else.

Both of these things – pedaling and the bike you ride – were the solution to a problem at one point. You need to pedal a lot at first to get it down and build up some specific endurance for it. You also need the right bike for the job and a better bike does make a difference.

However, what happens is that most riders don’t follow the King’s advice and forget to figure out where the end is and stop once they get there. They just keep focusing their training time on pedaling more and off the bike time scouring the internet to figure out the perfect gear ratio or suspension valving or how to shave a few more grams off their bike.

I’ll never feel like I can pedal as long and hard as I want and if I wait to focus on improving my mobility, strength and technical skills until I do I’d never work on them. If I chose to think about it I’d never be satisfied with my bike and could always find something I can tweak, improve or upgrade. However, being afraid to be incomplete in these areas will ultimately hold you back in the big picture.

I guess Tyler Durden was right when he said “I say never be complete. I say stop being perfect. I say let’s evolve, let the chips fall where they may.”

Know when to be alright with “good enough” and stop.

-James Wilson-

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  1. Tony says:

    Coach…great article and great insight…nice piece of work.

    Reply • January 9 at 6:32 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Thanks for reading it, glad you liked it.

      Reply • January 9 at 8:51 am
  2. Jon Laterveer says:

    I need to read this every day until I relax… and then stop!

    Reply • January 9 at 7:36 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Ha ha ha…yes you do!

      Reply • January 9 at 8:51 am
  3. Julie says:

    Some of these points apply to life as well, I always think that when I finally got my degree and license, I would be “good enough”. Now, I will be “good enough” after I get this additional certification or CEU, or take this or that seminar, then I’ll be “good enough”.. but I need to just STOP at some point! I’ll have to apply this to mountain biking, too, of course, sometimes it is a metaphor for life and has taught me a lot. Thanks! Good article!

    Reply • January 9 at 8:47 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      So true, this mindset applies to everything we do in life. The more I get into training the more I realize that how we do one thing is how we do everything. Glad you liked the article.

      Reply • January 9 at 8:53 am
  4. Sven says:

    that’s human. you are never satisfied.
    this is what pushes you forward?

    Reply • January 9 at 2:05 pm
  5. Andy says:

    Coach, a great article and the timing is perfect. I’m sure many of us made new year’s resolutions or set goals that involve some degree of “perfection”. This article helps put things in a much better, clearer perspective an personally speaking will help with the goals I have set for 2013 an beyond. Not just mountain biking but many other aspects of my life.

    Thanks again for the great articles.

    Reply • January 9 at 4:19 pm
  6. Luke Connors says:

    Great post! I read something else along these lines recently by Joe Friel (Triathlon). Set goals – it may be your priority A race for the year or season. Train, build race specific fitness, peak for the race – and then rest and recover (read STOP). You can not always be at a peak of fitness and have to let it go once you have achieved your specific goal. After R&R assess your performance, set a new goal and then build again. James – I would love to know your current list of MUST READ material.

    Reply • January 9 at 10:14 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Dan John’s new book Intervention and his book with Pavel called Easy Strength are two must reads for any interested in performance and longevity in their sport (and life really). So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport is a must read for anyone interested in being successful and satisfied with their work. Mindset by Carol Dweck is a must read to understand the psychology of success. Drive by Daniel Pink is a must read to understand how to motivate people the right way.

      I’m sure I’m forgetting a few but that is the bulk of what I would recommend someone make sure they read.

      Reply • January 10 at 12:07 pm

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