the other side of disappointment

Monthly review – the other side of disappointment

Monthly review - the other side of disappointment

After two months of running late with my monthly reviews, I am actually early with my review for December! I needed to complete this review so I could then undertake my annual review which I like to have done before the end of the year. So a short intro for this review, inspired by what would be one of my favourite books of the year.

I loved reading Out of Thin Air – Running Wisdom and Magic from Above the Clouds in Ethiopia By Michael Crawley. I love reading about running as I am quite the running nerd. But I found the book very inspiring not just in terms of running, but in terms of applying yourself to your craft, dedication and commitment to the group.

The quote above is from the book and I think it applies to just more than running. When reviewing my performance each month there is almost always something I am disappointed with. But by taking the time to do the review and find that out, I then endeavor to do and be better the next month. My goal is never for perfection but for progress.

Read for a minimum of 15 minutes per day

Connection to goal – Cultivate routines to expand my knowledge and experiences – There is so much to learn from both fiction and non fiction books. I have a huge list of books that I have wanted to read for some time, so this year to help expand my knowledge I am committing to read more. My target for the year is to read 25 books.

Quote to connect to – “Think before you speak. Read before you think.” – Fran Lebowitz

December performance – During December I completed two books:

Out of Thin Air – Running Wisdom and Magic from Above the Clouds in Ethiopia By Michael Crawley

Last month I read about running in Kenya and this month it was about Ethiopia. While I did enjoy reading Running with the Kenyans, out of the two books I found Out of Thin Air a better read. The author of this book also spent time living and running with the athletes but he spent a much longer period of time in Ethiopia. Michael Crawley is a 2.20 marathon runner who had competed internationally for Scotland and Great Britain. He is also an Assitant Professor in Social Anthropology at Durham University.

The book comes across as part passion project and part Post-Doc Research and it is this element that I think provides some of the most interesting insights. As with the Kenyan runners simplifying the success of Ethiopian endurance runners down to genetics and living at altitude ignores the tremendous work ethic and unique running culture that exists in Ethiopia. The following are my key takeaways from the book and I have kept them as direct quotes from the books. If they have quotation marks they direct quotes by the author from Ethiopian runners, otherwise they are the author’s words:

  • ‘Training alone is just for health’ is his response. ‘To be changed you have to run with others. You need to adapt to their pace, not run your own.’
  • ‘Alcohol is forbidden. And girlfriends and boyfriends are not needed! Zero.’
  • While they also agree that they enjoy much of the running they do, it is clear that without the twin motivations of competition and money they would stop.
  • Our running is always motivated by an attempt to create novelty or find new ways of passing through the trees. Above all, to keep things interesting.
  • The structure of institutions and competitions that characterise Ethiopian athletics is, if anything, more developed than in many European countries.
  • Operating as a team is explicitly intended to protect the energy levels, livelihoods and dreams of all the individuals within it.
  • The rooms are all shared and Desaleyn believes strongly that avoiding spending time alone is vital to avoid athletes losing hope.
  • Often, though, it is not hard work but cleverness that they emphasise – that ability to know when to push and to know when to take it easy. There is an obvious expertise in their speed, but there is also at times, an expertise in their slowness.
  • Much like the energy of the group being greater than the sum of the parts, the culture of Ethiopian running as a whole – the sheer number of people willing to live their athletic lives in such an all-encompassing and committed way – is what allows the individuals who emerge at the top of the sport in Ethiopia to be so incredibly good at what they do.

Crawley quotes in the book English professor, poet and runner Thomas Gardner a number of times in the book and I love the quote below. Having run 8 marathons and had a few of them go pretty poorly it resonated with me so much. What he is describing is the “bad patch” that happens to most runners in most races. While it sounds awful to experience, it is part of the pain and pleasure that comes with running and the mental challenge it brings:

At some point in almost every race you get lost. You open your eyes and realise you are in trouble. Your heart rate rises, your confidence buckles and you’re suddenly flailing around inside, with no landmark save for a familiar hatred of yourself and the ego that made you line up and race. You slow down and you turn on yourself.

Thomas Gardner

Crawley then explains beautifully the human attraction to this:

Because the other side of disappointment is hope and we thrive on imagining ourselves that little bit better next time.

Michael Crawley

While runners will appreciate this book more than non-runners, there is definitely much to enjoy and learn from the book. You can buy Out of Thin Air here. 4/5

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts – Close Encounters with Addiction By Dr Gabor Maté

I had listened to this podcast with Dr Gabor Maté and was struck by his compassion, kindness and willingness to share his own issues, so reserved this book at the library straight away. This book was not a light read and it made me think significantly about how as a society we have come to this point and what can we do to change the trajectory we are on. While not suggesting that he has all the answers or a perfect plan, Maté highlights that through a better understanding of the traumas that sit underneath addiction, the greater the chance we can help those individuals find a path to healing and wellness.

You can buy In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts here. 4/5

Invest one hour a week learning about our First Nations Peoples

Connection to goal – Cultivate routines to expand my knowledge and experiences – Reconciliation NSW recommends learning and understanding more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ histories, Cultures, Languages, technology and land management techniques as educating yourself is the first step in the journey towards reconciliation. My knowledge and understanding are severely lacking and I want to change this.

Quote to connect to – “Knowing is not enough; We must apply. Willing is not enough; We must do.” – Bruce Lee

December performance – This month the highlights of what I watched/listened/read to were as follows:

Volunteer on a weekly basis

Connection to goal – Cultivate routines to expand my knowledge and experiences – Volunteering is an activity where you can be of service to others and learn so much from the experience. It has been some time since I have volunteered outside of schools etc and I want to get back into it for 2022.

Quote to connect to – “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi

December performance – As previously I made the decision not to focus on this in December.

Spend one hour a week planning and visiting new attractions

Connection to goal – Cultivate routines to expand my knowledge and experiences – There are so many great attractions and experiences in Melbourne both free and paid and when the kids were younger we used to visit them frequently. Since the kids have stopped wanting to do this, I have stopped going too. But there is no reason why I cannot go on my own or with Phil or with friends!

While I have allocated one hour per week, this can be averaged out across the month as my overall aim is to visit two new (to me) attractions per month.

Quote to connect to – “Fill your life with experiences. Not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.” Unknown

December performance – Activities and socialising revolved around family and friend catch-ups during December but there was one first – I headed into Federation Square to see Australia vs Denmark at 2am in the morning. I will never forget the scenes (and limbs) when Australia took the lead and again when the final whistle blew – it was unbelievable!

You can find my previous monthly reviews for 2022 here.

How did you go in December?

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