Ruin and Reward (and a little something at the end)

“Find the thing you’re most passionate about, then do it on nights and weekends for the rest of your life.” – The Onion

I saw this fake headline from The Onion, mocking an often expressed meme, and it got me thinking…almost angry. I’ve seen this meme expressed in a lot of different ways, “Do what you love and never work a day in your life”, etc. etc. and although at face value it sounds good, inspiring, motivating, when I think about it deeper, it becomes cheapened.

It becomes cheapened, because what it doesn’t say is that this phrase, this powerful motivation, this utopian expression, is to ultimately bring the individual into a state of financial security. It’s all about the money. Sure, “do what you love and never work a day in your life”, “find what your passionate about and make it your life’s work”, but what if you love, if what you are most passionate about DOESN’T PAY. Then what? I’ll tell you. That meme, that expression, transforms into a privileged pat on the back for having the options to make money doing something you enjoy.

Granted, I get it. I GET the motivational aspect of the meme and I’m often drawn towards it, taking a huge leap of faith in abandoning financial security in order to do something that one loves…but always with the hope that they’ll end up back in another state of financial security…only happier. Unfortunately, for those of us in less privileged circumstances, say burdened with others debt, supporting a child/family/etc., and so on, the risk in just dropping everything and doing what we love isn’t so utopian, isn’t so romantic….it’s more annoying.

On a bitterly cold “Spring” run this past week I thought about this expression further. Sure, I enjoy graphic design as one of my relative talents and interests, and sure I’d love to make a living doing it, but the obstacles are great, and jumping off that cliff, hoping “the net will appear”, is just too much of a risk. Further, however, it’s not my GREATEST passion. It comes second to what I truly love, what I’m truly good at.


And running doesn’t pay. Which is tragically amusing, because I put an incredible amount of work into running. Without any external dictate, I get up at 6 am, sometimes early, every morning and run at least 10 miles. Sometimes 20. Sometimes 30. I run speed work. I run hills. I shape my body, inside and out, to withstand stress and deterioration. I build it to progress further and faster, strong and longer, day in and day out. I truly WORK at this to a degree others simply can’t comprehend. And I do it because I truly love it, in a way that embodies the expression of that meme, to do something one truly loves, one is truly passionate about…..

But it doesn’t pay. And so it doesn’t make sense in the context of that expression.

This is not to say there isn’t reward, however. There is, conversely, GREAT reward….or else I wouldn’t do it. We wouldn’t do it. The unbelievable (to me) track record of good health is worth it. The denial of disease and deterioration is worth it. The epic experiences and early morning sunrises are worth it. The friends and communities and cultures of super humans are worth it. The contentment knowing I’ve done something amazing every single day is worth it.

It’s not monetary, but the reward is undeniable.

It is, however, also frustrating. To know that the greatest of rewards, the greatest of efforts, the time spent, the mental preparation made, the attention to detail given, etc., can all be swept away under the dictates of the economy, of the need to make a living, of the chase for dollars to provide for yourself and others…it just seems….wrong. It just seems wrong that an act that is so compelling, takes so much dedication, and is a true and honest passion and love is relegated to second-tier status to drudging through the day at a job we feel compelled to do out of obligation instead of passion.

But…immovable obstacles aside…this is what we do. We find a way. We refuse to let the dictates of economy erode our passions, our interests, our lives. We refuse to throw it all away just because we must get up extra early to engage in the life we want to live, to throw ourselves into the experiences we create, to get epic. There may be a risk in doing so, but the reward is undeniably greater.

Find what your most passionate about, and DO IT. Don’t make it your life’s “work”. Don’t expect it to become your job, to provide for you or your family monetarily. But understand the reward is much, much greater.


I haven’t mentioned this yet….because I wasn’t sure this was going down on my end. But my friend and ultra runner come-up, Scott Breeden, is running the Indiana Trail Running 100 in Northern Indiana on April 20 – 21. A couple months back he asked me to pace him, something I have never done, but which I gladly answered, “Yes”.

Here’s the thing. If you haven’t heard, this particular race is offering $25,000 if the winner breaks the 100 mile world record, which I believe is something like a 7:38/mile pace. Obviously, I won’t be running even half the race, or going for the record, but Breeden will….I will just help along the way as much as I can.

This, right now, is what I’m most excited about with my training. It has lit a fire under me and if I can work out these leg issues I’m having, I hope to be a strong pacer for him and get him to that record.

There is, of course, much to be said about this attempt, but I won’t go into it at this point. All I want to mention, is that this is happening, and it’s funny I post this after the rambling above in relation to money and love. Let me say this, however. This is not about money. I’m not doing this to get him $25,000 and I’m not getting any of that even if he did.

I’m doing this to help him make history, and if we succeed…to be a part of making history.

And that is all I’m going to say about that right now. Till next time. Get epic.


4 responses to “Ruin and Reward (and a little something at the end)

  1. Kalle Petersson

    Cool! Good luck to you and Scott #2 🙂

  2. Man… I can’t fathom that kind of pace. My best trail ultras have been run around 9 m/m, and the furthest I’ve had to sustain that is 50 miles. In fact, I’ll be running a trail marathon that same day, and will be targeting something right around that 7:38 pace.

    But I guess world records are supposed to be like that. If you’re going to do something no one in the history of the planet has done, it better be fucking hard.

    I won’t say good luck, although ultras take a healthy amount of it. I’ll just say that I hope you enjoy the preparation and the experience, whatever the result.

    • Alex, the crazy thing is that a 7:30 pace on the road is HARD to slow down to…but on a trail it’s hard to maintain as an average. You are absolutely right though, this is going to be hard as hell…of course, I’m not even running half the course as the pacer. Breeden is the one who’s going to have the biggest struggle, but he’s fast and strong as hell right now. And the terrain is engrained in our legs like veins.

      But yeah, who knows how this is going to turn out. To even be a part of an attempt, however, is affirmation that I’m doing something right in life. More thoughts on this to come soon, of course.

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