I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Olympic Gold winning cyclist Kristin Armstrong for a magazine article. Armstrong lives in my home town of Boise, Idaho, and has been called America’s most decorated professional female cyclist. Among her numerous medals, awards and rankings, she is best known for her 2008 Olympic Gold Medal in the women’s cycling time trial, a race they call the “Race for Truth.”
“There are no variables and no tactics — just you against the clock,” Armstrong says of the race.
I don’t want to struggle on my own. I want to find these people and I want to conquer with them. ~ Kristin Armstrong
Wouldn’t it be great if life was just like the “race for truth?” Just us against the clock. Or, here’s another way to look at it — just us against ourselves. No tactics, no variable. We simply do our best without worrying about what the other guy is doing and that’s what we are judged on.
But I digress.
Armstrong started her career as a triathlete, but a diagnosis of painful osteoarthritis in her hips caused her stop running at that elite level and turn to cycling. She is 38-years-old, a mom of an 18-month-old son, and a fierce competitor. In fact, she is currently competing to earn a position to compete at the London Olympics.
As we talked, Armstrong told me her philosophy on winning, competing and being your best. She spoke from the perspective of an Olympic gold medal athlete, but I realized it could be translated into any line of work, including that of a writer. So, I thought I would share some of the ideas I took away from our conversation.
- Armstrong: “You can’t win unless you lose.”
Murphy’s take: I spent a good part of my younger life trying not to make a mistake. That way I could always be proud of my work, never have to feel embarrassed or have to listen to someone tell me what I’ve done wrong. I mean, really, why shouldn’t I choose complete comfort over being poked in the eye, I thought. But to be mistake-free, I had to also live my life risk-free. And if I wasn’t taking risks, then I wasn’t trying or learning anything new or difficult. That’s why so many of us stay in a comfortable job that we hate, because at least its easy and we likely won’t have to fail at it. For a long time the thought of rejection kept me from sending out queries for my writing. But, as another athlete, Wayne Gretzky, once said, - “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” The safe bubble keeps us comfortable but it also keeps us from learning and growing. And that’s not winning.
- Armstrong: “Someone told me, ‘Don’t forget to show up to compete’ at the Olympics.
Murphy’s take: She explained that for many athletes, making the Olympic team has been a lifelong goal, and once they make the team it’s like they’re done…they’ve made it…everything is great. But in reality, that’s when the real work begins because NOW they have to actually compete. As writers, perhaps our big dream is to write a book and get As Popeye would say, “I yam what I yam.
As Popeye would say, “I yam what I yam.
- Armstrong: “I don’t believe you get better by always winning. The people who get better are the ones who get second or third or fourth, because you learn that you aren’t doing everything perfect.”
Murphy’s take: Life isn’t only about win or lose, black or white. There are shades of grey too, like coming in second and third, which aren’t necessarily ‘losing.’ Many a writing competition I’ve gotten second, third and honorable mention. I may not have been at the top of the list, but I was at least learning how to get there. Yes, it takes just as much sweat and effort to come in second or third as it does to come in first. Eventually that effort will pay off.
- Armstrong: “When I have endorsements, they are all for local companies in Idaho…I’ve had requests to do nationwide endorsements and it’s not just as cool a fit. I don’t want to be someone I’m not.”
Murphy’s take: This speaks to me about being who we really are and living the life we are meant to live. I learned this the hard way with my company. Over the years I kept
No matter how old we are, or how many years we’ve been writing, having a trusted mentor is an important part of our success.
- Armstrong: “If you have a hard time, find others who also are having a hard time. If you seek out people, you realize you’re not alone. I don’t want to struggle on my own. I want to find these people and I want to conquer with them.”
Murphy’s take: We all need support. A good editor, a good friend, a spouse, partner, or writing buddy who we can bitch at one day and learn from the next. They also need us. Everyone struggles. Everyone has victories. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. And be one yourself. No matter how old we are, or how many years we’ve been writing, having a trusted mentor is an important part of our success.
As always, thanks for visiting Murphy Writes.
You can follow Kristin Armstrong at www.kristinarmstrongusa.com and at her upcoming race in Idaho, the 2012 Exergy Tour, the last opportunity to earn critical ranking points for the Olympics. Watch for my interview with Armstrong in the June 2012 issue of Sun Valley Magazine.