The Wisdom of Fight Club – In Tyler We Trust

I don’t know why, but when I feel unmotivated or low it helps me to revisit movies that I love and look at quotes from them. Even though they are sometimes out of context from what the writer of the book or screenplay was getting at, relating it to what you are feeling or what is happening around you at the time helps. At least it does on my end, so allow me a few indulgences. There will be triathlon related material here, but not always. 🙂

“Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

I have felt for a long time that we, as men, have lost our way. Somewhere along the line we have gotten the notion that working with your hands and coming home sweaty and dirty was now beneath us, and those men who do work these jobs were “less”. When did it become common for a man to get a pedicure? Or to pluck their eyebrows? It must be my grandfather’s voice in me, but when I shake a man’s hand I expect a rough, firm handshake. I had a “boss” in my last job that when he shook your hand it was moist and limp. It was disturbing. Is this really what women want in men now?? I don’t think that is what women really want.

“[while looking at a Calvin Klein-esque ad on the bus] Is that what a real man is supposed to look like?”

We are derided for being superficial about women, yet these same women flock to “Magic Mike” and scoop up and devour “Fifty Shades of Grey”. At least men are honest about our superficiality :-).

“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”

It’s rare to find someone changing their life for the better if the life they have, even if only good on the surface, is OK. It wasn’t until the 300 pounds showed up on my scale that the switch flipped and I decided to do something. It wasn’t until the goiter on my neck was big enough that people noticed it that I had it checked out and found cancer. To make a change we have to hit bottom, whatever that bottom is for each of us.

“You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your fucking khakis. You’re the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.”

I have to tell myself this all the time. I am NOT my job. This is a test … if someone asks you “who are you?”, do you say “Mother”, “Sister”, “Bother”, “Father”, “Triathlete”, or do you say “Doctor”, “Lawyer”, “Social Worker”, “Business Analyst”? If it’s one of the latter, it’s time to rethink yourself.

“Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else.”

No matter who you are made out to be, or how much money you make, or how ugly, or how handsome you are, in the end, we are all the same. We all return to the dust. Lawyers and Garbagemen all go to the same place. So get over yourself. The guy cleaning the windows outside your office building is no different than you if given the same opportunities you had.

Along the same lines …

“On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”

“Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.”

When I started training I always thought “man, even if I just finish I can call my self a triathlete”. That is true somewhat, but when I look at myself and how I race, what my results are, I have a hard time seeing myself that way (I have talked about this before). Can I really put myself in the same class as Wellington, or Carfrae, just because I finished a race? Most will say YES, you finished it, you trained, you did the work, so you can call yourself a triathlete. Personally, I call myself an aspiring triathlete.

I am the same way with my cancer issue. When training with Team in Training I see people who had serious issues; chemotherapy, radiation, a true, very real, chance that they were not going to make it. So when I look at my thyroid cancer experience I have a hard time putting myself in the category of “survivor”. I had surgery and lost a vocal nerve along with the gland. I had radiation treatment which made me “queasy”. But I had no real chance of the disease killing me. When they ask at the launch dinners before the events for survivors to stand, I normally don’t, even though my table mates are pulling me up. I have not seen the hardship that people in that room saw, so I cannot place myself with them, at least in my head.

“I ran. I ran until my muscles burned and my veins pumped battery acid. Then I ran some more.”

It’s the mark of a TRUE Athlete. You hurt, but you keep going. Your legs are screaming at you to stop, but you keep peddling. Your shins are trying to burst through the skin on your legs, but you keep pounding the pavement. We are a different breed; different than a runner, or a cyclist, or a swimmer. You learn to not only endure the pain, but almost welcome it, because you don’t feel like you really gave it 100% unless you end the leg panting, sweating, and about to puke. Most of the people I train with are like this, and many are not (me for one, and the rest know who you are). In used to believe that this was the step that was causing me to not be a true triathlete. I have since learned that PAIN is not required, nor should it be sought. PAIN does not equal PROGRESS.

“[After pulling out a loose tooth] Hey, even the Mona Lisa’s falling apart.”

A good mantra to keep in your head isn’t it? We are ALL getting older … there is no stopping it. I will never be able to run with a 25-year-old in any race. It’s not that I don’t want to, but my body can only do so much. I don’t feel like a 51-year-old man. Not in my head at least. It’s surreal to me that I am in my 50’s. Where did the time go?

I am finding the more I train that it’s not the cardio that stops me. My heart rate has improved markedly since beginning this. In 2010 my resting hr was 94, it is now 68. I have improved. No, it’s not tiredness that stops me on the run. It’s the aches that do it. The soreness that starts on the outside of my feet. The dull ache in my knees and hips. I can keep running. I know I can. But I also know if I do I won’t be able to walk. So I force myself to go slow, walk every 2 minutes, etc.

“You wake up at Seatac, SFO, LAX. You wake up at O’Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, BWI. Pacific, mountain, central. Lose an hour, gain an hour. This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time. You wake up at Air Harbor International. If you wake up at a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?”

“Now, a question of etiquette – as I pass, do I give you the ass or the crotch?”

Nope. You give them the Smiley Face. 🙂

“All right, if the applicant is young, tell him he’s too young. Old, too old. Fat, too fat. If the applicant then waits for three days without food, shelter, or encouragement he may then enter and begin his training.”

I love this part of the movie. In order to be accepted, Tyler (Brad Pitt) tells them No, and shuts the door. If they leave, then they were not meant to be there, but if they stay, waiting, at the door, with no food, no recognition, no shelter, for three days, then he lets them in and they become part of the group. Women, for the most part, do not “get” this movie (and men, if you find one that does get this movie, grab on and never let them go. They are truly keepers.), because at its core it’s about men being men. Oh yeah … it’s a twisted tale (and an even more twisted book), but the message is clear. Men have been changed, and we need to change back, to rediscover the MALE in us.

Being told we are too old, or too fat, or too young, or too skinny, to be able to do the things we want to do should motivate us off the couch and out into the world to do exactly the opposite.

No one lies on their deathbed and wish they had watched more TV or spent more time at work.

That one is NOT from the movie. 🙂

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