I’ve written about several Mudders before, and I’ll probably do it again. My tenth Tough Mudder was special. For those that aren’t aware, people who do more than one Mudder are called Legionnaires. There are different colored headbands for each level. You get a green headband for completing two, blue for three yellow for four through six, pink for seven through nine, and black with orange trim for ten. This last one is special. This one signifies that you have accomplished something huge – running, jumping, and crawling through over 100 miles of mud.
After I finished my tenth Mudder, I walked over to the Legionnaires tent to get my headband. The girls checking people in asked me my name, confirmed it was my tenth, and placed that trophy around my head like a crown. Applause broke out. In this community, getting the black is a reason to celebrate. It’s significant.
I first heard the words “Tough Mudder” In 2011. At that time, mud runs were becoming popular and the Tough Mudder was supposedly the best and the hardest. Some friends and I thought about running the Mudder, then said, “Nah, let’s train and do one next year.” Next year came and went with the same conversation. “Let’s train, and do it next year.” Finally, in January (what month?) 2013, only a month before the race, a friend and I sat down and just said, “Ok , it’s time to put up or shut up.” We signed up and trained our asses off for that month. To this day I do not think I have been in better shape or completed a better time than that first Mudder. It also taught me a very important lesson, and one I try to help convince others to do the Mudder: You don’t train then sign up. Signing up gets you to train
So where does perspective come in? Well, Tough Mudders have become an integral part of my life. They remind me where my strengths and weaknesses are – and they put things into perspective. It’s unbelievable how many things no longer bother you after you have jumped from crazy heights and been shocked with 10,000 volts. The irritation your boss causes you, gone. Annoying neighbors are things of the past. When you put your body through something like that, your brain realizes what it can put up with. It’s all about the perspective.
Speaking of perspective, I’m sure there are people out there who are saying, “ok, Kenny, you ran through 100 miles of mud. Not a big deal.” From that person’s perspective, the accomplishment is not a big deal. And in a sense they are right. I didn’t cure cancer, end starvation, nor bring about world peace.
That brings me to my real point. Significance. Sometimes I think we are all struggling to be significant in some way. One of my favorite examples of this struggle for significance is Walter White from Breaking Bad. Walter was a man struggling to be significant to a world that really didn’t care about him. So many people want their 15 minutes of fame so they can feel significant.
Personally, and feel free to disagree, I believe significance is user-driven. And by that I mean it’s in the eye of the beholder. To me, the movie star spending millions on private jets is insignificant, even if I love the movies. However, the homeless person who thanks me for the bottled water I bought him is significant. So let me explain further. To certain members of my family, running Mudders is ridiculous and a waste of money. “Why pay good money to travel the country and run in mud?” “How many hours have you wasted crawling through mud?” And then I hear from the people I’ve run with. They tell me that Mudders have changed their lives. “Kenny, thank you for changing my life.” “I want to do things like this as a positive example for my son.” And for me, I get to travel the country, now globe (my tenth was in England), visiting my friends, seeing new places, doing things most people will never do. To me, THAT is significant.
In the end, significance is pragmatic. What is significant to you is significant to you. And me to me. In that lies the ability to choose. We can choose to make things significant or insignificant. Failure can be insignificant or it can be significant. It is how we see things. I only have this life to make an impact on those around me. What impact will I have? If I fail, will that end my life or just teach me something to carry on? Thomas Edison tried 200 times to invent the light bulb. He didn’t fail 200 times, he found 200 ways not to invent the light bulb. Do SOMETHING. If you fail, make the failure insignificant. If you succeed, make it what you want.
The bottom line is that – whether you believe you have an afterlife or not – THIS life is the only one you will have to do something in THIS life. So don’t let failure stand in your way. Don’t let naysayers get you down. If you fail, then you are one step closer to success. You are one Mudder closer to the Black.