“Just Apply Yourself.”

“ You can be anything you set your mind to,” my dad used to always say to me. “Even the president of the United States if you want. I bet you’ll be the first female president some day.” Sorry, Dad, but you couldn’t pay me enough to be president, and there’s probably some questionable pictures from my college days floating around the internet that would disqualify me anyway. After setting aside the semantics of his statement, though, I was left with an idea that stuck with me to adulthood. Although I’m not sure he meant it this way, I interpreted my dad’s advice as saying that I not only can be anything I want to be, but I should. Even further, I must.

That type of drive is ingrained in some people and not in others. I was the kid who didn’t need to be told to do their homework. I punished myself when I got bad grades or didn’t do well at some particular extracurricular activity. Although I’ve always had that inner drive, I’ve also been cursed with a fear of failure and an anxiety disorder that can be completely crippling at times. Most of my life, I’ve more or less known what I could achieve but refused to push myself to do it at the last second, just in case I failed in the process. I’ve talked about this and how it applies to my running before, and it continues to apply today. The mental aspect of training continues to be my most challenging, and it’s therefore the thing I spend the most time thinking about and working on.  It’s also the thing I spend the most time working on in my personal life.

My ex-husband and I split up for many reasons, not the least of which was my constant frustration at his apparent refusal to push himself in any area of life outside of the gym.  “I just want you to live up to your potential,” I would plead with him. “Just apply yourself.” I realize now that he didn’t have the self-confidence that it takes to really see what you are made of and try to live out your dreams. He was afraid. And guess what? So was I. Not too long ago, it also occurred to me that I wasn’t living up to my potential either. Kind of ironic that we fought so much about him not living up to his, right? My ex was a religious person, and depending on how you want to define it, I am too. I deeply believe that doing anything less than your best is an insult to God. He gave us all different talents and abilities for a purpose, and I believe He expects us to use them to the best that we can. Like the great Steve Prefontaine said, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”

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Pre applied himself to lots of things, like growing one of the most epic moustaches of all time. Also, running.

I’m implicitly hard on myself. That’s not to say that I don’t know when I am good at things, because I do. My boss would tell you that he’s heard plenty of times that I know exactly how good I am at my job, because I am good at it. But I’m also the first person to say that something I’ve written is complete garbage, even if other people think it’s great. Nothing I do is ever good enough for me, but I recognize that sometimes everyone else thinks it’s fantastic. So, I am good at my job, and I know that, but I also know I’m not as good at it as I should be.

So why I am telling you this? Well, as I write, I’m on a plane back from Colorado, where as far as you know, I ran a marathon. And you’re right – I did run a marathon. But the real reason I was in Colorado this week was for work.

That job I was just talking about? I quit it on July 12th.

And then I started my own company with a business partner. While I can’t get into the specifics of it just yet – although I can’t wait to share the details closer to our launch date – I am now officially self-employed in a career that, by all accounts, is my dream job. I am lucky. I am grateful.

And I am terrified.

I am absolutely, unquestionably gripped by fear. I’m afraid of failure. I’m afraid of the unknown. I’m afraid of letting my business partner down, afraid of letting our investor down, afraid of letting myself down. I’m afraid of letting God down, as if God doesn’t have bigger fish to fry. (God, if you’re reading this, I really hope you have bigger fish to fry. Amen.)  Jumping off this proverbial bridge has taken a flying leap of faith that I would never have made a few years ago, but I’m making it now.

And that’s because since I started running marathons all over the country, I’ve realized that I have not been fulfilling my potential. I have not been challenging myself the way I should be. I’ve stayed in my comfort zone because it’s easy, and I’ve been left feeling empty and unfulfilled. I stayed at my old job because I was good at it and I loved the people I worked with, but everyone there knew it wasn’t what I really wanted to be doing. I ran hundreds of miles at the same pace without ever trying to get faster because it was comfortable. I dated the same type of (bad) guy over and over again because I knew how to; dating AJ has required a huge amount of faith because he’s completely different (in a good way) than anyone I’ve been with before.  He and I started dating after I started running marathons. I quit my job after I started running marathons. I’ve done things, gone places, and now, started a new life for myself that I never would have dreamed was possible because of the confidence running has given me. I am learning to demand more of myself because marathons demand more of me, and I can do them. I am working on being the best Danielle I can be, although I have no idea what that means just yet.

All I know is that from now on, I want to put my heart and soul into everything I do. I don’t want to settle for less than my best effort.  That won’t happen every day, realistically. Quite frankly, it would be exhausting. But I want to go to bed every night knowing that I’ve given my relationship, my company, my running, my family, and myself my best shot.  When you’re me, that can make life look pretty extreme. It’s the reason why I gChat AJ saying things like “How mad would you be if I ran a marathon in Ethiopia in October?” (Not pleased, for the record.) It’s the reason why I broke down in tears on the phone with him on Sunday because I didn’t feel like I was doing a good enough job on my very first business trip for the new company. It’s the reason why I can’t help but at least try to run that next marathon, just so I’ll know what would have happened either way.  It’s the reason why I’m always in a frenzy, always going, always doing.  I’m trying to reach my potential.

I have to. After all, my dad said I could.

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