The Machine Always Wins

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I finished reading Billion Dollar Ball by Gilbert Gaul, and while the book is about college football, there is one wonderful chapter on women’s rowing. Gaul is clearly awed by many parts of the sport, and after reading it I was too. Gaul writes:

“The striking thing to me about women’s rowing was how it accomplished so much with so little. In so many ways it seemed the model for how sports should be, not a form of entertainment but a personal journey, and at a fraction of the cost of football.”

For example, Gaul watches one practice where athletes compete against the machine. They row until they can’t row anymore. The girls have a saying about this workout; “the machine always wins.”

Unlike John Henry, the girls always lose. I wanted to lose too.

Inspired by the book I hopped on the rowing machine at my gym, and went to work. I grunted. I dripped. I pulled, tugged, leaned. I went as hard as I could for 2KM, then I was done. The machine won.

The same is true for life. Only time stands in for the machine. We can’t out-run it. We can’t out-work it. We can’t out-think it, or out-spend it. Time, like the machine, always wins.

So what’s the point?

I wondered that at seven in the morning, alone on a rowing machine.

I don’t know.

Life isn’t about winning, because we can’t win. Like the machine always win in rowing, time always wins in life. Our goals need to be different then. The women rowers don’t try to beat the machine, they know they can’t. They face an impossible challenge. Instead they get on because getting on makes them better. When they row, they transform.

That’s the challenge time gives us too. It’s a chance to see how much we can transform. It’s how strong, wise, and humble we can get. Not for points or scores (remember, we can’t win), but to get better.

Our opportunity is to see what we can do. Our opportunity is to row.

What I’ve been reading and writing.

Crap, I missed another week of blogging. For good reason, I wrote a lot of other stuff. I wrote posts on Dan Coyle (talent is made, not born), Malcolm Gladwell (how to write well), Naveen Jain (dream big, but learn the basics), and Scott Adams (more good stuff in my 3rd post about him) at The Waiter’s Pad.

I’m reading Superforecasting, Chaos, Introduction to NLP and Words of Radiance (fiction).

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