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Controlled Panic

Some call it the “race of truth”. Cyclist line up one by one in thirty second intervals. They are tasked with pushing as hard as they can to go as fast as they can for a set distance. There is no peloton (group of riders) to gauge your speed or ranking. It is you, a bike and the road. As Christian Vande Velde recently described the sensation on a cycling training ride, it is a controlled panic. And only those who know how to fully harness it will succeed.

What a great analogy for life, notably in the media-hyped and potentially pandemic medical circumstances going on right now. Whether you are training as an elite performer, preparing for a big presentation or facing a daunting life circumstance it’s important to take a step back and think about how you can best manage yourself in light of this. Here are some great examples of how to approach today’s panic and bring it under your control.

Find your edge

Famed running coach Bob Larsen knew that the only way American runners could compete with the rest of the world was to train harder and smarter than them. In training sessions he would often take his runners to the edge of their limits and proceed to push them just a bit further. While other coaches targeted running at sixty, seventy and eighty-percent before a race Larsen believed the only way for his runners to run far fast, was to practice running far fast.1]

In his early years, Larsen coached a group of runners from San Diego self-dubbed the Jamul Toads. One of his first prodigies named Ed Mendoza was thankful for what his coach taught him as he lined up for his first Olympic trial. Mendoza, battling severe asthma leading up to the race due to the massively high pollen counts in Eugene, Oregon, remembers exactly what his coach would remind him:

“Push the pace. Trust your training. Know you are the guy who wears out the field and wins races long before the home stretch.”

As the special forces are often quoted — you don’t rise to your level of expectations, you fall to your level of training. Mendoza showed this by gutting out the race and landing a fifth place showing. Later as two of the top racers dropped out of the 10,000 meters to focus on other events, Mendoza landed a spot in the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games. By pushing to the edge Mendoza controlled a panic situation toward success.

As author Matthew Futterman puts it when describing what Larsen was after, it is “that state of beautiful transcendence that exists just beyond the edge of total exhaustion... that moment when the body feels as though it has nothing left to give, when everything is depleted, and then it discovers just a little more.” Find your edge and push through it, then panic seems more controllable when it comes.

When Panic Meets Faith

The prophet Jeremiah was chosen by God to deliver a difficult message to the Israelites. Due to their continued betrayal, life of sin and godlessness there was a serious day of reckoning on its way. Day after day he preached to anyone who would listen on the dire fate awaiting them.

I’m presuming Jeremiah was not invited to many parties. He was ostracized and in many cases those around him plotted to kill him. It was exhausting and even when he tried to stop from speaking out against those around him the word became like a fire in his heart that he simply could not contain.

Eventually Jeremiah confronted the false prophets around him who preached the prosperity gospel of “everything will be fine, carry on with your child sacrificing and other evil ways because God still favors us as his people”. They put Jeremiah in jail for being the party pooper in town. He was miserable, questioning if he would live through the ordeal and likely hoping it would all be over one way or another.

And you know what he does next? God tells him to buy a field. He promises him that though the Babylonians are literally on their way to burn the whole city down and either kill or take captive those around him, he wants him to take out a jumbo-mortgage during this massive housing crisis. Can you imagine doing that? Can you imagine the faith he had to have to follow through with it. In the end God came through, and that’s what we are called to expect as well. Let faith guide you toward the future you are chosen for and past the panic of today.

Cool In the Pocket

I remember the first time I was in the huddle with Joe. He was still a freshman but the moment he took control of the huddle everyone seemed to drop their shoulders down a few inches. He looked confidently at us as though there was nothing to fear, like he had all the answers to the test we were just about to be given. Not the biggest or fastest quarterback even on our own team, Joe would get to the line of scrimmage and over and over again simply make a play. He ended up leading most of Division II and III football in nearly every quarterbacking stat as a starter and led us to an undefeated season and fifteen-game winning streak.

Why? Joe never panicked. He calmly assessed each play in the game and did what he had practiced to do again and again. And by doing so each one of us played freer and better because of him. When panic of the big moment comes, be like Joe in the huddle. Not only will you show up better but so will your team.

Controlling Today’s Panic

Right now there is a lot of panic. Constant news updates on a potential global health pandemic, economic uncertainty and fear all around us. Or maybe your facing a personal battle right now. How can you control this panic? When you look back one, three or five years from now what will you remember? What can you gain from it to get even stronger?

Find your edge and go to it. Have faith in a God who knows and controls all things. When those around you panic just buy in to what God has laid before you. Trust in your training and look your fear straight in the eyes. You can and you will control this panic. Just think of the epic ride of truth your life will be in the end by doing so.

[1] Running to the Edge, A Band of Misfits and the Guru Who Unlocked the Secrets of Speed, Matthew Futterman

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