The Only Inexcusable Thing

"I did not think that could happen."

Seneca, quoting Roman general Fabius, once said that the only inexcusable thing a military commander can say is, "I did not think that could happen."
A common version we often hear is: "I did not think that could happen to me." But of course if it can happen to anyone, it can happen to you.
We love to tell heroic tales of overcoming impossible odds, against obstacles that could not have been foreseen. But the reality is that 99% of the time unforeseen obstacles are the stuff of fiction. Almost all drama and emergencies in our lives could have been expected, if not avoided entirely if we had simply prepared and acted as if it could happen.
A smooth and uneventful journey is an excellent testament to preparation and professionalism, while a calamitous and difficult journey requiring heroics is often an indication of a lack of experience and poor planning. A heroic struggle makes for a good story, but it's often a warning sign of poor preparation.
Peter Drucker, famous business consultant and author, once said that a well organized business appears boring, because any 'crisis' has been anticipated and covered by the operation's routine.
Roald Amundsen was the first man to reach the South Pole during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. He later described his journey as, "relatively uneventful and smooth." By contrast, his chief rivals Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton, aptly lived up to the "heroic" name by scraping by one near-death experience after another. Scott ultimately paid for it with his life, and Shackleton spent almost two years stranded on the arctic ice flows.
As athletes we must contemplate, expect, and prepare for the variables that can, and eventually will happen. A storm can hit on race day. A nagging injury may flare up a week before your race. Your bike may stop shifting half way through your ride. In many ways the obstacle itself is not the problem, its whether or not you're physically and mentally prepared for it.
Ultimately, you are the commander of your life. When you say, "I did not think that could happen", you are saying that you are not in command of your own life.
- Antonio Gonzalez


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