A reader asks Dave McGillivray to reflect on his success, failures, and regrets.
DAVE MCGILLIVRAY, for Runner's World
I'm a more recent member of your fandom and after learning a little about your history, I was very inspired but left wondering a few things. Everything you have accomplished, athletically and professionally, is really impressive. You've spent your life doing things that most people would never even attempt. Most people lack the courage and the drive. I think it's safe to assume when you reflect upon you life, you feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment (I recently finished my first marathon and look at that as one of the proudest moments of my life). What I'm left wondering is: What failures and opportunities have defined your success and if you regret not doing anything sooner (or anything at all)?
Thanks for the personal and insightful question. As for regretting not having done some things sooner in life, well, I wish I did a lot of things sooner, especially business wise. That being said, you can second guess everything in life and drive yourself crazy. That’s not being fair to yourself. Circumstances and conditions and knowledge change as we get older. The cliché “if I only knew then what I know now” is said all the time, however, we didn’t know then what we know now so we should just drop it and not lose sleep over what we perhaps had no control over (easier said than done I know). The idea is not to look back but to look forward (I always have the urge to take the “rear view” mirror in my car and toss it out the window). I never think it is too late to accomplish something, but only if it is truly realistic. Most people know what that is for themselves.
As for failures, for the most part, I don’t look at them as failures as much as I do learning experiences. If you don’t learn from them, then I suppose in the long run they can in fact be considered failures. I didn’t finish my first Boston Marathon but I didn’t deserve to either because I didn’t train for it. So, I didn’t fail at completing the race, I failed at training for it. I’ve always said we all have to “earn the right” to say we are going to do something. Other than that first Boston, I feel I’ve lived my entire life that way. I don’t say I am going to do something until I’ve at least had some experience and have done some of the work to legitimately “qualify and justify” saying it and truly believing it. I try to set my goals for success, not failure.
As for opportunities, I believe that we mostly create our own opportunities. Rarely are they just handed to you. It all boils down to making the commitment to do something and accepting the sacrifices to accomplish it. When you do that, opportunities tend to present themselves that you maybe once had never thought existed.
I always thought, too, that “most” people were lacking the courage and the drive as you say. However, I do think that a lot of that is finally changing. Even 30 years ago when I started my event management business, I believed that someday people were going to finally get it. I think that day has arrived. As I’ve stated many times, the “walls of intimidation” have begun to crumble…people are believing in themselves. The worst injustice we can ever do to ourselves is to underestimate our own ability. The common denominator for all of us today with all of this is that we are all striving to build our own confidence and self-esteem. This sport of ours can do and has done just that. We are changing lives and we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.
Perhaps someday in the future we are only going to see runners on the road and very few cars and it will be runners complaining about cars on the road versus drivers complaining about runners on the road! I always kiddingly tell people that no matter where in this country my car breaks down, I’ll be able to run home!
Lastly, even at my age (59), I still contemplate what I want to be when I grow up. The other day I was driving into Boston and I saw a billboard with just one word on it and I immediately knew that was exactly what I wanted to be. It read “ACCOMPLISHER.” That’s it…I just want to accomplish things. Not sure about anyone else, but that is what truly keeps me motivated and going each and every day. Thanks again for your kind words.