The Story Economy Blog

Notes on Surrender and Subzero Weather

surrender,jpgI had an awesome 10-mile run on the last day of 2013. So awesome, that I decided 2014 should be the year I run the Cincinnati Flying Pig marathon again in May. It’s been four years since I’ve done a marathon. I’m going to be 40 this year (yes, I am having some issues with it). And I like the idea of a goal unrelated to work stuff and clients.

January 1: time to start training!

And then we’re hit with the worst, most offensively cold January we’ve had in more than two decades—the kind that makes running outside really, really terrible.

Well played, Mother Nature, you coquette.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still going to do it. (Or at least, if something stops me, it won’t be the weather.) But as I was slicing my way up the hill through 2 degrees last week and then again yesterday, what I felt most profoundly was resistance. Running is usually the time when I sink into my thoughts and get my best ideas. But it’s like the extreme cold has blocked the process. Even after I warm up out there—which, believe it or not, I actually do after about a mile—I can’t settle into a groove. Even after my (well-gloved) hands aren’t frozen anymore and my face stops feeling like it will fall off, I just can’t settle in. My body is resisting it because my mind is resisting it, fighting both itself and the elements: It shouldn’t be this cold. This isn’t a normal thing. But I can’t let it beat me!

I’m fighting two battles, and only one of them do I have anything to do with.

It’s not that I need to give up. Please, do you even know me? No, what I need to do is surrender.

Never Surrender Should Just Stay a Bad 80s Song

Surrender is such an underrated and misunderstood thing. Because we associate it with broken-hearted defeat. With sinking. With letting something take you. More often than not, that’s how we use it in our language. As purely a synonym for succumb.

But lately, I’m seeing that surrender can actually be a lifting off, an unburdening, a freeing, a rising—not a sinking at all.

There is an overlap between giving up and surrendering (at least linguistically)—and then there is a way in which they completely diverge. To me, “giving up” means you stop doing an action. If you make a resolution to run or swim or go to Zumba class or floss every day or eat more fiber, and then you stop doing that thing, you’ve given up. (No judgment here! I’m just laying something out.) Giving up is about YOU. And it’s about something you control. I will do this. I won’t do this.

But surrender is about something outside of yourself. And often, surrendering to the situation you cannot control is absolutely the only thing that helps you keep going with what you can control (the action). I’m 100 percent sure this is a completely unoriginal idea, and possibly the basis for the whole 12-step program business and most religions. But it sort of feels like everything right now.

I’ve written about this before, in newsletters about how it is what it is, about releasing ideas that aren’t serving you anymore, about letting go of possibility, and about letting it be. It’s possible that I’m a little obsessed with these cousins of surrender. But I just keep having conversations around this idea of surrender, both in my personal life and in my professional life. And it’s not just because I need to accept subzero weather for a few more weeks. It’s because there is some bigger surrender I’m working toward. So my filter is set for surrender situations: I see them everywhere in my life and in the lives of the people I love and the people I work for. And it’s an amazingly helpful and productive filter. It’s not at all about giving up on a situation: it’s about coming to it from a different place.

For example, if I can surrender to the fact that the weather is just the weather and has nothing to do with me, I’m free to run in it or not run in it, but not be angry and resentful about it either way, because it’s a completely free choice.

If you can surrender to the fact that not everyone will like you, resonate with what you’re about, want or need your help, or like the work you put into the world, then you’re free to go about being who you are in your work and building a brand that you really care about.

And when the workday is over, if you can surrender to the fact that the person you love will always be anxious with control tendencies, it frees you to be empathetic instead of judgmental and perennially frustrated and trying to fix it. (Yeah, that’s a hard one.)

Surrender to the thing that’s not about you, so that you can do better with the thing that is 100 percent about you.

And can we warm the f$%& up already?


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