you rarely ask why when you win

I just finished North by legendary trail runner Scott Jurek.  The book is about Jurek’s quest to break the “fastest known time (FKT)” for the Appalachian Trail.  The book was a refreshingly honest account of the physical and mental toll it took on Scott, his wife Jenny, and his crew and the resilience needed to move 2,190 miles in 46 days on foot.  I recommend it to anyone interested in stories about mountain adventures (or adventures in general).

But this post isn’t a book summary.  Instead, I wanted to share one of the more interesting take-aways (at least for me) from the book.  One of the reasons I was excited to read North was because, in addition to the plot, I would learn about endurance from a philosophical standpoint (reference Shackleton’s Way).  I expected to learn “why” he had pushed himself to extreme limits to be the best in his craft year after year for decades.  And why this challenge.  And why now.   But this book does not provide those answers either because he doesn’t know or he can’t articulate these drivers.  And maybe that into itself is the lesson.

Don’t need a “why” to be great:

This is interesting because if you google “finding your why” you’ll find dozens of articles that suggest that being able to articulate your why is a necessary driver of greatness.  But one of the most skilled and decorated endurance athletes to ever live still to this day cannot explain what drives him.  “You rarely ask why when you win.” he claimed.  On the last page of the book he states, “She’ll (his daughter) probably want to know why  (he raced to set FKT), but I  doubt we’ll be able to tell her in a way that makes total sense.”

Correlation does not equal causation. We don’t live in a binary world so while understanding your “why” might be helpful, it’s not necessary for greatness.

Thanks so much for your time.