Adam Hill

Reflections on 44

Yesterday, I celebrated my 44th birthday, and it triggered a memory from a decade ago.

Ten years ago today I wrote a blog post called “34”. I had just started writing this blog a few months earlier, as a means of chronicling my journey from “unhealthy, unhappy, and injured to Ironman.” 

In that post, I talked a lot about faith in uncertainty. A few months earlier, I had just hit one year of sobriety, yet I was still incredibly unhealthy. I had just quit smoking, I was eating like garbage, and I would get winded walking up a small flight of stairs. But with the empowerment that one year of sobriety brings, I decided to call my shot. 

I committed to become an Ironman triathlete, and qualify for the Ironman World Championship. 

I achieved it in 4 years. 

I say this not to toot my own horn… okay, maybe just a little… okay, maybe a lot, but if you set out to achieve a goal, do the work, stay consistent, and achieve it, you earn the right to toot a little bit. But I digress.

In addition to tooting my own horn, I say this because there are achievements in all of our lives, large or small, that serve as reference points for what we can achieve. And when we look back on the shots we called that got us to where we are, we can use those to help guide us to where we want to go.

As I reflect on 44, I look at the person I was at 34. A little over a year sober. Uncertain about the future, but grateful for my sobriety. I was faithful that things would work out. I was putting one foot in front of the other on the journey toward an impossible dream. 

One year later, I would cross his first Ironman finish line. 4 years later, I would achieve his big, hairy, audacious goal of qualifying for the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, much sooner than I ever thought that he would…

But none of that was clear to me at 34. I just called my shot, had faith, consistently put in the work even when it was hard, and enjoyed the hell out of the journey. 

Reflecting on the Last Decade

As I was running today, I found myself reflecting on the last 10 years since I called my last shot. At 34, if you would have told me that I would achieve my dream in 4 years, I would have been over the moon. If you would have told me of all of the other things I would have achieved that I didn’t plan for – writing a bestselling book, starting a top 5% podcast, running a multigenerational 100 year old company, having the relationships I have today – I may have fainted with excitement.

But then, I probably would have become depressed. Because my expectations would suddenly match my results. 

Uncertainty is a powerful and necessary force for our fulfillment. Because when we can learn to flow with uncertainty and faith, and enjoy the progress without expectation, our results become much more magical.

It’s a weird balance, isn’t it? Setting goals without expectation, having faith that everything will work out, and enjoying the journey. But mastering this art is pretty amazing. 

I remember being 34 and having a big, clearly stated goal, no expectation, faith, and finding joy in the journey. It made everything its own reward. And I was blessed with an amazing grace that led to life’s greatest gift.


Unexpected Lessons

A quote that I was thinking about on my run today was this: “Most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year, and underestimate what they can achieve in ten years.” It’s a quote attributed to Bill Gates, and based on my experience in the last 10 years, I find it to be true. 

I thought qualifying for the Ironman World Championship would take me 10 years. It took me 4. In addition to that, working on myself translated into other peripheral achievements also. My experienced was televised on an episode of Ironman: Quest for Kona (2017). I published my bestselling book, Shifting Gears: From Anxiety and Addiction to a Triathlon World Championship. I started my podcast, Flow Over Fear. Those are the things that people tend to underestimate, and ultimately why expectations are not great for our personal development journeys. Because we can’t anticipate the peripheral benefits we will see just by taking consistent steps forward. 

That’s where the juice is.

One of the other lessons I learned was this. These achievements in and of themselves did not make me happy. Yes, I did a euphoric fist pump the moment I achieved both of them, but I think 15 seconds after crossing the Ironman finish line, my first words were “where’s the pizza?” As cliche as it sounds (because cliches are often accurate), the joy is found in the journey. I found tremendous joy training for Ironman, and because of that, I built powerful memories. The meaning behind a pursuit matters most in finding fulfillment.

Finally, the journey and the results were not linear, nor was it comfortable. it was very clumsy. I didn’t have the community I have now when I started. I didn’t know then any of what I know now. But the important part was that I just started. Eventually, stumbling turned into walking, and that turned into running. I feel just as clumsy now chasing my next set of goals, but there are a lot more advantages I have now that I didn’t have then: a) My community, and b) points of reference for success.

Calling my next shot

All of this reflection to say that calling your shot is courageous and vulnerable. But it’s so important to drive fulfilling results. 

What is the big impossible goal you want to achieve in the next 10 years? You may find that with the right focus and attention, you may achieve it in four.

For me, my next shot is to share my message of embracing fear with millions of people, be it on the stage, through my podcast, or through my writing. It’s an important goal because it lights me up, it gives me energy, and I enjoy the hell out of pursuing it. I approach this by taking consistent steps forward with no expectations, and lots of faith that I’ll go in the right direction.

Now with that shot called, let’s go swing for the fences.

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