The northern line sprint

Recently, I’ve really started to dig a good sprint. I love any short burst of focussed work made possible almost entirely by the imposed deadline.

Write a piece about topic X to publish sometime soon? Sure. But write a piece about topic X, to publish by the time the Northern line gets to Highgate? Now that’s a sprint.

And this is weird because I’m a long distance runner. Every day to work and then a longer loop on the weekend, step, step, step, step. With no thought of the time, just the distance. Step, step, step, step. Just the relentless march of marathon training. And I love it. The steadiness, the endurance, even the monotony. Perhaps my love of these things I know others hate is why I identify so strongly as a distance runner.

But now here I am… sprinting… AND, really enjoying it. I guess I find this weird because I see myself as a distance runner more than a sprinter. For some reason they seem mutually exclusive. There’s no reason of course why you couldn’t be both, but we typically have a set, sense of ourselves — what we are and what we aren’t. It’s ludicrous, but not uncommon. I’m a generalist, not a specialist. I’m an extrovert, not an introvert. I’m a distance runner, not a sprinter.

Perhaps these labels help others to interact with us without having to think too much, but they represent a kind of closed thinking which limits our options in any given situation.

In our attempt to play the role as the extravert or the generalist, we miss a key moments and insights — both available to anyone with their eyes open to a wider range of perspectives. With our eyes open, we have more choices and more flex. More power.

We’re leopards who do change their spots. So much so in fact, that they shouldn’t be considered spots, more like active camouflage.

Today we sprint, tomorrow we go the distance, flexible enough to adapt to the situations around us. But if we don’t want others to pigeonhole us, then we’d better not first pigeonhole ourselves.

(written London Bridge –> Highgate)


Originally published at www.kentvalentine.com on March 21, 2016.

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