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Why You Need To Find Out If You Are Lazy Or You Are Disinterested

Here’s a story about a coach that changed my life.

I never connected with school. I’m not special that way. Lots of people don’t quite get excited by what they are learning or even understand why.

Because I have two engaged parents who are heads up, I was always on an academic path. There was no option for failing out of school or getting into drugs.

So mostly, I walked an elite academic path, bristling the whole way. Why did I have to do this homework? Could I get away with just copying someone else’s homework?

Eventually, that behavior started to define my self-conception. If homework is important, why am I so bad at doing it? I must be lazy.

I spent 6th grade through 10th grade believing that I was deeply, irrevocably lazy. All the evidence pointed that way and very little contradicted it.

In fact, I think nothing contradicted it.


Then I met Andy Chan.

He was the assistant cross country coach. And he was a huge running nerd.

Most of you have probably watched an hour of Olympic track and field coverage and gotten wrapped up in the excitement of the 100m dash.

But I bet none of you have sat through seven 8-hour days of a US Championships track meet in order to watch the first round 100m hurdle heats all the way through the women’s hammer throw.

That’s what I mean by running nerd.

Andy lived and breathed running. Of course, he ran seriously himself. But he also was a fan of professional runners, college runners and even high school runners.

I was completely and totally inspired from the second I met him. What he taught me, and more than that, demonstrated through his own life, was that I had options. School wasn’t the only thing a person was allowed to be passionate about.

I was inspired to do a lot of things: be a team leader, be a fan of the sport, read about the science. But I want to hone in on one particular inspiration.

I was inspired to work and take my training seriously.

For the first time ever, I put in a very serious summer of running.

After the summer, when I started joining my friends for cross country practice I would compare notes about our summer training.

It turns out that I ran more miles than anyone else on the team. A lot more miles.

Cue cognitive dissonance.

Would a lazy person work harder than an entire team of 100 runners?


Well, damn, it turns out I’m not lazy after all. So what’s going on?

I had mistaken disinterest for laziness. And that’s awful.

I think of how many kids are getting the wrong message from school. And if I had my way, I’d replace common core with single core.

In single core — the #1 priority would be to find a subject that a kid is deeply, passionately interested about. If they can discover that, then they can apply those lessons everywhere.


And what about you?

Most of you are probably adults and feel like you have actual responsibilities. We all do. And we need to get those done.

But, it’s also useful to examine the parts of our lives that seem hard. Are those hard things hard because you’re not interested in them?

As an example, I used to find mornings hard. And then I realized that my morning was filled with things I was disinterested in.

Now I’m jumping out of bed because I know the first thing I’m going to do is write. I love writing.

To summarize, the point I wanted to make to you was to consider what stories you’re telling yourself about what you can’t do. Are any of those really just situations of disinterest that you’re spinning into personal failings?


Also, one more note about Andy Chan. This man is so blessed.

People say, “Do what you love.” and I think he’s a case study in that. I know he came from a culture (he was several years earlier at my high school) that said the best thing to be is a doctor or lawyer.

And instead, he became a high school running coach. It paid off.

He’s surrounded by love everywhere. His athletes come back as coaches. I coached his adult running group for years. And one of my teammates from 1996 is coaching his high school team now.

Every day he does what he loves with people who love him while sharing and celebrating their own growth.

I’ll leave you with a quote about him from one of his other runners, Shannon Rowbury.

“I was lucky to have had Andy’s first year coaching at Sacred Hearth Cathedral coincide with my freshman year. He taught me the value of dedication and working hard, but most importantly he laid a healthy foundation for me. He thought in the long term and the big picture, because he wanted me to have a long career. He knew that if I could stay healthy and keep improving every year, maybe one day I would be running in college or maybe the Olympics, and I might even win some medals and set some records along the way! I could never have run for so many years if it weren’t fun. Luckily I had a high school coach who emphasized the right things. Here’s to paying it forward!”

Shannon is a three time Olympian, US record holder in the 1500m, 2 mile and 5000m.

So, Andy, thank you. You are an inspiration for how to live.