Crazy Ideas

Sometimes I find it hard to sleep. Either getting to sleep, or waking up at 2am and not drifting off until 6am. I’m wide awake. Wired. A million things racing through my mind. Lots of crazy ideas.

Today for example. I’ve had 2.5 hours sleep. I’m not working today but I hate feeling that tired.

I can get by on little sleep. But it’s not good for me. It affects my decision making. I’m not as sharp or productive, and everything feels so much harder.

I’ve recently got into the habit of checking my phone if I can’t sleep. Never a good idea at 3am… I’ve generally always been good at not checking my mobile, so I’m not sure why I’ve started. I need to stop. It’s unproductive and rarely a good use of time.

I’ve usually stuck to reading – new books or going over kindle notes on books I’ve read. I read mainly non fiction and usually learn something new. (I know – it’s not the kind of material that’s  conducive to sleep and usually gives me more to think about…)

Often however, I do find that whatever I turn to tends to be prescient in some way or other.

At 4am this morning for example, I finally got round to reading a sample of Phil Knight’s memoir, “Shoe Dog”, about the founding of Nike. I’ve had it on my kindle for months but never felt the urge to read it until now. I don’t know why.

Quite a few passages in the opening chapter caught my attention, (and prompted a 4am Amazon purchase…):

Deep down I was searching for something else, something more. I had an aching sense that our time was short, shorter than we ever know, short as a morning run, and I wanted mine to be meaningful. And purposeful. And creative. And important. Above all…different.”

The world was so overrrun with war and pain and misery, the daily grind was so exhausting and often unjust – maybe the only answer, I thought, was to find some prodigious, improbable dream that seemed worthy, that seemed fun, that seemed a good fit, and chase it with an athlete’s single-minded dedication and purpose. Like it or not, life is a game. Whoever denies that truth, whoever simply refuses to play, gets left on the sidelines, and I didn’t want that.”

Which led, as always, to my Crazy Idea. Maybe, I thought, just maybe, I need to take one more look at my Crazy Idea. Maybe my Crazy Idea just might…work? Maybe…

It will work. By God I’ll make it work. No maybes about it.”

I saw my Crazy Idea shining up ahead, and it didn’t look all that crazy. It didn’t even look like an idea. It looked like a place. It looked like a person, or some life force that existed long before I did, separate from me, but also part of me. Waiting for me, but also hiding from me. That might sound a little high flown, a little crazy. But that’s how I felt back then.”

I did have a Crazy Idea, and somehow, despite being dizzy with existential angst, and fears about the future, and doubts about myself… I did decide that the world is made up of crazy ideas. History is one long procession of crazy ideas. The things I loved most… started as crazy ideas.”

Few ideas are as crazy as my favourite thing, running. It’s hard. It’s painful. It’s risky. The rewards are few and far from guaranteed. When you run an oval track or down an empty road, you have no real destination. At least, none that can fully justify the effort. The act itself becomes the destination. It’s not just that there’s no finish line; it’s that you define the finish line. Whatever pleasures or gains you derive from the act of running, you must find them within. It’s all in how you frame it, how you sell it to yourself.”

Let everyone else call your idea crazy… just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where “there” is. Whatever comes, just don’t stop. That’s the precocious, prescient, urgent advice I managed to give myself, out of the blue, and somehow managed to take. Half a century later, I believe it’s the best advice – maybe the only advice – any of us should ever give.”