Giving Up or Taking a Stand?
I’m tired. And I don’t mean the kind of post ride exhilarating tired. I am mentally tired. Fatigued is probably a better description. Many people tell me I should just ignore the things that bother me and focus on the positive. Those people don’t work in the cycling industry, obviously, and most of them are the same ones who say I’m lucky to do what I do. But being able to ignore the unethical just isn’t something I am blessed with. I acknowledge it is my cross to bear, and sure, every industry has its questionable characters and seemingly endless parade of honors for the cheaters. I’m just not one of those that stand on the sideline and waves the flag as they march by. It may be the logical side of my brain, the right or left I don’t know, that has scorched itself into how I process right from wrong; cheating vs honesty; excuses vs responsibility. I never went to business school so I don’t know what they teach there; I never took an ethics class but I’d venture to guess I wouldn’t learn much different from how I grew up. I only conclude now that I will never receive an answer for my current rattling of questions, so I need to ask different questions.
So here goes. Read on if you want. Or not. If someone affiliates themselves with someone of questionable character, ethics and morality, does that place their character under questions? Does it indicate they condone such behavior? Is there reason enough to believe that if 50% of the people are morally bankrupt isn’t the other 50% morally correct? Get over it people say, it’s everywhere. And that’s exactly the problem. We’ve become so accepting of immoral and unethical behavior and business practices that we are actually surprised when someone speaks uneasily about it. Suddenly, I’m taken to task for having principles. Don’t you believe in second chances, I’m asked. You hold a grudge, don’t you I’m told. Why do you let it bother you, I’m scolded. So, these are a few new questions I will answer. Yes, I do believe in second chances. No I don’t hold a grudge (I’m just overly loyal and honest, but I can thank my father for that) and here’s why I let it bother me.
I’m not naive enough to believe cheating can be eliminated, or that it hasn’t existed since mankind began walking the earth. The condemned and forsaken have all sought second chances, and in every proverbial haystack there is the needle that was found and that person turned their life around. But that course of redemption is something much larger than the darkness they existed in with their lies. The old saying the bigger they come the harder they fall doesn’t really ring true anymore. It’s actually the opposite. The amateur drug cheat, as an example, is labeled sad, pathetic, and given a lifetime ban (Red Hook Crit, as an example). The amateur guy is vilified (rightfully so) and called pathetic because this is his hobby he cheated at, not his job. Well, at least that we don’t know of. But the professional, the one who carved out a career packed with lies so thick it slowed his blood flow, is brought back to life. He’s got a story to tell, and you’re going to want to hear it. There is always someone ready to breathe air into the deflated ego of a busted superstar. We somehow can’t just simply let go; let them suffer the fate of their lies; let their redemption be their purpose, not a business proposition.
And this is where I can’t get past it. I know it’s my problem, and being so fucking ethical is both a blessing and a curse. But here’s the point: we all have a story; we all have that story carved into our DNA; and that story is what led us to where and who we are. More often than not, that story doesn’t involve cheating, unethical behavior, lying, and excuses. What it does involve is sleepless nights, self-doubt, overly critical thinking and a cursed approach to doing things through the old adage of hard work. Unfortunately, that story is boring. It’s been told a million times and no one wants to hear it anymore. And it’s not just my story; it’s the story of many of my colleagues, friends and acquaintances. We’ve all been deleted and relegated to the trash bin. Oh now you’re just exaggerating, you just need to work harder and not let it get you down, I’ve been told (as have my friends, colleagues, acquaintances) the problem with that? You’re telling me I need to accept cheating as a viable business tactic or change my story; change my DNA; change how I am as a person. In other words, sell my soul to the devil for a chance at redemption. Funny thing is, I have nothing to redeem myself for. I’m boring. And yet somewhere along the timeline, this story of “living the American dream” became obsolete. A story I grew up on is now a fairy tale of unimaginable characters. It’s a different fairy tale, one that is now about accepting lies as truth. So before you tell me and my colleagues and friends to just get over it, ask yourself what your story is. And I’m not talking about your happy Instagram or Facebook story. I’m talking about what got you to where you are today. Did you lie and cheat to get there? Did you wrestle with self-doubt, judgment, responsibility or did you make excuses and blame someone else? It takes a lot hard work to stay ahead of the curve, I get that. And looking for a shortcut is just human nature. It’s just not in my nature, and for what it’s worth, I’m proud of that. There’s no money in that. No press coverage. No articles. No interest. And now I just need to be OK with that. My question to you is, are you OK with it too?