The Guy from Costco

There are two kinds of people: Those who love goals and swear by them and those who have been trapped by goals and swear at them.

I’m more like the second group. So for those of us looking for a little motivation, here are three short stories, two observations, one takeaway and one suggestion. Plus a couple of Dad Jokes ? (all in one email!!).

Story 1: I just got the Costco Connection in the mail, which is a slick magazine that contains about one million coupons and just enough stuff in the form of articles that makes you page through it. On the cover is a photo of a man running away from the camera; he’s visible from the waist down. The article is called “The Ultra Marathon Man” and it’s about a man with a Costco membership (just like me!) who runs ultramarathons and can pass on advice to those of us who are ordinary citizens of the planet.

But the photo! The image shows such muscular perfection it must be shot with about four different light sources. You can see the shadows playing off his rippling calf muscles and hamstrings, and flexing quadriceps… My immediate response is, “Hey! I’m a Costco member. I wanna be that guy!”

So, I eagerly read the article and found that this man has run on all seven continents (twice!) in different kinds of insane, long-distance races through all manner of adverse conditions.

Observation 1: If you’ve ever watched people who are runners, you can immediately tell who the good ones are. They seem to float across the ground as their feet clip along soundlessly. They don’t run so much as glide…smooth, effortless gazelles.

Story 2: For about two years in my life, I tried running. Gliding was never a word to describe my style. It was more of a staggering, lumbering, gasping, plodding, limping sort of gait. Picture a man with arthritis, who stumbles over a crack in the sidewalk and then lurches along trying to catch his balance…for half an hour.

Not only was I a painful person to watch running, it was painful to run. My cardio improved, but my joints did not. My hips, knees and ankles would ache after running three miles. Every time.

Finally, after two years of pain, the realization came to me that I am not and never will be a runner (duh!).

Story 3: Right next to the Costco article was a story about arthritis and how 25% of Americans have arthritis. The ways to prevent arthritis, the story explained, were to avoid straining and overuse of the major joints (note the irony). And next to that was a big ad for joint supplements on sale at Costco (aHAH!).

Observation 2: The Halo Effect is an assumption that because the product is good at one thing it must be good at all things.

Example: Back in the day. when Domino’s Pizza first figured out the mechanics of delivering a pizza within 15 minutes (that was their original ad campaign), people assumed that if they could solve the problem of speed, then they must be good at everything else (i.e., “if the pizza is fast, it must be good.”).

So if this Costco guy is the best runner in the world, then he must be the best husband in the world, the nicest guy in the world and the wisest man in the world. And he must be the happiest man in the world…right?

Takeaway 1: The Halo Effect is not accurate, but it still is very powerful.

Suggestion 1: A better life is enjoying the pursuit of getting better—not the myth of being best.

This is not a helter-skelter scramble, full of unrealistic sprints, but a thoughtful journey with reasoned, measured steps, where we seek ways to be better, savor each day and are content with our limitations.