Friday Night Lights, The New Walden Pond

I am gonna start this piece with a Friday Night Lights Quote (this quote is from the movie version of FNL, the ranking of Friday Night Lights stories goes, TV show, movie, book, in case you were wondering), because if you get the chance to reference Friday Night Lights, you absolutely, 100% should no matter what medium you are working with or the point you are trying to make. The quote is by Don BIllingsley who says, “We’re gonna get drunk, we’re gonna get laid, and we’re gonna win state but not tonight.” Just kidding that’s not the real quote that I want to talk about, but it’s just so good and funny. The real quote is by some random guy who yells out a speeding car window, “Billingsley! Party at Taylor's house NOW Billingsley! Gonna get wasted! Yeah! Billingsley! BILLINGSLEY!” LOL Just kidding again. God, I love everything about and surrounding Don Billingsley so much. If someone magically brought 17-year-old Don Billingsley to my doorstep tomorrow, I would invite him in and give him a place to sleep and cook for him knowing full well that his lifestyle would eventually lead to the burning down of my apartment complex. That’s how much I love Friday Night Lights movie version of Don Billingsley. I mean, first of all, his hair is next level. That’s a primo late 80s mullet. But also, this is a kid who dislocated his shoulder, had the doc pop that thing back into place, only missed one play, and then took a handoff in the state championship football game and proceeded to kick the Carter defense in the wiener by breaking approximately 32 tackles on a single play to pick up a crucial first down. I would lie down in traffic for 17-year-old Friday Night Lights Movie version of Don Billingsley.

Ok, but seriously now, the important quote that I want to talk about comes from Coach Gary Gaines who tells his QB, Mike Winchell, “It took me a long time to realize that, uh, there ain't much difference between winnin' and losin', except for how the outside world treats you. But inside you, it's about all the same” The first time I heard Billy Bob Thorton (he plays Coach Gaines) let these words slide out of his weird leathery lips, I was in high school, and so I immediately thought, “No, winning is very very very different from losing. I love winning and losing sucks so… boom, roasted, Billy” Now, factually, I was correct. Losing and winning are different outcomes. The opposite outcomes, as it were. But now, I look back at that quote like, “Holy shit, Friday Night Lights is a modern-day Walden Pond.” And I don’t just think that because of Don Billingsley. I think that Coach Gaines’ laconic prose is the low-key gold standard of enlightenment in sports. It’s crazy, I know, but a West Texas high school football coach played by Billy Bob Thorton is actually a Phil Jackson-esque zen master who packs fat lippers (that’s slang for packing large potions of mouth tobacco into one’s lip, in case you weren’t familiar with synonyms for using chew). Take a second let the ridiculousness of that sink in.

 God, I love that movie so much, it’s an enigma wrapped in a question mark, starring Billy Bob Thorton in a philosophical role, with the most spectacular fictional movie character of all time, Don Billingsley, spending half the movie “drunk fooling” and the other half of the movie unleashing the anger of a hemi charged bull dozer on defenses. It’s an American classic, you guys.

Ok, so, why do I think that the line, “It took me a long time to realize that, uh, there ain't much difference between winnin' and losin', except for how the outside world treats you. But inside you, it's about all the same” is something people should aspire to? Well, let’s break this ish down real quick because the quote kinda has 3 parts, it’s got it’s claim- that winning and losing aren’t that different, it’s got a qualifier- except for how other people perceive you, and then it reiterates it’s thesis- the internalization of your performance is not inherently connected to the actual outcome.

So, basically what Billy Bob is saying is; sure, the outcome of a thing is relevant to the people who look at it from the outside. But, it’s irrelevant to essence of the people who perform the task. Or, more simply still; one is not defined by the outcomes of their endeavors.

Here, let me give you an example: after I ran 2:12:35 at the Frankfurt Marathon (before anyone give me props about a seamless humblebrag, please know that there was no humility intended in that line), I became a 2:12 guy to the running world and things changed, but also, they didn’t. I picked up some followers on Twitter and Instagram (cool), I probably raised my market value as someone brands may want to partner with (very cool), and I got the opportunity to do a few interviews (thanks Mario! Everyone go listen to the Morning Shakeout Podcast Episode 1 with your boy). That’s the outside world changing in their views and opinions about me. But, other things, important things, didn’t change. My girlfriend, family, and dog don’t love me anymore or any less, my desire to be creative didn’t go away, my drive to run really fast and melt faces at big races hasn’t waned, and I still have to consistently work at the strategies that I use to keep the anxiety issues I have dealt with since college under wraps. This is all to say that I am not defined by the fact that I am a 2:12 guy now. I am not better or worse at running, nor any better or worse of a person. At least not in my own mind, maybe some people on the Letsrun message boards think that they can distill my essence down to my PR, but I am not a different person because I ran 2:12, than I would have been had I run 2:11 or 2:13 or 3:00.

Ironically, I think that accepting that “there ain’t much difference between winnin’ and losin’ except for how the outside world treats you” will make you run faster or perform better at whatever task you choose to dive into. I really do. I really believe that you can perform at a higher level if you don’t really care about what the outcome will say about you. If you believe that you are defined by your results, if you believe that your essence is a product of your abilities, then I hope you have a strong back because you just put on a back pack and stuffed a bunch of shit in there. You’ve got pressure, and story lines, and expectations and it’s all just shit that you’ve haphazardly given yourself to deal with while you’re doing something that is supposed to be fun. On the other hand, if you divorce your idea of yourself from the results of your endeavors then you’re free to just let it flow. You don’t have this huge weight on your shoulders, you don’t have story lines to get caught up in, or expectations to conform to. You can just be you, in a moment.

Now, someone could be excused for reading this and thinking that I’m saying, don’t care so much. But that’s not what I am saying, I am saying try really hard, care really deeply, invest a piece of your soul in what you’re doing, set your goals really high and accept the possibility that you won’t accomplish them. And then, when it’s over, appreciate your effort for what it was- hopefully it was the best you could do in the moment you were in. And if it wasn’t, part of the journey is being honest with yourself about that and working to give more of yourself the next time around. That’s all I’m saying. Well, that and don’t give a shit about what the outside world thinks about you. Unless the outside world is 17-year-old Friday Night Lights movie version of Don Billingsley, in that case you should care very deeply about what Billingsley thinks about you. I love Don Billingsley.