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By Dr. Toby Schwarz - Head Track and Field Coach at Whitworth University

When Jesus had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish." "Master," Simon replied, "we worked hard all night and didn't catch a thing. But if you say so, I'll let the nets down again." - And this time their nets were filled to capacity! - Luke 5:4-6

Two Choices (check one): o LIMIT o NO LIMIT

48 oz. That is my limit. 48 oz of sirloin steak is my limit. I found this out the hard way a few years ago at the Outdoor National Championships when Coach Bob and I entered the 64 oz steak eating contest at a restaurant in Fon du Lac, Wisconsin. After consuming 48 oz of steak, I could not physically cram any more steak into my stomach. Trust me, I tried. I tried all kinds of ways to get it all in. Hidden in potatoes. Covered in BBQ sauce. Covered in pudding. None of it would work. My body would not allow any more steak into my body. 48 oz was the limit.

When it comes to food, I tend to believe that I have no limit. I have had to be carried out of too many ALL YOU CAN EAT restaurants in my day or regretted that last basket of breadsticks at the Olive Garden. My ‘eyes are always bigger than my stomach’. My brain does not factor in actual stomach volume when I eat. My mind does not recognize my stomach’s actual capacity. In regards to my stomach, my mind has no limits.

I am often asked what separates those athletes who are “successful” from those athletes who aren’t very successful. Before I answer the question, I must first explain to the person my definition of “success”. Success to me is obtained when someone reaches their potential. In relative terms, the closer that someone gets to their potential, the more success they have. Potential can also be defined as capacity. The tricky part of this definition is “what is someone’s potential”. Good question. We really don’t know for sure. However, we have a better understanding of knowing when someone does everything they can to achieve a particular result. As it was with the steak, I was not successful in eating all 64 oz, but I was able to meet my capacity and thus was successful. I never gave up. I didn’t stop at 16 or 32 oz. I crammed it in until it didn’t go in any more. I reached my steak potential/capacity. I was able to do that because I didn’t limit myself.

Athletes who reach their capacity (potential) are those athletes who do not put limits on themselves. These are athletes that not only dream big but they believe that their ultimate result is not determined (limited) by what they think they can do. They understand that their ultimate result is based on what they believe they can do and they do all they can to achieve it.

Those who choose the box marked “NO LIMIT” are defined as being “risk takers”. Social science has found that “risk takers” are the most successful people in the world. Decision makers, world leaders, entrepreneurs, inventors, elite athletes, and leaders in any field or vocation are typically “risk seekers” as compared to being “risk averse”. Most of the items we use each day were discovered by “risk takers”. Astronauts are risk takers. Scuba divers are risk takers. Adventurous people take risks and the reward is the ability to see things with their eyes that most people (risk averse) only see on TV or read about in books. Risk takers either reach their capacity or come very close because nothing limits them.

Risk takers tend to be more successful because they routinely put themselves in a position to succeed. Risk takers do not worry about the possibility of failure. “Risk averse” people take the safe or safer route and thus rarely have success unless they “luck” into it. Some “risk averse” people find themselves in the right place at the right time and inadvertently find success. Risk takers “make their own luck” and thus never need to rely on outside forces to dictate their path to success.

Risk taking is not simple. Risk taking requires “guts”. Risk taking requires a person to have faith and trust. Risk taking requires courage and boldness. Risk taking requires someone to believe and have confidence. Risk taking requires intentional effort and sacrifice. Risk takers challenge themselves and don’t wait to be challenged. Risk takers seek to fill their capacity and see their capacity as being endless. Risk takers do not set limits on what they can or cannot achieve.

Risk takers step out on the ledge and jump to the other side of the crevasse instead of waiting to be pushed over the edge to fall into the valley below. Risk takers seek pain and learn to manage the discomfort instead of expending undue amounts of energy to avoid pain that will be inevitable. Risk takers expect things to go wrong and then adapt to them instead of hoping that nothing bad happens. Risk takers “take the bull by the horns” and wrestle that bull to the ground instead of running away from the bull and ending up with the bull’s horn in their …

Risk takers fail and suffer loss but they put themselves in the position to have success and thus achieve success much more often than “risk averse” individuals. “Risk averse” people fail less and thus suffer less from those failings but end up still failing and still suffering none-the-less and rarely achieve the success at the same level as risk takers.

Two Choices …

1. Continue to put limits on what you can do. Set goals that are easily obtained so that you feel good when you achieve them. Be safe. Choose to avoid risks and live a comfortable and predictable life, while hoping for things to just “happen” or “go your way”. With a little luck, and a little chance, something “great” may happen.


2. Order the 64 oz steak and see if you can eat the whole thing. After a long day of not catching any fish, throw your nets into the water one more time. Take a risk (or many risks) and challenge yourself to be GREAT and UNIQUE and SPECIAL and NOT AVERAGE, with the possibility of failure being a result but also providing the increased probability of something special actually happening, because you put yourself in the position to succeed.

Ask the person who sits at home on a Friday night waiting for someone to call if they are having as much fun as the person who risked rejection by asking others to go out to a movie. Rejection isn’t fun but at least the “risk taker” had a reasonable chance at a fun night out while the “risk averse” person had certainty of “no rejection” but also certainty of a lonely night at home. The risk taker may also be at home but they usually will learn something about themselves through the process.

Very few people learn from success. Most people learn from failures. Failure should not be avoided. Failure is part of the process. Why not take some risks (many risks) and try to succeed and the worst thing that happens is that you learn something while trying. You can learn a lot more about yourself between ounces 33-48 then between ounces 1-32.

Our goal on this TEAM is PERFECTION (Matthew 5:48). Our goal is to be COMPLETE and MATURE. Our goal is to reach our POTENTIAL or CAPACITY. These are lofty goals and they are goals worth achieving. They are goals worth striving for. They are difficult goals that require us to take risks and to challenge ourselves. We want to win the NWC championship and not merely place in the top 2 or 3 or 4. We desire to win the West Region championship and not merely place in the top 2 or 3 or 4 or 5. We desire to win the National Championship and not merely qualify and run at the national meet. We have high goals that are worth achieving. We risk and we do not set limits what we can do.

We can go through the motions. We can play it safe. We can do what others do and we will fight to finish “average” or “mediocre”. We will have fun. We will say that we ran college cross country. We will say we were “good” or “better than others” but we won’t necessarily meet our full potential. We will not have the opportunity to be PERFECT.


We can take our foot off of the brakes and put both feet on the gas. We can take risks. We can run faster or further or harder or more than the day before or than the others we race against. We can lift more and better and more often. We can do more core strength and stretch more often and eat healthier and get more sleep. We can challenge ourselves to sacrifice comfort and things we want (sleeping in or hanging out with friends) and replace them with pain (training hard).


Today you are choosing to start to train for the fall 2011 XC season. This fall, you will make another choice to start competing during the 2011 XC season. As you choose to start the two phases – training and competing – the challenge to you is that you set NO LIMITS. Take risks and choose to do more, and be more, in order to give yourself a chance to succeed and to reach your CAPACITY.

We can wait for good things to happen to us. We can wait for the season to arrive when others will push us in races and practice. We can wait until the season arrives when coaches will give us times to hit and paces to run. We can wait for others to challenge us. We can limit our improvement this summer by waiting.


We can go for it right now. Today! We can risk failure and pain and discomfort and give ourselves the opportunity to succeed and to reach our capacity.

The result … will be uncertain … but the result … will be worth it … and if not achieved, the journey will help us grow.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials (challenges) of many kinds,

because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.


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