Three Simple Words Changed My Life

changed my life

Change yourself – you are in control.

– Mahatma Gandhi

A few years ago, after some rough news from my doctors, I made a few decisions that literally changed my life.  One decision was my nutrition and another one was the story I’m about to share.

At the time I was into running and found that it truly enabled me to clear my mind from all of my life’s distractions and negative impulses.  had been invited to take part in “The Ride To Conquer Cancer”, a 220km charity bike ride over two days from Toronto to Niagara Falls.  It seemed like a big challenge, not only because of the distance but because I needed to raise a certain amount of money in order to qualify. 

I made the commitment and went all in.  I bought a bike and started to train for this incredible event.  In April 2012 I realized that I was already a runner and now had become a biker and thought…if only I knew how to swim, I’d be able to do triathlons.  The problem was that I never learned to swim as a child.  I mean, I can jump into a pool and tread water or go scuba diving, but that’s a very different kind of swimming.  I was not a swimmer.

I did some research looking for local triathlons and found one pretty close by, however, it was about a month away.  I found it very intriguing and registered for my first sprint triathlon, which was a 750m swim followed by a 30km bike followed by a 7.5km run.  I wasn’t at all concerned about the bike and the run…the challenge was the swim. 

I went to my local community center pool and decided I’d jump in and see how good of a swimmer I really was.  I felt really confident (even though I didn’t know what I was doing) and I jumped into the pool and started swimming front crawl.  It felt like I was swimming for hours, I was exhausted so I stopped.  The problem was that when I stopped, I was actually in the middle of this 25m pool and I lasted maybe ten seconds!  It was at that time that I realized perhaps I got myself into something I should’ve put more thought into or given myself more time to prepare for.  In that pool, on that day, something happened to me and I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.  It was a life-changing moment for me.

As I walked the rest of the length of that pool, I was passed by a swimmer who was cruising with ease, doing lap after lap and not stopping.  I stood at the end of the pool catching my breath and preparing myself to try for another lap.   As I was about to go, that fast swimmer stopped at the wall.  He was wearing goggles and a swim cap and on his right shoulder was a big Ironman tattoo.

I said to him:

“Hey, you swim really fast, I don’t know how you go so fast and do that without stopping!  I’m thinking of doing a sprint triathlon, you’re an Ironman…you’re pretty crazy!

He responded:

“Well, it’s not so hard.  You can do it.  Just remember these three things and you’ll get there.  1. Patience 2. Consistency 3. Practice.  Those three things are the keys to your success.

I thanked him for the advice as he got out of the pool and left.  I never saw him again and never caught his name, but his advice proved to be a true game-changer.  For the next month, I went to the pool four times a week to work on my swimming gearing up for that 750m swim.  It was an extremely frustrating month, but I kept at it and practiced hard.  My swimming improved drastically over that time and I felt good enough to race my first triathlon.

Race day came and I was all set (or so I thought).  I realized at that moment that I had never swam in open water and I’d never swam in a wetsuit!  I was in for a treat.  I lined up near the middle of the pack because, after a month of training, I thought I’d become a pretty good swimmer.  The gun went off, everyone ran into the water (including me), and within the first 10m, I got elbowed in the ribs, kicked in the head, and finally kicked right in the face. 

That kick was devastating, it knocked my goggles off my face and I went into complete panic mode.  People were swimming all around me, heading in my direction and I didn’t know what to do.  I managed to get my goggles back on my face and flipped onto my back to catch my breath.  I swam backstroke for a while until I was calm, then flipped back to front crawl.  The front crawl didn’t last, I was too anxious.  I did the rest of the distance on my back.  It was a crazy experience.  I finished the race and was thrilled.  My time didn’t matter, the fact that I persevered and worked through those challenges made me very proud.

As soon as that race ended, I knew that I needed to train more, train harder, and set a bigger goal.  I knew I wanted to become an Ironman.  That meant I’d need to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and finish with a marathon (26.2 miles).

In May 2014, I completed Ironman Texas.  The race was an incredible experience and the best part of my race was in fact my swim.  I trained very hard for that race and ever since that day in the community center pool, I’ve been following the advice I’d been given by that other swimmer I met.  Currently, I am training for an Ultra Ironman and it scares me so much.  I’m learning every day more and more that it’s the things that scare me, which are the things I need to do.

A few months ago I was swimming at that very same community center pool and I was finishing up an hour-straight swim.  When I got to the wall and removed my goggles and my Ironman Texas swim cap, there was a young lady standing there.

She said:

“Wow, how long have you been swimming for because I’ve been watching you for a while.  You’re so fast and make it look so easy.  I can’t believe you’re an Ironman…you must be crazy!  I’m having a hard time just swimming a couple of laps!

My response to her with a big smile was:

“It’s been an hour and it’s not so hard anymore.  You can do it.  Just remember these three things and you’ll get there.  1. Patience 2. Consistency 3. Practice.  Those three things are the keys to your success.”

I am now a swimmer and share these words with people I meet:

Anything is possible, you control what you can do.  Everything in life is a choice – which you can make for yourself.  Find something you enjoy.  If it’s fun for you, you’ll be likely to stick with it.  Also, just get started…small steps create giant leaps!”

Where will you find your inspiration and what will you change in your life?

Photo by Russell Johnson

15 thoughts on “Three Simple Words Changed My Life”

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. I really appreciate that you told us the truth, that you didn’t have an easy time getting where you wanted to go. I’m tired of sitting on the sidelines of my life, but I see that I tend to give up as soon as the going gets rough. It’s time to move forward with those small steps!

    1. I appreciate you taking the time to post a comment. It’s very often that people watch their lives pass them by. Live in the moment and appreciate what you can still do…and do it! Many people give up too soon and never realize what they truly are capable of achieving! Small steps is just the beginning of awesomeness!

  2. Hello Adam,

    Lovely, inspiring (and funny) story. I shall remember: Patience, Consistency and Practice. You won’t find me anywhere near water, unless the mega luxury yacht I’m going to acquire in the future, somehow sinks. However, I shall carry your advice into other areas of my life and I shall thank you and your anonymous mentor.
    Kindest regards to you and your followers.

    1. The beautiful thing is that these 3 words are effective in all aspects of life, not just sport. Find what you love to do and these 3 words will help get you where you’re meant to be! Thanks for your comments!

  3. I have to say, learning that I was in control of what happened in my life was an absolute game changer for me. And realizing that the only thing that stood between me and what anybody else has accomplished in life, is belief. Great story. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Believing in yourself and what is possible it truly powerful. Not only are we able to control many things in our lives, but we can manifest our own destiny in most situations. If you can believe it, you can achieve it!

  4. What an awesome story! Thank you for sharing and you really encouraged my heart today. Though I am getting better at not allowing my emotions or thoughts to boss me around, I do sometimes still tell myself I can’t before I try. I am writing the three words you shared in your story to be posted in my car on my mirror and my computer: patience, consistency, and practice. :)

    1. Creating a vision board with these 3 words is a great idea and will definitely be helpful. I tell people all the time that the “can’t” should be erased from our vocabulary. If you say you can’t do something, you never will. Yoda said it very well: “There is no try…either do or do not”.

  5. What a wonderful story, and you are right of course. I think we all have a difficult time being patient with ourselves when we are learning something new. I think of the quote from Helen Keller, “One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.” Yet, just like Helen learning to speak, all of us must creep at first, before we are ready to soar.

    1. Thank you. Patience can be learned and I find that meditation has been a very valuable and helpful tool in my progress to date.

    1. I gain inspiration from all kinds of people doing all kinds of awesome things. While greatness does begin from within, if we find greatness from the people around us, it enables us to raise our own level of greatness even more!

  6. Way to go I teach swim lessons and I’m a very strong swimmer, there is a lot of technique to swimming and open water swim in a race is way different. I’m doing my first Ironman thus year lk Tahoe! Now I’m going to have to look up what am ultra Ironman is.

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