Jun 18 2009

The Passion of the Specialist

The Passion of the Specialist

I remember once talking to my friend Cella when she was between jobs.  She said she was working out 9 hours a week, which I found stunning at the time.  I try very hard to get 3 hours a week in, and I am usually successful, but it's not without sacrificing sleep and being deliberate about my schedule.  So 9 felt luxurious, but appropriate for someone between jobs.

With that as a frame of reference, I have heard lots of definitions or embodiments of the word "commitment" before, but I ran across another one the other day that I still find mindboggling.  I have a gym friend at the New York Sports Club where I work out — one of those anonymous friends that people get in New York that's not really a friend.  The guy on the train.  The woman behind the counter at the deli, etc.  People, as Bert & Ernie would say, who are "in the neighborhood that you see every day."

This guy, Jonathan, is a gifted runner.  That's clear from watching him, even on a treadmill.  He runs 6 minute miles without breaking much of a sweat.  And he can go for a long time.  I am only in the gym a few times a week, so it never occurred to me until today to ask him how much he runs and works out each week.  80-90 miles running, and 14-15 hours a week total including weights and biking, was the answer.  He's not training for a marathon, or an ironman.  He just loves running and being in shape.

That's a level of commitment that's stunning and reminds me that we can make time to do anything really well if we set our minds to it and are willing to sacrifice other things to get there.  The passion of the specialist is a rare and special thing — it isn't better or worse than the breadth of a talented generalist, but it's amazing to see and quite inspiring.