- Michael Thompson
“You know the rules! Y’all got exactly thirty minutes to eat as many of Miss Mary’s famous blueberry pies as possible!” the portly man shouted in a thick Southern drawl.
“Just remember, there’s only room for one face on the cover of tomorrow’s paper — so get ready boys, on the count of three, I’m gonna fire my gun!”
Seconds later, the man’s revolver made the birds fly and the babies cry. But to the amazement of the crowd, only one of the men dove face-first into his pie.
“What the hell is Dale doing?” a man yelled. “I believe he’s getting out a fork!” cried another as laughter rippled throughout the crowd. “This ain’t Sunday supper boy! We paid good money to watch y’all crush them pies!”
Dale, however, the young upstart who’d made a name for himself in the pie-eating circuit up North seemed unmoved by the crowd’s commotion. And he certainly didn’t seem to care that his competition, Carl, a man who was easily three times his size, was about to take his first bite out of his second delicious blueberry pie.
“I’m gonna demolish you just like I did that first pie!” Carl shouted spitting pie crust all over the place.
“Hold on a second,” Dale replied, “I think you have an entire blueberry stuck between your teeth. You may want to check yourself!”
Furious. Carl took his anger out on his second pie. Chomp after chomp. Chomp after chomp. “That’s two for me and zero for you, fork boy!”
The crowd began to settle as the men continued eating Miss Mary’s famous blueberry pies. It was clear to just about everyone sitting in the hot Alabama sun that day that young Dale didn’t stand a chance against the man the papers had dubbed “The Mouth.”
But something interesting happened around the half-way mark — Carl’s monstrous bites got a touch slower while Dale continued his steady rhythm of taking small bite after small bite.
“Y’all got fifteen minutes!” the portly man announced. “The official count stands 13 to 9 in Carl’s favor!”
When the final gunshot flew, marking the end of this year’s pie-eating contest, the crowd couldn’t believe their eyes. Not only had young Dale beaten his heavily favored adversary. But he’d done so in historic fashion.
“How can this be?” Carl screamed. “How in the world did you eat 22 blueberry pies and me only 17?”
“Well,” Dale replied, as he gave a wink to Miss Mary for baking them truly delicious blueberry pies, “while you were obsessed with quickly winning the race, I took my time and focused instead on owning my pace!”
“Plus,” Dale continued, “As the man said, only one of us will make the cover of tomorrow’s paper, and on the off-chance, I’d won, I didn’t want to have pie all over my face. And I also sure as hell didn’t want to die of a heart attack before having my moment in the sun.”
Your only job is to find your pace and own it
My main drivers for the first half of my career were trying to impress people and getting recognition. As a result, much like Carl, I chomped face-first into whatever pie was in front of me.
In the beginning, I thought this strategy was sound. After all, “Hustle Hard!” is a message that much of society yells. On top of that, to skew my vision even further, I also managed to collect some wins. But like most good things in life, my early success came to an end. Ultimately, from running wild, my blind ambition landed me in serious physical, mental, and financial trouble.
Burning out wasn’t fun. Neither was getting financially wiped out. But looking back, it was one of the most important moments of my life.
Over time, instead of listening to the words of people who backed the “Rise and Grind” culture, I began to better watch and obverse the actions of people who’d actually set themselves up for lasting success. More importantly, I also finally began to better watch, observe, and listen to myself.
I’ve learned a lot over the last decade about what it takes to truly win. But perhaps the biggest realization I’ve made is that most people who crush their goals focus primarily on setting up a system that allows them to slowly chip away at them — and they certainly don’t sit around worrying about what other people are doing or preaching the messages of people like Gary Vee.
What’s my ideal rhythm?
How do I best operate?
What’s the next right small step I can take?
These questions may not sound exciting. You may even think they sound simple. But, from what I’ve gathered, asking yourself the simple yet right questions every day is the key to getting you to exactly where you want to go.
The world is moving fast. A lot of people wake up and immediately think about what they can do to get ahead. I say let them and choose to lean into tracking your energy levels and owning your pace instead.
One step at a time.
One day at a time.
One bite out of a pie with a fork at a time.
Simple is forever cool and taking a few slow but deliberate steps each day will help you win the only race that matters — your own.