A Moment Frozen In Time
by Joel Sward
Recently, I was looking through a box I found in the attic labeled "Joel's Trophies". The box contained decades-old trophies, medals, ribbons, jerseys, newspaper clippings and photographs of my past athletic exploits. I competed as an athlete long before the internet and phones that can take digital images and videos. Now I can take a photo or video and share it with thousands of people on social media in a matter of seconds. That was not the case back then. It was just not something I thought about doing. The only record of my athletic career is small fragments - photos, newspaper clippings and old VHS video cassettes that only play on an archaic video cassette recorder (VCR).
There is very little physical evidence of my past athletic career. I wish I would have preserved more of a record, but at the time I was young and living in the moment. I wasn't thinking about the future. I was only concerned with what was happening at that present time. It is actually amazing that this decades-old box still remains. Every time I moved from one place to another I would just slap some more duct tape around it, in an attempt to preserve the decaying cardboard, and it would move along with me. The box spent a few years in my grandmother's attic when in 2000 and 2001 I traveled around the world with my then girlfriend and now wife. When we traveled the only possessions I owned, besides this box, were strapped to my back in a large backpack.
When I recently opened the box, probably for the first time in over 20 years, I was taken on a nostalgic journey down memory lane. As I leafed through a stack of photographs I came across an image that captivated me. This photograph is 34-years-old. It depicts me entering the ring to throw the shot put in a competition, my junior year in high school, in 1986. I was 17-years-old. The location was my high school's home track. It was probably an early meet at the start of the outdoor season. You can tell it was a cold day, a typical early spring day in Minnesota, hence why my jersey was covered by a sweat shirt.
You can see the tape measure in the lower right hand corner, rising up over a shot put on the ground. The tape measure must have been held by the judge of the competition. The other people in the image are fellow athletes on my track team, my throwing coach (wearing the baseball hat) and his young son, who I imagine is drinking some hot chocolate.
But it was a competition, I am sure of that. I do not know who took the photograph and I don't think I even knew that the photograph was being taken. I don't remember how I took possession of the photograph or how it ended up in the decades-old box I was looking through.
When I came across this photograph, I was awe struck. I zoned out for a good minute and just stared at the image. I was struck by how young I was. But I was also struck by the difference in the body language of myself and those around me.
The people in this image, besides myself, seem carefree and nonchalant as if this moment in time is lacking in importance. In contrast, I appear focused and intent. I realize that I am the one about to throw and they are not, but to me the image seems to show two different worlds. When I look at the image I see my body rising up and out of the image. It is as if I have transcended my surroundings and entered a different dimension. It is apparent that the world I have entered is significant and of the upmost importance. To them it is not.
The significance of the image has nothing to do with the resulting throw. I can't say this is a photograph of myself before I entered the ring and won the competition or broke a record. I don't know how far the throw was or if the throw led to a ribbon, medal or trophy. The outcome of the throw is not significant to me. What is significant is what the image captures - a moment frozen in time.
I threw the shot put competitively over 11 seasons. I threw from 1985 through 1992, 1997, 1998 and 2020. I estimate that over the course of those 11 years, in competition and practice, I entered the ring and threw the shot put over 40,000 times.
When I look back at those 11 years, there is one thing that is certain. I approached every single one of those 40,000 plus throws as if each throw was of the utmost importance. It didn't matter if the throw was occurring at the 1992 Olympic Trials, with thousands of people watching, or if I was throwing in an empty field, by myself. Each throw I took was the most important throw, because it was the throw that was occurring at that moment. It was the only throw I could control. All past throws were over. All future throws were an illusion. The only throw that mattered was the throw happening in the present moment.
Over the course of all those years of throwing I developed a habit depicted in this photograph. Each and every time I entered the ring, I lowered my head, closed my eyes, took a deep breath and visualized the throw in my mind's eye. I was not coached to do this. I did not see someone else do it and copy it. I developed it myself. It happened instinctively. It was a way for me to block out everything around me and focus on the moment.
When you think about an athlete doing something like this, it is most often in the context of the athlete trying to block out all the excitement and frenzy around them. But for me, it was the opposite. For me, it was a way to heighten the situation and increase the intensity of the moment. So, even if the people around me didn't see the moment as meaningful, or even if there wasn't anyone around me at all, once I lowered my head and closed my eyes, the moment became significant and of the upmost importance.
Once I entered the ring, I threw, each and every time, with maximum focus and effort. It didn't matter if it was a competition or a practice, if thousands were watching or if no one was watching. I always tried as hard as I could. I never "goofed around" or made a "half-assed effort". That is just my personality. I don't know any other way to do it.
My 15-year-old son recently made a comment about me that I think was profound. When referring to me he said, "He doesn't care at all, unless he cares a lot." That quote really stuck with me. In the context of when he said it, I don't think he meant it to be a compliment. It was just an honest observation and an accurate assertion.
Trying to be great at something comes with a price. If it was easy to be great, everyone would do it. You have to sacrifice one thing to get another. In my opinion, most people are not willing to pay that price. The choice is yours and if you decide you don't want to pay the price, that's fine. But make no mistake - if you are not willing to pay the price and sacrifice one thing to get another, you will not achieve greatness.
Many people value happiness. You will hear people say things like, "Being happy is the most important thing." If you place great value on happiness, I suggest you don't take the path to mastery. The path to mastery is not paved with happiness. The path to mastery is paved with hardship. But, if you stay on this path, no matter the trials and tribulations that will occur, you may find catharsis and ultimately satisfaction. To me, that is more important than happiness.
I am not suggesting that I am superior to anyone because I have made this choice. Everyone has their own values and ideas about how they want to live their life. I am not judging anyone. But, I am not going to sugar coat the truth. If you are not willing to sacrifice, you will not achieve mastery - period.
How can my story about this photograph be of relevance to you? In my opinion, if you have a goal of any kind, a big part of achieving that goal is to make it into a big deal. This may sound simplistic and obvious, but I think it is worth emphasizing this point. If you make your goal into something of the upmost importance, and let it consume you and fuel you with passion, the results can be amazing.
When you truly decide to do something, there is no other possible outcome besides success. If you had a goal in the past and you did not achieve the goal, it is because you did not decide to do it. You might have wanted it to happen, or wished it would happen, but you didn't truly decide. Otherwise, it would have happened. This may sound harsh, but sometimes the truth hurts.
Think about the power that lies in making a decision to do something. Think about what you can achieve when you decide with true conviction to make something happen. The decision leads to discipline, focus, intensity, and the willingness to sacrifice one thing to get another. I find this idea to be awe inspiring and monumental. It is exciting to think about the power that lies within us. It is wondrous to think about what we can actually achieve. We are all capable of reaching astounding heights - you just need to decide to do it and make it happen.
I feel most alive when I am on the "razor's edge" and when what I am doing is a big deal. I feel fulfilled when what I am doing matters, even if no one else thinks it matters or thinks it is a big deal. This is what has always made me different. This is what has made me stand out from the crowd. It is my identity and sense of self-worth. The idea of living in the moment is my mantra and it defines me. I really don't know any other way to be. As William Shakespeare said, "To be, or not to be, that is the question . . ."
Before I put the photograph back in the box, I thought about who will see this image again in the future and when. I imagine my now 15 and 13-year-old sons looking through this old box labeled, "Joel Trophies" after my death and finding this image. Will it mean anything to them? Will they see what I am seeing now?
Before I closed the box and looked at the image one last time I realized that, yes, the image shows how young I was. But more importantly, the image shows how in spite of that youth, my inner intensity and energy portrayed itself in my body language and demeanor. Even at a very young age I had ability to block out everything around me and to enter my own world of significance and importance. I had "it" even back then - "the juice", "the drive", "the passion." It is all right there - a moment frozen in time.
buy House of Musclesupplements
- Supplement Categories
- All House Of Muscle Products
- Hardcore Muscle
- Natural Muscle
- Cycle & Liver Support
- Men Over 40
- Safe For Women
- Fat Burners
- Official House Of Muscle Gear
- Special Prices
reach yourtrue potentialArticles: Learn & GrowVideos: Get MotivatedTrain Hard With Joel