How Elton John’s Lyrics Impacted My Training

*Note: I wrote this sometime last Summer and have no idea why I didn’t post it.  Probably over- thinking as usual.  Which is ironic considering the message here.

I moved to Nashville in 2003 and have (by accident) met a lot of people in the music business.  I’ve run into Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman at breakfast, met Marty Stuart in a dark alley, and even got to hang out with Lou Reed in his dressing room.  Everywhere you turn in this town you’re liable to run into someone, but I kept waiting for a chance meeting with the one person that genuinely impacted my passions in life.

Bernie Taupin is Elton John’s lyricist, and legitimately one of the few people (living or dead) I would want to join for dinner.  His words have moved me since I was 10 years old.  Back in college, my good friend Tim and I would would listen to Elton John until 5 in the morning while trading off balance high fives and screaming, “Taupin!” after a great lyric.

I’ve never technically pursued writing as a career, but it’s deep in my bones.  I’m quite sure lyrics like these have a lot to do with that:

He was born a pauper to a pawn on a Christmas day
When the New York Times said God is dead
And the wars begun
Alvin Tostig has a son today
(from Levon)

and from Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me . . .

I can’t light no more of your darkness
All my pictures seem to fade to black and white
I’m growing tired and time stands still before me
Frozen here on the ladder of my life

Taupin paints a picture.  He creates a feeling.  And somehow his words are universal.  He is a brilliant example of someone who understands the human condition and I think there is a lesson there for athletes.

Connect with your mind and body, then let it flow.

So many athletes I know, including me, get trapped in the past, or the potential pain of the future instead of embracing the energy in the moment.  It’s one thing to have a target, quite another to get consumed with the end and forget what it takes to get there.

Yesterday, I finally met Bernie Taupin and I was a bumbling idiot.  He was in town in support of his painting exhibit and I had a zillion questions, but couldn’t come up with one.  He was thinking about today and I was consumed with the past.  It made for a rather awkward exchange and I feel like my confusion was symbolic what often happens during training . . . or life for that matter.

I’m sure Bernie’s best lyrics (and paintings) come when he is in a zone.  Writing without letting his mind get in the way of progress.  He was probably the guy scribbling in his notepad while the teacher rambled on about stuff that didn’t matter.  To Taupin, what mattered was writing, so he wrote.

The best artists don’t get caught in premature optimization, they get to work.  They spend countless hours on their craft and trust that preparation will pay off when it matters.  Athletes should look at training the same way.  You can only do so much “planning” for the actual race.  What happens on race day, is a direct result of what you do today.

———————

Here I am on the right with our reporter Stephanie Langston in the middle and the legendary Bernie Taupin with his art.

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