• Tan Nguyen

Reflections on "Paying the Price"

Loyal EWB fans, along with our wonderful "2019 Miles to Water" sponsors with skin in this game, will be familiar with George Wu's immortal blog post, Paying the Price. This blog post has been digested in countless Reddit and sub-Reddit bulletins, re-tweeted around the world over 200,000 times, and even inspired a dedicated EWB podcast. It kick-started this very own "2019 Miles to Water" charity effort. As of August 17, 2018, a TED talk, an official autobiography, a Netflix documentary, and an interview with Anderson Cooper are all being negotiated and planned. Future sociologists will be writing dissertations and making fulfilling careers by studying Mr. Wu's global and cultural impact.

"If there is something we want, we need to figure out how much it costs, and pay that price" - George Wu

Briefly, the "Paying the Price" blog post distills Success into a single, fundamental concept: if there is something we want, we need to figure out how much it costs, and pay that price. No matter what it is we want- a certain career, a certain lifestyle, a certain achievement- if we want it, we need to pay the full price to have it. There are no shortcuts to success. Pay the price. It might sound very intimidating, but it's actually very liberating. Mr. Wu is not telling us that success comes from having inherent talent or a rich uncle (but let me know if you have that and don't want it- I'll take it). Rather, the most reliable predictor of success is how willing we are to sustain our efforts over time to get what we want. No one wakes up and suddenly becomes a famous 5-star Michelin chef. Only those who work at it, and continue to work at it, achieve it.

The Story behind the Story

Where did Mr. Wu find his inspiration? A man named David Goggins. Mr. Goggins was a nobody in a dead-end job. He wanted to be in the Navy SEAL, which seemed impossible because he was overweight and unhealthy. So what did he do? He kept trying. He kept going. He needed three attempts before he was finally accepted into the service. He took that determination one step further. After his tour of duty, Mr. Goggins signed up for an ultra-marathon event. And he destroyed the competition. How did he do this? Day in and day out, he worked toward his goal. He would not allow his body and his mind to quit. If he ever was tempted to quit, he would remember the days before his military service. He didn't want to go back there. So every single day, he paid the price. Now he is a celebrated ultra-marathoner, occasional motivational speaker, and author of a new book, "Built Not Born" (due for publication in May 2019). What an amazing life- all because he paid the price.

Why am I running for "2019 Miles to Water?" What price am I paying? In August 2017, I had previously never run more than 1 mile at a time, and the last time that happened was probably in high school. In my inner mind, I am still the scrawny, second-to-shortest kid in elementary school (even among the girls in my class) who understood that there was nothing that can be done to change my innate nerdy self. Now I am aging above 30 years- an enviable age for a scotch whiskey, but less so for any athlete (except shuffleboard). The price I want to pay is health, true and sustainable health. I don't want to enter my 40's and realize I need to take 4-5 medications daily or risk a heart attack. But a goal of "better health" (or more accurately, "fear of illness") is too abstract for me. What is the price for that? 100 push-ups per day? The gym three times per week?

15 Mile Spartan Race, or 2019 Miles to Water?

In August 2017, I signed up for my very first Spartan Obstacle Course Race- a three mile "Spartan Sprint." Two acquaintances had randomly and separately informed me that they had finished a Spartan race, and told me that if they could do it, so could I. So I went for it.

But why?

I was getting married, and this Spartan Sprint might be the last thing I do single (actually, due to scheduling, it was the first thing I did as a married man 1 week after my wedding). I was scared beyond my mind. My calves cramped up majorly. But I finished! And for my efforts, I received a shiny "finisher" medal. I cannot emphasize enough how satisfying it is to finish a Spartan Race and receive a medal. So I completed a second Spartan Sprint. And a third. And a 7-mile "Spartan Super." And now I will attempt the 15+ mile Spartan Beast on September 29, 2018. Rather fortuitously, I found the goal I wanted. Above all, it's still "good health" that I want. But I'm willing to substitute that goal for "shiny Spartan Race medal" to give me clarity in the price I need to pay. And I'm willing to pay for it.

Paying the price isn't fun.

Sometimes I need to sweat it out at 4:30am.

But it's worth it.

Happy Running!

And let us know if you want to pledge to 2019 Miles to Water!

-Tan Nguyen