Shut Up Legs as Life Principle
There are a lot of things to love about Jens Voigt, his famous “Shut up, Legs!” quote notwithstanding. He is a classic hard man, hitting the gas when the tank is empty, boggling minds with his incredible strength and unmatched will power. He’s also quietly modest about the whole thing and endlessly kind, which makes it all the better.
“Shut up, Legs!” stuck with us because of its simplicity. It’s a universally understood sentiment: the verbalization of the mind-over-body tricks we all try to employ when we’re on the rivet. But the other day as I read back through my written journal, I noticed something I’d written in 2009: Shut Up Legs is about so much more than cycling.
I don’t remember writing that (or even thinking it) but reading it scrawled on that page resonated with me in that moment. I’m prone to beating sports-life metaphors virtually to death, but this one is pretty simple: do your work, get your shit done, stop making excuses.
I receive a lot of emails from people wanting to know “how I do it”. That question could mean a lot of things, but usually they are getting at my lifestyle and work: how did I turn writing into a viable source of income? How do I travel so much?
There are a lot of specific boring tactical answers to these questions (I’m obsessively meticulous with budgeting and tracking money, I’ve made a choice not to have children, I wake up at 5am every day to either write or ride, etc.) but the real answer has more to do with the principles presented in Steven Pressfield’s “War of Art”: Wake up, do your work. Do not tolerate excuses. I wrote for eight years before anyone ever paid me to do it. I did it because I loved it and because I was committed to the inherent value of it. Good things came from that, but good things also came as a result of discipline. I got up every morning and did the work – even when I didn’t think it was any good, even when people told me it was shitty, even when I wasn’t exactly sure why I was doing it or what the hell I was even creating. (Pressfield calls this overcoming Resistance)
Jens rides the way he does because he loves it – that’s clear. He rides with a sense of passion, but also a sense of duty. He hurts himself when he’d rather not be hurting. He guts himself in sacrifice for others and sometimes it doesn’t work out. He goes out and does the work. No excuses. No caving to discomfort. Shut Up, Legs!!
We can’t begin to compare ourselves to this incredible man, but we can learn from his approach. I see it around me all the time in people who are much more accessible. Eryn raises a toddler, works a full-time job, trains her face off, races bikes and spends the winters ski patrolling and the summer’s scurrying up rock faces like a badass (she swears by the 5am workout). My teammate Elise raises three kids under the age of 12, works full time, has a husband virtually kidnapped by medical school, and still managed to pedal her way to Cat 2 road status over the last two years (thanks mostly to a crazy commitment to 5am roller workouts while her kids are still asleep).
If you want it, make it happen. If you love it, make the sacrifice.
Hurt a little. Hurt a lot. Do the work.
Shut Up, Legs!!
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