In Greek mythology Sisyphus was a king of Corinth. When he died, instead of giving him a proper burial, his wife discarded his body into the middle of the public square (which is what he had requested). When he arrived at the underworld, Sisyphus complained to Persephone, the Queen of the Dead, and requested permission to return to the upper world temporarily in order to scold his wife. She granted him leave and Sisyphus did what he had intended to do. However, experiencing everything beautiful that life had to offer one last time, he refused to return to the underworld. His disobedience highly offended the gods and he was punished accordingly.
As his punishment, Sisyphus was ordered to roll a monstrous boulder up an arduous hill. However, it was made so that he would never succeed. Just as he approached the top, the boulder would roll back down the hill, forcing him to begin again. Thus, Sisyphus was consigned to an eternity of useless efforts and perpetual frustration.
He sweats, he strains, he suffers, all the while knowing his chance at success is slim if not nonexistent. He continues to push. Why? Well, he really doesn’t have a choice (as per the gods). But, he performs his meaningless task willingly, without any sign of rebellion towards the gods. He continues to push. Sisyphus realizes his life after death has become monotonous, worthless even. He continues to push. Why?
Sisyphus, similar to many elite athletes, comes to enjoy the struggle. Enjoy may not be the right word here. They begin to crave the struggle, the challenge, the failure. Have you ever been so close to success that you just can’t quit? Sisyphus comes so close to success, so close to ending his misery time after time. He can’t stop. His competitiveness won’t allow him.
Why keep pushing though? Continuous failure, continuous defeat. It gets to the point that you can’t rest until you experience success. Sisyphus came to accept his role. He concluded that the hill and the boulder would mark the rest of his eternity, but he never wavered.
Although extreme, the story of Sisyphus can be related to the stories of many athletes (particularly the elite ones). They are challenged daily, they struggle, they fail. What separates the elite athlete from the common one is the desire to succeed, the willingness to accept failure and do everything in his or her power to overcome that failure. In contrast to Sisyphus, many athletes are rewarded for their efforts (through recognition or monetary compensation) even though the paths may contain many similarities.
John Lindsey was a professional player. He is best known for having spent the most time in the minor leagues (16 years and 1,571 games) before finally making his major league debut. Lindsey’s goal was to reach the majors, which he achieved, but not after a long, arduous journey. For those of you that don’t know, the minor leagues are brutal. Teams travel by bus and crash at motels, in addition to their rather lowly salaries. Lindsey embraced his repeated failure and learned how to deal with them. He knew if he wanted to achieve his goal, he would have to be able to overcome these shortcomings. Much like Sisyphus, he continued to push and he was rewarded. He wanted to succeed,he wanted to fulfill his goal, and he did everything in his power to accomplish that.
Find your mountain; Sisyphus found his.
John Lindsey kept pushing; will you?