Marquette Neighbors Magazine
March 13, 2020
By Matt Johnson

In a previous life, I had the great privilege to travel the state with Dan Mulhern.  If you don’t remember Dan, he was the first, first Gentleman of Michigan.  His wife, Jennifer Granholm, the first female Governor of Michigan.  Dan is a leadership intellectual, a graduate of Harvard in religious studies, and currently teaches at Berkley. From him is the first time I learned about the voice of Q.

You know the voice. It’s the inner voice that says to press the snooze button one more time in the morning. The voice that says I can finish this report later. The voice that says you’re not good enough, you’re not smart enough, you’re fat, you’re ugly, so just give up. The voice that plants doubts. At one point or another, we all succumb to it and we quit.

On September 21, 2019, I heard this voice a lot during my 12-hour Marji Gesick mountain bike race, or rather, mountain bike “experience” is a better term than “race”.  The Marji is an experience of moving forward when every part of you says to lay down or quit.  I learned to push past the voice of Q, to manage the disconnect between the mind asking the body to do something it simply didn’t want to.  If you drop out before completing the race, you must text “#quitter” to race organizers so that they know you gave up – certainly a humiliating moment for anyone.

In life, we experience both the physical and mental voice of Q. We don’t need to push ourselves in a crazy event like the Marji to hear that inner voice, but rather it comes at times when we need to or are required to break out of our comfort zones to have a difficult conversation with a family member or a coworker. Maybe it’s a public speaking opportunity, or a career change when that inner voice of Q holds us back. The inability to move past the voice creates anxiety, depression, puts us in a holding pattern, and kills our self-confidence.

How do we find the courage to move past the voice of Q?

In a world where people want to make uncertainties into certainties, it is even harder to find the courage to leap out of your comfort zone; what if I fail, make a mistake, lose my job, what will others think? There is no shame in texting #quitter, because courage isn’t defined as finishing the race. Rather, courage is absolutely defined by starting the race in the first place!

This time, I did cross that finish line. I was proud of myself and relieved I didn’t have to text #quitter.  I thought – I am never doing that again.  However, it was just one finish line, and there will be others I may not cross.  Consider the idea that life has no finish line, we simply continue to the next challenge, the next innovation, the next difficult conversation.

In the end, our success in life isn’t measured by what place we are in or how many finish lines we crossed.  It is defined by the courage, commitment, and effort we chose to put into our journey and the resulting self-confidence to continue to do hard things. Looking back at the Marji, it wasn’t the finish line that defined me, it was the physical and emotional battle to keep moving, one inch at a time.

The training, the sacrfices, and the chaffing on parts of my body that should never be chaffed, are part of the experience.  It was painful, but so is life.  We cant become the best versions of ourselves without accepting the emotions that come with it – that’s what life has to offer. Embrace the imperfections of life, the failure, the discomfort, the joy, and love. No it’s not easy, it was never meant to be. So step outside your comort zone, challenge the voice of Q, go do what you are afraid to do.

I will and so can you.

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It’s all about community.

We asked you to #adapt in 2020, and you did. Now we’re asking you to join us and #forge ahead. 2021 is about doing what you do best, making the most of what you have, and getting better every day.

While a lot of races out there are run by for-profit companies, that’s not the case for Marji Gesick, Polar Roll and The Crusher. All of our events are productions of the 906 Adventure Team, a 501(c)3 whose mission is to empower people to become the best version of themselves through outdoor adventure. We don’t have a large staff of people (two, to be exact) or significant overhead, and that enables us to donate a significant portion of race revenues in two ways:

Since 2015, we’ve given back more than $141,000 to the trail-builders of RAMBA, NTN, Sisu Dirt Crews, WinMan and the DCNT. We also support youth adventure programs in three communities and have plans for that number to grow in the near future.

In 2021 we’re building a learning management system to train 150+ volunteer Adventure Leaders, and have our eyes on the future: planning to grow from 500 youth served to thousands. Together with your continued support and a network of dedicated partners, we will connect kids with each other, their communities, and give them a healthy alternative to time spent on devices.