I love animals. It is a fact known by virtually everyone I meet (perhaps it’s the over abundance of dog hair on my clothing that gives me away – for the record I try to limit it but it just keeps coming back). So it probably comes as no surprise I loved the character of Doctor Dolittle in a series of children’s books by Hugh Lofting and later in movies. In the book, as in the original movie, there are many unusual animals. One in particular always caught my attention – The pushmi-pullyu (pronounced “push-me—pull-you”) a “gazelle-unicorn cross” which has two heads (one of each) at opposite ends of its body.
I can imagine nothing that quite demonstrates the true difficulties of cooperation more than the concept of two heads facing in opposing directions. Yet, I also believe nothing shows the true spirit of cooperation more than two heads facing opposite directions and yet able to accomplish a goal.
My regular readers know I am training to walk a marathon – The Disney Marathon – next January. Yesterday on my training walk I spent a considerable amount of time thinking about the pushmi-pullyu.
You see, I have a training partner. Jenn is a slow and steady to the finish runner (now walker). She sets a slow and steady pace and stays at that pace never wavering, just consistently pounding out the miles – Slow and Steady. She can go for miles and miles at her slow and steady pace.
Back when I stood on the sideline and watched as Jenn competed in triathlons and in triathlon training this frustrated me. I would from my armchair talk about fartleks and training to be faster. But really, Jenn was comfortable at her pace and she didn’t waiver far in either direction. It may not be the fastest pace but it gets it done.
Not to mix my fairy tales but think of the tortoise in Aesop’s Fable The Tortoise and the Hare . Jenn is a tortoise!
I am the polar opposite of my training partner. I jump out of the gate like a house a fire. I set a high tempo and soon I am gasping for air and feeling my pounding heart am all to rapidly begging to slow down. I go short distances at a fast pace and then am often too tired to finish. Sadly time and again I am unwilling to even start because I know I will be exhausted in such a short time and will just in the end be frustrated with my performance. I therefore opt to never begin rather than to be frustrated by my accomplishment. I am a hare!
Yesterday was just such a start to our walk. I set a pace too high and, after a half mile or less, needed to stop, regroup and set back out at a more reasonable pace – a pace I could maintain and finish.
However, as the miles wore on I realized an interesting fact. Jenn was walking a step behind just off my left shoulder. We were talking off and on about a variety of topics. We were pushing hard. Finally, half way through mile three I said “I’m feeling GREAT!” to which the reply came, “I could tell, you’re going fast”. It was then I began to think of the pushmi-pullyu.
As I was pulling Jenn to walk faster, she was pushing me to walk further and to pace myself to be able to walk the full planned distance. We really were the polar opposites working collaboratively to make each better. The true pushmi-pullyu working collaborative to make each of us better. To push to finish and yet pulling to a faster time.
This morning I thought of it in relation to life. I think it’s easy when we sit in meetings or when we work with others to become frustrated with the differences. When in reality if we could accept the push or give the pull we really would make a stronger and healthier team.
Who are you pushing today?
And are you allowing yourself to be pulled today?
In life we all need to be pushed from time to time. And we all need to be pulled from time to time. The inverse is also true we all need to push a little and we all need to pull a little. I am learning the key to marathon training (and in life) is to find partners who can be your pushmi-pullyu.