A Life Less Bullshit

I’m Nicole Antoinette: runner, real-talk advocate, and former slave to the "all or nothing" mindset

I'm here to help you do one life-changing thing: close the gap between what you say you want and what you actually do

Question Everything

It was day 1 of Change Camp NYC, and we were deep in a discussion about truth, and about what it really means for something to be true.

Together, my co-host Bryce and I laid out our two definitions of truth.

I went first.

“In order for something to be true, there needs to be irrefutable evidence. For example, regardless of whether or not I believe in gravity, when I drop this pencil, it’s going to fall to the ground. The fact that gravity exists on this planet is true.”

Bryce went next.

“Truth is simply an agreement between two or more people. If people agree that something is true, that makes it true. For example, we are all in agreement that it’s currently 2:30pm on Saturday, which therefore makes that true.”

My favorite thing about these two definitions of truth is that they show you how few things are actually true. In the first definition, we’ve limited fundamental truths to things like gravity, the rising of the sun, etc. Which means that everything else we believe is true (the necessity of a 40-hour work week, how “hard” it is to make change, the fact that we “should” or “must” act a certain way) isn’t true at all.

Which is how you can use the second definition to change your life, because as soon as you stop agreeing and believing that something is true, it stops being true for you.

If you stop believing that you need to check email first thing in the morning, that stops being true. If you stop believing that you have to use social media in order to have a successful business, it stops being true for you. If you stop believing that you don’t “have enough willpower” to change the way you eat, that stops being true too. And on and on.

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Twenty Twenty Nine (a note on running + pushing yourself to grow)

“Oh shit.”

That’s the first thing I said when I got close enough to the finish line to see the clock.

I was running all out by then – dead sprint. I could barely feel my legs, and I had just gotten a glimpse of my family and friends cheering on the side of the finishing chute.

A few seconds later, I crossed the line.

“Oh shit,” I said again.

It’s all I could say. All I could even think.

My mother, who saw me mouth those words, was worried that something was wrong.

My husband, who knows what my strongest running stride looks like better than anyone, was ecstatic. He watched me sprint by, looked at the clock, and thought the exact same thing I did: Oh shit.

It was the performance of my life. He knew it, and I knew it. It was a time I never dreamed I could run. A time I would have told you was impossible even in the final moments leading up to the race.

And yet, there I was. Across the finish line in 20:29.

And do you want to know why I love running so much? Here’s why:

Each and every race result is so much more than the sum of the time it took to cover the course. The fact that I ran 3.1 miles in 20 minutes and 29 seconds isn’t meaningful on its own. On its own, it’s simply a distance and a time. Some people will run faster and others will run slower, so what matters isn’t the time itself, it’s what the time represents to the runner.

And to me, this time is everything, because hidden inside those 20 minutes and 29 seconds you’ll find almost four years worth of sweat and pain and fear and growth.

I think back to my very first run, on a Sunday morning in May 2011, when I could barely make it through two full minutes of shuffle-jogging. I was terrified that morning. Desperate to quit drinking, running was the only thing I could think of that might give me a way out of that hole, but I was such a beginner that every step I took felt like a deathly leap into the unknown.

I started running because I needed something to believe in. I needed to believe in myself. I needed to know that I could endure, that I could push myself, that I could start something I had no idea how to do and that I could keep going no matter what.

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The 2% Challenge

Think of something you really dislike doing.

Be specific.

Which task do you resent the most?

Which thing do you cringe away from whenever you see it on your to-do list?

Now, let’s pretend that this thing on your list is indeed something that you have to do.

(What I mean by that is that there are lots of things – lots and lots and lots of things – that you think you have to do, but don’t really have to do at all. But, that’s a conversation for another time.)

So, getting back to it.

That thing you hate? The one that makes you want to burrow under the covers and eat cookies so you don’t have to deal with it?

Let’s talk about that thing.

Your thing might be phone calls. Maybe you really, really dislike returning phone calls. Or maybe it’s anything to do with taxes, or the DMV, or, I don’t know, maybe your thing has to do with having hard conversations or being interviewed on video or pressing “publish” on a blog post.

For me, it’s going to the post office. I can’t explain it, but going to the post office is perhaps my least favorite task. Every time it’s on my to-do list, I put it off. EVERY FREAKIN TIME.

If you are waiting for something in the mail from me, you should just expect that it will be late. It will always be late, because the thought of packaging the item (do I have a box? tape?), addressing it, taking it to the post office, standing in line, answering questions about the contents – it all makes me irrationally crazy. And heaven forbid I’m shipping internationally and am asked to fill out a customs form. OH MY GOD.

But, okay, this isn’t just a rant about the post office. (Although, feel free to join in on that, ha.)

My point here is that we all have things that we dislike doing, but I have recently found that there’s a simple two-step approach to make these things less hellish.

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How Will You Be Brave Today?

“In the middle of a competition, there will come a time where you will have the choice to go or not go. I am saying you should go.”

I crossed the two-mile mark, and I could see the orange cones up ahead, the ones the signaled the fourth and final out-and-back turnaround section of the race.

Four out-and-backs, four chances to count how many women were ahead of me as they rounded the cones and ran back in my direction.

At the first turnaround, I was the 10th woman. “Good,” I thought. “Stay calm, stay relaxed.”

I ran on.

At the second turnaround, I was the 8th woman. “Good, moved up two spots. Keep applying pressure. Keep going.”

By the time we reached the third turnaround, I was 7th. Coming around that turn, the course went straight uphill. “Hold your form,” I thought. Followed by my favorite mid-race mantra: “You’re strong. You’re fit. You’re in control.” I repeated that over and over, letting the rhythm of the words merge with the rhythm of my breathing, trying to find the sweet spot where you’re giving everything you’ve got without giving it all too soon.

The two-mile marker came and went. “One more mile to go,” I told myself. “Hold it.”

I counted the women running toward me after the final turnaround, and I was still in 7th. We ran on for another few minutes, and my eyes were pinned to the 6th place woman, just up ahead.

As I got closer to her, I felt myself start to go deeper into the pain cave. There was still over a half mile to go, and my head was suddenly flooded with self doubts.

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