Here’s an open secret about myself: I’m not the best at parkour. I can jump far but I’ll never touch the guys doing 12-foot standing precisions. I can lache big gaps but I’ll never hold a world record for distance. I can do passable front flips but I’ll never be throwing dive tucks over the Manpower Gap.
Simply put, I’m good, but not great. I’m better than most, but not “the best.” I know, deep inside where I can’t lie, that it’s very likely I’ll never be “the best.”
And that’s okay.
Now, I can imagine some readers exclaiming, “Well obviously you’ll never be the best with that attitude!” Hear me out first. Yes, if I dedicated myself heart and soul to achieving “best” status in a particular area I might be able to make it. But is that my ultimate goal with training?
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get jealous and annoyed sometimes when others beat me. I’ve been training for over seven years, the inner hate screams, how can this punk kid be better than me? He practices once a week and has been doing this for only six months! It’s frustrating and disheartening to see a move I’ve been trying to get all week get smashed in three tries by someone else. It sucks to know that there are so many categories in which I fall behind the lead, where I’ll be good but never talked about in hushed whispers and awed emotion.
And that’s okay.
I realized this at my very first jam. Up until that point I had practiced only by myself, working small moves here and there, practicing part-time. I’d watch videos of masters at work but not have a full concept of how much more skilled they were because of the disconnection film creates. Then I went to my first jam, meeting my first group of fellow practitioners. Out of the group of 5-6 of us, I was probably last or second to last in terms of overall skill and strength levels.
I went home after that amazed but slightly saddened. Would I ever be that good? What was the point of trying if I was also playing catch-up, always two steps behind? I could progress all I wanted but they’d be progressing too, keeping me just out of reach of being “the best.”
And that’s okay.
It took a long time back then and it’s been a constant fight to maintain the idea, but I told myself, “And that’s okay.” It’s cliché, but that’s at the very heart of parkour. It’s striving to be “the best” YOU, not “the best” IN THE WORLD. If I look back at where I came from seven years ago I’ll see that I’m miles ahead. I’m taking the long view of my training, of what I want from it and from life in general.
Because I am not as naturally gifted towards parkour as some others the amount of focus and energy I’d need to gain “best” status would mean having to set aside other aspects of my life. I like having relationships and friends, I like learning history and writing, I like working on my professional career and coaching. I like having a clear mind and calm at the end of the day. Some of these things would likely have to suffer if I went for “best” status and I’m not willing to lose those aspects of who I am.
To me, it’s okay to not be “the best,” but it’s not okay to be “the best” at any cost.
Some people feel differently. They feel that sacrifice makes the goal worthwhile. They receive joy and fulfillment from the pursuit of “best.” And that’s fine. That’s their particular leaning; it’s just not mine.
The mere practice of parkour fills a part of my heart and soul that no other discipline has touched. Doesn’t matter if I’m doing a precision I’ve hit a thousand times or fighting for a cat leap that dozens of others have already nailed. I draw more strength and happiness from simply DOING parkour than from EXCELLING at parkour.
So while I’ll still get disheartened, flustered, or envious sometimes seeing how above-average-but-not-best I am, I just have to remind myself, “That’s okay.” I can still chase perfection and progress, just at my own rate, my own style. I am beholden to no one but myself.
How do you feel about your journey in parkour, or about anything in general? Are you following your own path to greatness (as defined by you), doing for the love of doing…or a path set forth by someone else?