Bruce's Philosophy and Story
"Let age enhance your dreams rather than define them."
"Getting better and going faster is more about intention and choice than age"
Qualifying for the U.S. Olympic long track speed skating trials for the upcoming Torino 2006 Olympics was going to be one of the hardest and most challenging things I have ever done in my life. This challenge would push me to be at my best physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It would also be one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I would have to skate significantly faster than when I was a teenager on the U. S. National team in 1974 through 1976. I would have to go faster than any man has gone, at my age, ever.
The drive to qualify started when I was a teenager on the U.S. National team in 1974. With very supportive parents whose philosophy about raising three boys was to keep us tired through the outlet of sports, we all achieved a great deal. Bart was better at his sport than Mike and I were at ours. Asked by my parents to support Bart in his quest, and being the leader, I accepted the role while striving for my own goals. I lost my voice. This created a disconnect in me and a wound that would not heal, just scab over. Waking up to a 25 year marriage where I also lost my voice was another profound realization. Dealing with the death of my marriage and the subsequent struggle of my identity was frightening. Who was I? Who had I become? Where did I want to go, do, and be? All these essential questions were needing answers. In due time I would be able to address them all, and be whole like never before. Front and center, something tangible to work on was my skating. Drawn to skating, it was the tangible measure of my way out of the predicament I was in and had a hand in creating. Speeding around a track, a metaphor for my life? I had a vehicle for my path forward.
Not making the Olympic team in 1976, I was devastated. The oldest of 3 boys in our family, working harder than anyone, why did I train myself into the ground? My younger brother Bart made 3 Olympic teams, 1976, 1980, and 1984. Bart is a 2 time Olympic Champion. I am very proud of my brother and his accomplishments. My youngest brother Mike won the first national medal in our family in short track speed skating when he was age 10.
Competing as a youngster from age 12 till 19 I achieved a great deal in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Winning a few competitions as a long track ice speed skater, I was on the US national team from 1974 through 1976. Barely missing qualifying for the 1976 Olympic team, I amputated that part of my life for 22 plus years. As a much older and hopefully wiser adult I returned to the sport that I loved. Opening my old wounds from what had happened in my past was inevitable. Fear held me back for decades. Was I ready to deal with the memory of my past? I had to find out, or never completely heal those very deep wounds, and never be quite whole. Cautious about the pitfalls of my past, treading lightly as I returned, making the same mistakes was not an option. Time heals wounds, but it also hardens scabs. Fear of more suffering was very real. Pulling off the bandage was going to hurt. Healing from the inside, from down deep was the only answer. The core of my being was screaming for help.
My mother had died from cancer the year before and I was still having a tough time accepting it and needing relief. I went through the five stages of grief about her death as well as many other aspects of my life. Doing the work to heal from the inside was my task. Drowning my pain was not possible anymore, I had to face it, going back to the old way of thinking was not an option. Striving for answers, from my youth, from midlife, from a broken marriage. How to move forward?
Not sure what was around the corner, but willing to address my own humanness, my very survival was at stake. By returning to speed skating, this sport that has brought much pleasure and anguish, ultimately reaping a journey toward the wholeness of my being.
We all want to be loved by our parents. We all have sibling rivalry. My need to achieve was born in this very fertile environment. Was my struggle about the external achievement or self acceptance? Survival for me was dependent on what I was about to discover.
Ready to tackle the issues of my past, the time would be right to do this work on myself and start healing. The tangible evidence of my extraordinary achievement in speed skating is visible. What is unseen, and more important, is the internal work of healing the wounds and moving toward wholeness.
Sports is one of the ways that I connect with in a tangible, measurable way to my own inward journey of self exploration. By chasing meaning rather than trying to avoid discomfort creates better health. Going after what creates that meaning in my life and trusting that I can handle the stress that follows, sets me up for a journey to wholeness. Any activity, external or internal, can substitute for this important journey, the principles are universal.
I was told at age 16 when I received my first pair of glasses that I would never fly airplanes for a living. It was widely believed then, that you needed perfect vision and military training to become an airline pilot. I am now at the top of my field as a United B-777 Captain. Not accepting the fact that I needed glasses as a barrier, I broke it down before it could become a reality for me.
When I was young and began skating, I could not imagine how rich my life would become because of this sport. I have reconnected with my passion for skating, training, goals and achievement as a masters athlete. I have found the love of my life, with whom I share a home and a fantastic, rich life. I have developed relationships with a group of men I call my friends and brothers that has been invaluable on this sometimes rocky, unpredictable and often hysterical journey of life. My relationships with my parents and my two brothers has grown and strengthened in ways that I could not have ever imagined a few years ago. The depth of the love that I experience now was not even on my radar. My relationship with my children continues to grow, improve, and deepen.
Skating has come full circle for me. Through my sport I have learned much about myself. Skating exposes me like no other sport. If my body is not responding for some reason there is always a deeper reason, it is up to me to find its cause, and how to correct it. Off balance, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, the ice and my competitors will give me immediate feedback. It is up to me to then to apply all my tools to regain and maintain my balance to move forward in skating, and my life. Skating is a mirror for how to live my life, to learn, change and grow.
I have developed relationships in skating and some of my other activities that I could not have imagined as a young man. My coaches are great friends, my fellow training partners and skaters share my passion and, as a result, we have a special bond. Grateful for the skaters that I share the ice with and mentor through sharing my own experience. By passing on what I have learned it usually bounces back to me in what I need to work on, or it strengthens my concepts.
As big picture kind of guy, seeing things from high up, then focusing on the specifics works for me. Maybe that is why I fly airplanes for a living.
Breaking through barriers, learning to change my life, I must change my thinking. Everything starts with a thought.
I do things because they are hard, not because they are easy.
Imagination to dream it, breaking down my internal and external barriers, and the willingness to do the work, I can achieve almost anything!!!
Here is one of my favorite quotes that reflects my philosophy:
“We are what we repeatedly do; excellence then is not an act but a habit.” Aristotle
Here is what I believe and what I strive for on my current path:
“Let age enhance your dreams, rather than define them”
Bruce W. Conner 2008.
“Getting better and going faster is more about intention and choice than age” Bruce Conner 2012
I have divided my book into three sections. The first deals with telling parts of my story and thereby building a case for what I have done. The second deals with breaking down barriers. The third details all the tools I have used in my life to facilitate and enhance my journey.
I hope you will be inspired to write your own story of successful living and a journey toward wholeness.Type your paragraph here.
Breaking down the barriers of self-limiting beliefs.
YOUR BEST IS YET TO COME!