perspectives - OCTOBER 2018
inspiration through philosophy
athlete: William Z - bodybuilder
Through his snowboarding injury, William realized he could not control external events, but the one thing he could control was his paradigm around his injury. Instead of seeing it as a handicap, he saw it as an opportunity to grow his love for philosophy and to focus on bodybuilding and growing the most important muscle- the mind now that he could no longer snowboard, skydive, kite-surf, or engage in other sports.
"Choose not to be harmed and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed and you haven’t been.” -Marcus Aurelius
William looks at his injury as a rather positive experience. In the below Instagram post, he brings up the following quote from the ancient Stoics “I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent- no one can ever know what you’re capable of, not even you”- Seneca, on providence, 4.3.
In his own words, the post continues to read “This obstacle is a chance to grow my inner strength and know what I’m capable of. I’m happy to have all of my successes, yet I’m blessed for my failures as I’ve learned so much from them. Through this injury I’ve learned to not hope for an easy life, but instead to have the right values and virtues in order to easily overcome hardships. By no means do I consider myself someone who has endured any significant hardships. Yet with previous surgeries on both knees and now this injury, I am grateful for these formative experiences.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
William was snowboarding with his friend Andy who was at the site of the accident. It was the last weekend of the snowboarding season and on his last run of the day. He attempted a jump that he had done numerous times throughout the season. However, exhausted after 7 hours of snowboarding, this time he had overlooked two critical factors. Firstly, it was springtime and the snow was sticky, and secondly, the snow had melted significantly thus causing the landing to be full of uneven territory and moguls.
After he had performed the jump, his friend Andy stated “although it was really sad at the end, I wish I was recording because it truly was a bad*** jump. At least four seconds of air time”. Andy Stebbins, a ski instructor, remembers William attempting to get up saying: “maybe I can shake it off and we can go do one more run”. Yet as soon as he tried getting up, he soon collapsed on the ground.
DEALING WITH THE INJURY
William had his torn ACL replaced with a “hybrid graft” – this new graft was built with both his hamstring tendon and a cadaver graft. Then, less than 24 hours after surgery physical therapy began. In the words of his physical therapist “"William's willingness to try new activities and excitement to get back to his active lifestyle allowed us to explore many activities during his rehabilitation, including high-level functional exercises and bloodflow restriction. This, combined with his work ethic, accelerated his recovery and helped him to quickly gain both strength and function with a positive outlook." – Kate Amsden, Avant Physical Therapist.
William’s knee is now almost fully recovered as you can see from the picture below (taken two months after he was off crutches). In his words, “every accident or mishap that we meet in life, we must remind ourselves of the great power that we have for turning it into use”.
This is Williams second knee surgery, the fifth surgery that he had to undergo with general anesthesia, and after having to withdraw a semester from college for other unrelated medical reasons to this accident he was no stranger to adversity.
William says "I’ve learned so much from this injury and I would not take anything back. I am a much better athlete thanks to this setback. I believe that everything happens for a purpose, and it’s up to us to make that purpose something positive and constructive. It makes me think of amor fati (to love our fate), and that we must make the best out of anything that happens to us. Every moment is something to be embraced, not avoided. Nietzsche highlights how paramount this is ‘Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it….but love it.
I realize that I am merely a student of stoic philosophy, and I have a very long way to go in order to fully embrace the wisdom of the ancient Stoics. I do not consider myself different than anybody else. In fact, with this injury I have come to realize that there are many people with far worse circumstances than those that I am facing – and they have achieved far greater than me. Thinking of what others have achieved after the same or worse injuries, and thinking of all of the things that could have happened the day of my injury, suddenly this just seems like just another obstacle that many athletes before me have overcome.
It really is from fellow athletes and the readers of this page and those who have reached out to me through my instagram profile @fitskydiver that I draw inspiration.
As Epictetus reminds us, it is not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.