By Rich Roll

On May 5, 2010 Jason Lester and I will attempt to complete 5 ironman distance triathlons in 5 days on 5 Hawaiian Islands. We call it EPIC5.

Daunting? Yes.

But why? What is the point of this lunacy?

No, I am not insane. And its not a stunt. I actually do have an answer to this question, something I am getting asked pretty regularly these days. For me, ultra-distance multisport isn’t about PR’s, winning races, Kona slots or race t-shirts. I have different motivations. The first is internal. I love pushing myself. I love taking myself into unchartered waters, perilous uncomfortable situations where the result is unknown. Ultraman and EPIC5 serve this drive. To lay it all out and see what I’m made of. Physically yes, but far more important is take myself to task both mentally and spiritually. These events serve a wanderlust and my (possibly unhealthy?) need to push myself through limits and boundaries, both self-imposed as well as those placed upon me (and us) by cultural and societal constraints. Because its only when I am uncomfortable, afraid, failing or even falling apart that I have the greatest opportunity one can have — the ability to learn something about myself, grow from it and share it with others. We live in a place and time where EVERYTHING is about comfort and ease. Our entire society is built upon removing obstacles & challenges; the goal being to live a life of leisure; free of stress, pain, hardship and struggle. The focus is keenly placed on the accumulation of “stuff”, most of which is specifically designed to make our lives “easier”, more comfortable, stress free. We are brainwashed into believing that flat screen TV’s, Hulu, car seat warmers, all-inclusive vacations, retirement, fast food, snuggies and designer pharmaceuticals for every conceiveable ailment, imagined or otherwise hold the key to happiness. Just watch TV for an hour — any channel — and the message is more than obvious. We are the most prosperous nation in the World and yet our “citizenship” has been comprehensively reduced to “consumerism”. A culture in which the primary challenge for the average american has become the drive to accumulate this “stuff”, or at least more than their friends and neighbors. Buy and ye shall be happy. The result? We are more depressed, more obese, more sick, stressed and generally unhappy & unfulfilled than almost any other culture on the Planet. Why? Because a life of ease, a life devoid of challenges, difficulties, failures and struggle does not equate to happiness. We have been deluded into this idea that we will be happy if we can just remove the stress. If we can get a bigger TV or a nicer car; a new job or just retire. Its become about escaping our realities. About “checking out”, But these things never ultimately relieve us, nor do they equate to a true sense of happiness. They never have and never will. Because at the end of the day we are still left with ourselves. Maybe you haven’t noticed, but people are freaking out right now about the economy. Literally losing it. The current financial and political climate has polarized our nation in a way I have never before seen in my lifetime. People are terrified about losing what they have, or being preventing from getting what they “deserve”. Right or left, people are quite literally terrified; the result is turmoil and fear-based acting out on a mass level. I am far from immune from these “real world” pressures. But I can honestly say I am not afraid. Because everything is an opportunity for growth and in my opinion this is the only thing that truly matters. I am not trying to minimize the problem. I have many. In fact, we are struggling mightily to save our home, forcing me to really evaluate my own ego attachment to things, my personal identification of who I “am” with what I “have”. But if we ultimately lose our house, the only important question becomes — how can I grow from this experience? Embrace the struggle. Welcome it. Step into it. Put yourself on the line. Because he who avoids it all in search of consumerism comforts is only setting himself up for depression; a life unmoored and unfulfilled. A material hole that will never be full. Now that is true lunacy. And whatever the result, positive or negative, take what happens, learn something about yourself and apply it next time. Grow. True happiness is an inside job. One that is forged through struggles, challenges and failures as vehicles for personal growth, self-knowledge and ultimately personal fulfillment. This is hardly a new concept, and yet eludes most people. Intellectually we understand this to be the case and yet all too often shirk away, slinking back into our illusory zone of comfort. A world of conforming to societal expectations, doing what were told. Buying stuff and keeping quiet. And yet how can one be blamed when we are saturated with messages from Madison Avenue and beyond that a life of ease and material wealth holds the key? This sense of “security” and well-being we are promised is illusory and false. Its my opinion that the predominant American lifestyle leaves us feeling empty, lost, desperate and depressed. A cycle that drives us to then further escape whether by food, television, video games, alcohol, drugs or relationships. The vicious cycle is self-perpetuating. The hole doesn’t get filled — it just gets deeper. I know this because I’ve been there. I have decades under my belt of medicating myself in every conceivable way. I may not be a pro athlete, but I am a former pro at “checking out” – a path that took me to some very dark and desperate places. But somehow I got out. I consider the greatest blessing of my life as taking a stand against this. With respect to things I cannot control, I have learned to surrender. And with respect to things I can control, I have chosen to struggle in search of not just growth and self-knowledge but also greater personal meaning in my limited days on this Planet. By way of a small example, I love the fact that I crashed my bike during Ultraman, relinquished my lead and had to struggle mightily just to complete the remaining day and a half of the event. It wasn’t my plan and I was not happy about it at the time. I was compelled to surrender. And as such I learned more about myself, who I am and what I am capable of through that experience that I could have imagined. And by prevailing, I became a stronger person, set a better example for myself, my children and hopefully others. For this I am eternally grateful; I wouldn’t change a thing. EPIC5 is just another quest to get uncomfortable, attempt something I honestly don’t know I can achieve. Its about trying to learn something about myself and hopefully inspiring maybe just one other person to seek greater meaning in his / her life. And at the end of the day, the attempt is pursued with the goal of raising funds on behalf of Jason’s Never Stop Foundation, which seeks to provide the kids of Kona with an opportunity of realizing their potential through athletics. In other words, there is no losing. Its a win no matter what happens. I hope you join me along the way and find something in your own life to pursue that scares you, makes you uncomfortable and challenges you. Something that even in failure will give you the feeling of wholeness I have been blessed to experience. Let’s fill that hole. Together.


3 Responses to “Epic-5”

  1. You’r seriously doing this? That’s CRAZY dude! Is Lauren going with you? How many people are doing it?

  2. hahaha not me, a guy named Rich Roll (he wrote that post) and Jason Lester are

  3. hahahaha, some day, Bailey. Won’t we Greg?

    Wow, so many fantastic quotes there.

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