I was talking with my S.Pig this morning about bikes and things. It’s something that we love to do: just dream and gush about the new bike we tested, the new trail, the latest workout, the next race, this rider we met… We have many things in common but perhaps the greatest commonality that we share is a willingness to chase our dreams no matter how far they take us off the beaten path.

Currently we both are dreaming of speed. I want to become a professional athlete. I have wanted to do this since I was a child, but I always felt like it was something that other people did, like you needed a special invitation or else you couldn’t join the club of elites that the magazines always gushed about. Mr. Pigs is in a similar boat, but he has not committed to going pro. He sees professional athletes as billboards for their sponsors, slaves whose jobs happen to be riding a bike for their living, but at the end of the day are still slaves to the company that signs their paycheck. To us, speed equals freedom and we are both seeking the freedom that can only be found by letting it loose on a pair of wheels and ripping down the pavement (or the dirt) with wild abandon; the only purpose in our sights is tearing down the rider in front of us until there is nothing left between us and the goal but the stretch of road ahead.

Lately Mr. Pigs has been struggling to progress in his training. Despite a lifestyle centered entirely around riding, he has yet to see the gains that people around him seem to pull out of their magic butts with seemingly no effort at all. However, recently he has suddenly surged ahead, producing PR after PR on trails he’s ridden dozens of times before. The reason? He stopped giving a shit. He threw caution to the wind and said, “this hill is mine!” and went out and ate it whole. And then he recovered and did it again.

Listening to him go on about his latest rides reminded me of when I woke the Beast up last spring on Sado ga Shima island in the Japan sea. Fearing for my ability to complete the distance at all, I spent the first 160 kilometers of a 210 kilometer ride cautiously tailing pace groups who I was decently sure I could keep up with, making sure to hit every aid station and fuel up, and generally hurting as my saddle burned deeper sores into my taint and my muscles started to twitch and seize up. At one point on a moderate climb just after the second to last aid station I looked around me and saw nothing but washouts aching and winging and struggling just to complete the distance. I said, “I’m not one of you! I’m a raging beast and I will swallow you whole! I’m not done yet, not done by a long shot!” At that moment, my body flooded with heat, my pain disappeared and I exploded up the hill dropping rider after rider. I must have passed over a hundred people in the last 50 kilometers of that ride, and when I crossed the finish line I still had fuel to burn.

Both my S.Pig and I put in long hours and hard work for the fitness that we have. I won’t try to tell you for a second that you can achieve your goals without putting in the work. But for both of us, our greatest momentary gains have come from our attitude more than from any technique or scientific theory. More than just “believing in ourselves,” when we were able to break through our barriers to reach a higher plateau of performance it was because we stopped planning, stopped thinking about it, and just went out and did it. It’s almost as if the speed has always been ours to have, we just needed to claim it, as if it was a birthright we simply needed to pull out from the stone that held us in place.

To my readers, I want to share with you this discovery that you, too, can own your success. Whatever your dream, whatever your goal, it can be yours. I won’t say that all you have to do is believe in yourself, because that’s clearly nonsense. No, you have to work for your dream. You have to do the research, you have to put in the time, and you have to make the sacrifices. The laws of the universe are not going to bend just because you believe they will, my friend, so you, just like me, cannot wake up tomorrow and be a champion just because you clapped your hands. But after you’ve done those things, after you’ve laid out your plan, put your cards in order, and done all that you can do to make your dream possible, the last critical step is to simply go out and own it.

Success, you see, is not the reward for working hard, and it’s not something that you get handed to you by the Powers From Above. There is no committee doling out invitations to those who are worthy. No, success is your goddamn motherfucking birthright. That’s right. You don’t need anybody’s permission. You don’t need the stars to line up. You don’t need more time or more money. All you need is the stubborn willingness to chase it down and make it yours. That dream you’ve been holding on to? It can be yours. Go out and fucking own it!