How I reached the endzone

Eliza Llewellyn, Staff Writer

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It’s 12:30 a.m., and the only thing I’m running on is the throaty, soulful voice of Eric Thomas, the self-named “hip hop preacher” talking about success. The video showcases running back Giovanni Ruffin pushing through plyometric exercises and throwing a football, accompanied by semi autotuned motivational tonal music. Ever since the beginning of junior year, this video has stayed up with me into the long hours of the night, powering me through exhaustion and imbuing me with the ultimate inspiration: “You have to want to succeed as much as you want to breathe,” Thomas says, and I listen (meanwhile the screen blurs in and out of Ruffin’s weighted crunches).

Eric Thomas preaches for pure tenacity. He asks listeners to imagine gasping for air, challenging them to want to succeed as much as they want to survive an asthma attack. He alludes to 50 Cent and Beyonce, who prioritize success over sleep: “sleep is for those who are broke,” an alleged quote from 50 (Fifty?). Thomas accuses me and 27 million other listeners of wanting to party or sleep more than succeed, and the accusation ignites me into action: why hit the pillow when integrals, equilibrium expressions, or literary analysis await?

This video was for me what Self Control apps and overbearing parents were for others: it’s a last ditch resort to jettison my inner procrastinator (read: my elemental being). It is my back up plan, a bastion of drive that I reserve for giant tests or those moments of utter non-productivity, at obscene hours of the night when I am so appalled by my own procrastination that I need the inspiration of a disembodied voice to check myself. Over time it has gained the weight of a superstition, acquiring an almost mystical power as it has played, without fail, before each major test or assignment of junior or senior year.

What strikes me about the video is its ability to instantly make me focus, but at its core, I don’t necessarily agree with Thomas’s doctrine. Success is an arbitrary, contained outcome, something you can easily glean from a mental health article or four years of unexpected challenges (aka high school.) But this awareness does not strip the video’s power, whose ratio of emotional chords to fitness footage has helped me find a last ounce of grit to get through the night. As I leave high school, I am setting down my fixation, my practical veneration of the video. I know that its message is imperfect, but there’s something to be said about something that can keep you powered through late nights without tasting like Red Bull.

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