A close and old climbing-era friend with whom I ride sometimes was locked in a battle with cancer two years ago. He wrote to me about the lessons one learns in life, from relationships, from climbing, from riding, and now, disease. We arbitrarily assign importance to relatively trivial events and activities. Sometimes that weight allows us access to deeper meaning. Sometimes it's just bullshit to make us feel better about how we spend our time and energy. My friend saw through the artificially-assigned value of in extremis events, those tests we volunteered for that got out of control. Like many others who learned as they aged, he recognizes that the true difficulty in life is making thought and word and action the same each second of each day for as long as we breathe.
"I think that surviving hardship is not the key to a great life, though it teaches us a lot. The key is more difficult I think. It lies in the daily resolution to challenge yourself, to be self-disciplined and committed, to work hard towards the ideal and strive to always be better. We can react to external factors can and rise to meet a challenge. But we must tend to internal factors with a lot of motivation and strength, every day.
On a micro scale, it's like riding or racing the bike: you can quit pedaling or ease up every nano-second of every ride. So, conversely, you must choose every nano-second to not just 'not quit' but to keep going hard. It is a beautiful lesson."