Lawson Craddock just finished 145th in the Tour de France, earning him the informal title of "lanterne rouge," the last-placed rider based on overall time. He finished last in all but one of the twenty-one stages of this year's Tour, winding up approximately four and a half hours behind the winner, Geraint Thomas. That makes Craddock the first American to ever "win" that honor.
Granted, Lawson was never in contention for a top finish in the Tour de France. Where he finished was always going to be irrelevant. His role was to sacrifice his own goals to further the aims of his team, EF Education First, and its leader, Rigoberto Uran.
But early in Stage 1, Lawson ran over a water bottle and crashed hard. He gashed his forehead, a cut that required stitches. He scraped and bruised his body.
And worst of all, he broke his scapula.
So what did he do?
He got up, got on his bike, and finished. Last, but still: He finished the stage.
And every day since that first day, bandaged and unable to stand up on his bike to accelerate, he finished. Despite the pain. Despite trouble sleeping due to constant pain, a situation that resulted in a serious recovery deficit. Despite reduced bike handling capabilities.
Even despite Stage 9, a day that included a number of punishing cobblestone sections -- and was the same stage where Uran crashed and then dropped out three days later due to injuries suffered.
Not Lawson. He kept going. He kept finishing. No matter how painful it was. No matter how hard. Even though 31 other riders abandoned the Tour after crashing, quitting, or being cut by the organizers for not completing a stage within the allotted amount of time.
(Keep in mind Craddock's shoulder was stable and another crash was unlikely to worsen the injury. As Lawson's coach says, "The challenge will be how much pain he can tolerate."
But why did Lawson keep going? He wanted to finish, for one thing. But just as importantly, there was a lot of money on the line.
Except that money won't go to him.
After his Stage 1 accident Craddock pledged to donate $100 for every stage he finished to the Alkek Velodrome in Houston, and invited fans to match. (Hurricane Harvey caused extensive damage to the velodrome, and it's the facility where Lawson first started racing.)
His dad then set up a GoFundMe campaign with a $1,000 target. The campaign gained widespread media coverage and blew well past its initial goal, raising approximately $225,000 as of Monday morning.
"Without that fundraiser, I probably would've gone home a couple of weeks ago," Craddock says. "Especially in the days immediately after the crash and in that recovery process, I drew a lot of motivation from the campaign. It's going to change the future of the track."
Day after day Craddock fought the the pain.
Everyone wants to be successful. Your definition of success should be different -- because success should mean something different to each of us -- but still: We all want to succeed at whatever we choose to do. (Otherwise, why do it?)
How Craddock defined success was certainly different going into the Tour de France. Sure, he wanted to finish. But he also wanted to support his team, to be a workhorse during the team time trial, to possibly make it into a breakaway or two, to finish high up in the standings on certain stages... maybe even win a stage. (A boy can dream, right?)
In a matter of seconds, all that changed And that's when Lawson revised his definition of success.
Success now meant finishing -- and making a difference for other people in the process.
That's the thing about success. Success is often based on outworking other people. Success is often based on staying the course. Perseverance is everything; you can't be there at the end if you aren't there at the end.
So while there are any number of factors you can't control, what can you always control?
How hard you work. How long you work.
And whether you keep trying, especially when others would quit.
When you set out to accomplish something incredibly difficult or challenging, hard work and perseverance are the great equalizers. You may not be smarter than everyone else. You may not be as talented. You may not have the same connections, the same environment, or the same education.
If you're on the downside of advantage, you may have none of those things.
But you can always rely on your effort -- and on your courage.
When you think you're exhausted, when you think you've done all you can... you always find a little more in you. You are always capable of more than you think.
Especially when what you're working for is bigger than yourself.