When It Comes To Life And Exercise Are You A Bulldozer, Tumbleweed Or Taoist?


It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Wisdom imparted to Harry Potter by Albus Dumbledore.

Hi folks,

Tumbleweed, life, how to live, Saint George Utah

Tumbleweeds roll along with the wind, apparently making no decisions of their own (is this true?).

It’s funny where blogging ideas can come from, but this sure is an interesting process. I just see stuff, the wheels start turning, and I’ve just got to write it down, which in my case means blog about it in relation to safe exercise for better health. This time it was a pile of tumbleweed stuck against a fence near my hotel in Saint George, Utah. There they were, piled against the fence, apparently rolled there by the wind, guided by gravity, the terrain and their shape. The latter feature, their shape, indicates that the movement of these interesting plants may, in fact, be guided by genetics and thus natural selection. The similarity of their shape supports the latter suggestion, but I wonder if some tend to go left and some go right, like the Portuguese Man o’War. I also wonder what they think about as they roll along. I made a brief exploration of the literature on the tumbleweed, or Russian Thistle, to find that it is considered to be a major pest by some, causing all sorts of problems, including the harboring of pesky insects. I bet these insects call it home! I never like to underestimate other species, so I’ll assume that tumbleweeds have a rich inner life, why not? That said, they do seem to just be blown about, so let’s use them as an allegory for one approach to problem solving, just going wherever the forces of nature take you. As I was writing this, that old tumbleweed song kept popping into my mind, and old it must be, as this short YouTube video of the Tumbleweed song demonstrates:

These thoughts led me to consider the ways in which we humans make decisions about life’s problems and challenges that have to be solved in one way or another. There appear to be three approaches: (1) tumbleweed – let’s hope it sorts itself out, or ‘The Big Lebowski‘ method, (2) bulldozer – we’ll fix this if it kills us, and (3) following the Tao or flow of life intelligently, but without force or sloth.

I don’t have too much to say about the bulldozer approach to life’s decisions, because we all know people like that, and eventually they become stuck against an object that is even too big for them to move. Such an example would be the control-freak partner who eventually destroys a relationship through an inability to empathize and negotiate. Enough said!

Tao te ching translation by Steven Mitchell

My favorite book of all books because it has helped me with my life so much.

Finally, following the Tao. You can study this subject all your life and still only scratch the surface of the beauty of this approach to life. It is not forceful or passive, and the best analogy that I can think of is that of a skilled canoeist negotiating a mountain river. Sometimes just sitting there looking around enjoying the moment, sometimes pushing a little with expert J-strokes, avoiding rocks with the gentle application of the tip of the paddle, and at other times forcefully avoiding a major danger, such as a waterfall, but even this force is not forced, it is applied with the strength and skill of the professional athlete, and always in a state of deep inner calm and relaxation, completely lacking any fear. Now, that is the way I would like to live my life, and sometimes I come close, and sometimes I’m too passive (tumbleweed – they may object, but quietly I am sure) and sometimes I try to force the issue (bulldozer – I am sure that skilled bulldozer operators could argue this vociferously), but as each year of my life goes by I feel that I am getting closer to the joy of canoeing the stream of life and my Ironman training with a little more expertise than the year before.

When it comes to training, force just does not work, especially if you want to exercise safely and without undue injury. The bulldozer is always hopping around on a sore ankle, or in the hospital. The tumbleweed generally doesn’t turn up. I would recommend that you avoid these people when it comes to selecting a training partner, and go with the flow of life in a healthy way, and before long other endurance athlete Taoists will just flow into your life.

It is the magical way this strange universe works. So when you make important choices or decisions, like a marriage or training partner, just stop and think, “Am I being a bulldozer or a tumbleweed, or am I making just the right strokes with my paddle towards a healthy choice?

As with everything in life, it comes down to developing your self-awareness.

-k @FitOldDog



  1. I love this post! I work with Nigel and he was reading this between patients today and I had to see how tumbleweeds and triathletes went together. Anyone can benefit from reading this so I’m adding you to my blogroll. Keep it coming!

  2. Hi Linda,

    Glad you like it. I just write whatever comes into my strange brain each day. I worry about Nigel’s neck, like all dentists! I suggested he watch my post, ‘Sitting for Symmetry,’ http://goo.gl/r9AGu and then apply that to his work. I think that with a little logistical effort this could work, but it will need his staff to embrace the idea. It might actually help some of them, too. Any thoughts or observations on this idea would be great, because I really love my little boy.

    Thanks again for your interest.

    Kevin aka @FitOldDog aka Nigel’s Dad

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.