Philosophy, Triathlon and Me: Brian Yee

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The School of Athens: A display of the greats in Ancient Greek philosophy

Dealing With Death

The unexamined life is not worth living

Strong words echoing throughout time, yet not strong enough to sway the jury from convicting their orator to death by hemlock. The dead man is Socrates and his sentence was for corrupting the youth of Athens with philosophy. More accurately, this phrase, was recounted by the most successful of his corrupted youths: Plato, in his work The Apology. Many other works by Plato feature Socrates — unsurprising given Plato was so moved by his teacher’s death that at the age of 28 he went completely off the map for 12 years before returning home to write his many influential works.

I find this all very romantic, specifically because I am near the age of 28 and recently struggled with the death of a career in academia. Since the age of 13 I dreamed of being a professor, a goal which a decade later in my first MSc, became clear I couldn’t achieve. The blow was softened by a transition out of physics into computer science (CS), a field of which I could perform higher. The way I explain it is that there is nothing more I would want to simulate than physics but nothing in physics I would want to do that wasn’t simulations.

So off to a second MSc in CS I went flying off to the West Coast to study distributed computing. Eight months later would see me back to finish my studies while working concurrently as a data scientist in finance. Every day felt blessed with my job, cat, and loving girlfriend; still something was missing. This feeling of emptiness had been growing inside me for a while, starting back with grad school prep. A life filled with: stress eating, late nights and impostor syndrome. My weight began to yo-yo and all my sports: squash, weightlifting and cycling suffered one by one. By the end of my first MSc each one of them had died out completely. I was unfit, unhappy and had no physical ambitions.

Mathlete → Athlete → Math-elite

I remember asking top 1980s triathlete Mike Durkin whether he came from swim, bike or run… “Trombone” was his reply.

My first sport was chess: I began playing at 6 and had a coach a year later. Of course, even non chess players know  grandmasters can be crowned as early as 13. So it was abundantly clear early on that despite performing king-bishop-knight checkmates against my peers, I had no future in chess. Instead I grew up to compete in math, trivia and spelling-bee competitions and these instilled in me a great passion for dealing with failures. I still feel a tweak of rage  when I reflect on losing a provincial trivia advance because my answer of “Nimbus” wasn’t “Cumulonimbus”.

Unfortunately, you’re body doesn’t particularly grow from these nerdier clubs. I can still vividly recall being in the gym’s North West corner as other Grade 9’ers heckled me to “Do a chin up!”. As I struggled one pointed at my cheeks and said “look at ’em jiggle!”. At that time I was 5″9′, weighed 215lbs and extremely depressed. Only two and a half years later though, I had grown an inch, weighed 155lbs and made friends at a new high school. More importantly, I had found a talent in cycling being the second youngest to complete a 325km race in 14hrs 20min at 17 years and a week old.

A Fork in the Woulds

Still a cycling career seemed palpable at that age. One of my old training partners however, unlike me, was determined to racing for his career. He’s now a pro and watching his success is like a draft that keeps an old door open in my mind. Not strong enough to keep me up at night but faint enough to whisper occasionally. Still, at the time I had  a dream to study with the elites at Perimeter Institute, and eventually I did. The “elites” I was once so awe-struck by turned simply into advisors and friends with passions. Maybe, in some alternate universe I view the cycling elites just as advisors and friends with a passion. [That’s certainly how I see Berry‘s friends who are professional runners]. Sometimes you’re just not ready or wise enough to pursue two dreams at once; one must die to fertilise the other.

This brings us to the modern day or more precisely the month leading up before Christmas my thoughts more and more turned to reflecting on the life and deaths of some of my dreams. The only cure was to start ferociously reading and listening to philosophy. After passing the Pre-Socratics in The History of Philosopy Without any Gaps I found one word kept coming up again and again: Eudaimonia. The idea of the good life and what it meant to flourish. Having since combined this with some reflections on existentialism, I’ve found a happy place to go when the bureaucratic lifestyle of industry can get a bit to draining.

 

 

25 Going on 3:

Our Philosophy

After driving back from my friend’s New Year’s party all these recent nagging thoughts crystallised in the early morning light. My girlfriend and I should become triathletes. Combining her knowledge of running, mine of cycling and helping each other with swimming we could become gestalt. What better way is there to improve than alongside a loved one? Even our cat seemed enthusiastic to help out as we switched to 5am wake-ups. Every new morning she meowed and jumped excitedly on our bed sheets until we got out to feed her.

Our Goal

This is what Eutrimonia is about, a couple working towards living the good life. Two 25 year-olds balancing career, love, friends and a cat with 3 amazing sports. We hope to inspire others by opening this door and recording each  footsteps thereafter, both philosophically and physically. From a couple that went from eats-out more than perhaps necessary to a couple that competes-out of the country necessarily. From humble beginnings to age-group winnings. To improve all the aspects of life: career, family, friends, spirituality and fitness through orginization and prioritzation. I am reminded of a passage from Dostoevsky’s Notes From the Underground (translated by Walter Kaufmann):

But man is a frivolous and incongruous creature and perhaps, like a chess player, loves the process of the game, not the end of it… one can observe a certain awkwardness about him when he has attained such objects. He loves the process of attaining but does not quite like to have attained, and that, of course, is very absurd. In fact man is a comical creature; there seems to be a kind of jest in it all.

Our Promise

Each insight attainable: calories and watts, heartbeats and sweat will be tabulated here, and if all the records were added together I’d bet the whole experience would be greater than the sum of its parts. Just like triathlon becomes more than just swim-bike-run. It becomes a lifestyle and I can’t wait to live every second in it.

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