On Refusing to Settle and the Incredible Power of Denial

In the days leading up to the launch of Matt’s newest book, he’s asked me to write something for readers facing their first marathon. Something inspiring, maybe, or some insider tips and tricks. I was happy to oblige — my first marathon led me to this gig writing for No Meat Athlete! — though I will admit I struggled with what, exactly, to write about.

Then it hit me: It’s time I finally shared my secret weapon with you.

I have a confession to make.

It’s recently been brought to my attention that over the last year of writing for No Meat Athlete, I’ve neglected to mention something about myself that is otherwise pretty obvious when you meet me.

Don’t get me wrong — if you meet me, I look like I do in my pictures. I’m just as much of a klutzy schmuck jokester in real life as I am in my writing. But there’s something else.

I’m deaf.

Yup, you read that right: My ears don’t work. I lost my hearing to an unknown virus when I was 2 1/2, and since then, I’ve been known as “that deaf girl.”

Save the pity party for someone who needs it. I’m telling you now because my disability has taught me one important thing that everyone needs to know:

Denial is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

You see, when I lost my hearing, my parents were told I’d never be “normal.” I’d need to be enrolled in a school for the deaf, learn sign language, and otherwise be okay with being an outsider in a world full of sound. They were faced with “She can’t,” “She won’t,” and “Don’t even bother.”

And you know what they did? They responded with “She can,” “She will,” and “Kiss my ass.”

Most parents tell their children they can do anything they want or be anyone they want to be. When you have a disabled child, however, it can be hard to say it and actually believe it. Thankfully, my mom and dad set the tone for my life with one simple attitude: Denial.

I wanted to be on the swim team, but couldn’t hear the starting gun? Cool. They found someone to tap me on the ankle when the gun went off.

I wanted to play saxophone in the school band? Awesome. I got seated in front of the big bass drum so I could feel the beat resonate in my body to keep me on tempo.

The kids are picking on me because I talk funny? They’re morons. I got a crash course in how to stick up for myself, and soon realized that humor is the best weapon out here.

You see, instead of making my disability a “thing,” we simply pretended it wasn’t there. I now realize the best part about being deaf:

I can’t hear the critics.

Denial is my secret weapon. It doesn’t matter what the goal is; I refuse to accept “I can’t,” “I won’t,” or “Don’t even bother” as acceptable self-talk…and I certainly don’t let anyone talk to me that way.

Today, I’m your normal 27 year-old: I go to work, I study for my doctorate, I train for Ironman triathlons, I write for a website, I volunteer in my community, I spend time with my friends and family.

Oh, yeah, and I can’t hear. Whatever.  Though it’s one of the most obvious things about me when someone meets me, it’s pretty low on the list of things that actually define me.

It’s nothing but a speed bump.

I could let my disability serve as an excuse for avoiding so many things in life, but why? It’s a piss-poor excuse.

Every single challenge in life provides us with an opportunity. Rather than seeing each obstacle as a dead end, realize that it’s nothing more than a speed bump; You might have to slow down a little bit for it, but you can get over it.

Chances are, you have a couple piss-poor excuses, too. Think about your goals and your so-called “pipe dreams.” Maybe you’re looking at Matt’s marathon guide and thinking “I’d like to do a marathon someday, but I never could because (insert lame excuse here).”

If you take a second to really consider it, you’ll realize your excuses are nothing but speed bumps, too.

Instead of letting your so-called limitations define you, use it as an opportunity to prove everybody wrong. Whenever you hear “You can’t,” “You won’t,” and “Don’t even bother,” I want you to put on your biggest smile and reply:

” I can, I will…and kiss my ass.”

Susan Lacke is the NMA Resident Triathlete and the author of the No Meat Athlete Triathlon Roadmap. You can follow her on Twitter @susanlacke.



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  1. I love this post! Your parents are awesome and so are you. 🙂

  2. I’m stunned and don’t know what to say other than this post is amazing and now I know what all the tweets over it were about. It takes either a really strong person or a really stubborn person to move past a barrier, but stubborn people don’t get anywhere and Susan has clearly gone far with what she’s been handed.

  3. Susan, what a wonderful post. Thanks so much for sharing this. I always look forward to your posts – so funny and interesting and topical. And you nailed it again. Just a beautiful post, and I am going to share this with lots of peeps!!!

  4. Wow. Very inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Awesome! This post, and indeed this entire site, are so positive and inspirational, I just love coming here. Thank you Susan and Matt, and everyone else keeping it going!

  6. I really appreciate your post.Inspiring and uninhibited. I think we can apply your words to so many parts of our lives — training and otherwise. Thanks so much – I needed this today!

  7. Such an inspiring post. Thanks so much for sharing this!

  8. Just wanted to say: you’re awesome! Keep up the excellent work with the NMA site.
    Holyjeez, deaf culture is wonderful. I fell in love with it from ASL classes in college.

    • I should clarify — I am not actually “part” of Deaf culture. I really know very little about it. I was mainstreamed in school, never learned sign language until I was in college (and only took it because I needed the foreign language credits – then quickly forgot it), and don’t really have too many friends who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. It isn’t that I’m ashamed of being deaf, it’s just that I wasn’t exposed to that world or that culture growing up. But I do agree — what I know about it, it’s a very strong community with a lot of pride.

  9. What an amazing, amazing post – you and your parents kick ass. I am printing this up as a reminder not to stand in the way of my own goals.

    You are one cool chick.

  10. Wow, amazing ability to navigate the world without something that a lot of us take for granted each day.

  11. This is my first time here – found it through a link on twitter. Thanks for sharing this, fantastic post. Can’t wait to keep reading.

  12. Those of us who are lucky enough to know Susan quickly forget the fact that she can’t hear us. She is so adept at lip reading that we’ll continue to carry on a conversation with her even after she’s turned away and can’t see us. I think it’s ironic that I, as a hearing person, know more sign language than she does. Also, the lip reading thing comes in handy when you’re in a group of people and want to have a semi-private conversation with her (or when you don’t want her to know what you’re saying and you cover up your mouth when you speak – don’t do this if you meet her, though, it REALLY annoys her!).

    I do have to disagree with one thing in the article. I’m fortunate enough to be very close with Susan, and she is NOT your normal 27 year-old. I don’t know many 27 year-olds that that can claim more than one or two of the things she’s listed for “normal” activities, much less all of them. At the very minimum, I’d rate her as extraordinary!

    And, yes, her Mom is awesome, too! Trust me on that.

  13. So your parents are as awesome as you! Cool.

  14. Wow, Susan. I am seriously impressed. I’m not even sure what to say besides…you are awesome!

  15. I work as a sign language interpreter and it is so awesome to see people overcome barriers to be successful in life. You are an awesome person

  16. Wow! What an incredible post! It’s people like YOU, Susan, who inspire me to be the best I can be and to take on new challenges. You are an amazing person – and I thought that before knowing you are deaf.

  17. susan, you’re badass! great post. excuses are just baggage that prevent people from taking flight. shed ’em and you’ll soar!

    • Dude, that is an AWESOME way of putting it. I wish I had thought of that! Mind if I use that for motivation one of these days?

    • Kyndra,

      Hope this finds you? Saw your quote on Susan’s post, that’s great! Is it yours or do you know who wrote it? As I mentioned to Sussn would love to share with folks at ViF.
      Feel free to check us out and share and follow with our readers.
      Train and live safe,

  18. You are the bomb,Susan. Thank you for a great inspirational piece that I can share with my family members who have kids that absolutely “CAN” and “DO” anything they want. You do have exceptional parents. You are blessed. I hope you inspire more parents to insist that their children experience everything this life has to offer.

  19. Amazing. I am so glad to read such inspiration! I love your attitude, AND your parents’ attitude as well. 🙂 You go. Go go go!

  20. Ylon Howell says:

    That was awesome! I love your attitude and want to pass it on to my 2-year old and baby on the way. Thanks for sharing!!!

  21. Susan,
    Awesome and motivational stuff! Would you mind if I share it with our followers at ViF?

    ” I can, I will…and kiss my ass.” !!!!


    • You are more than welcome to, Brian! Just don’t forget to link back to NMA so we can say hello to all your readers, too! Thanks for sharing!

      • Will do for sure! Check out our site we just shared Matt’s article on foam rollers (just go back a few post), which is how I came across your great post!
        If you ever have anything you want to get out there feel free to drop me a email and we’ll post and link. Do you also have your own site?
        If you want to message me off here just go to ViF and email me…great stuff!

  22. Love this post, very well said.

    I have diabetes and was told that I could never compete in extreme long distance races. Not only do I compete now, but my training and life choices that are necessary to being a good no meat athlete have made it possible for me to live without taking insulin shots! Pretty cool right?

    By the way, when you said humor is your best defense, you have MASTERED that. Your posts are out of this world funny. Sometimes when I am having a bad day I think back to the time you were discussing the disbelief in completing your Iron Man. Something about, if someone told you a year ago you would become a vegetarian Iron Man, your jaw would have dropped, most likely with a half eaten corn dog still in it 🙂 Priceless.

    • Seriously, when someone tells me I made them smile, it’s an awesome compliment. But making them laugh? I’m over the moon! Thanks so much! 🙂

  23. Absolutely tremendous. You’re awesome.

  24. SeeKatRun says:

    Wow, just when I thought you couldn’t be any more awesome, you bowl me over with this inspiring and ass-kicking post. Wish I could share this with my autistic students and their parents.

  25. Charlotte says:

    Just thought I would remind you of this lovely quote by I. King Jordan.. “Deaf can do ANYTHING except hear!” You are the proof of that my friend!

  26. Susan/Matt: Great Article. Very inspirational. Thanks for your comments.

  27. Mean ole deaf bitch! And yes, I mean that as the highest COMPLIMENT! 😀 Limitations are not interesting, especially since the most crippling ones live in the mind. Keep rocking and rolling.

    • This is probably the first time in my life I’ve been called that (to my face). I giggled. 🙂 You make an excellent point — most of our debilitation comes from our perception of our situation; Not the situation itself. Thanks so much, Joe!

  28. Susan, thank you for writing this! I think that this was something I needed to hear. I’ve been saying, “I can’t do it!” a lot lately. My husband is at Army basic training right now. We’ve spent the last 10 years together, but right now I can’t even talk to him on the phone, and damn it’s hard. I’ve been feeling like I can’t do it. I can’t take care of the dog, the cars, the apartment, our taxes, or even myself. But that’s just not the truth. I can, I will, and I’ll be so much stronger when I get to the other side. Thank you!*

  29. Seriously, this is awesome. You blew me away with this post, and it was timely because a friend of mine was just told he couldn’t do an IM…so I sent this to him, I hope he tells that person he can, he will, and kiss his ass.

  30. Fishback Boy says:

    ” I can, I will…and kiss my ass.”
    A new mantra when I may feel like slacking off during a run. Thanks for sharing Susan.

  31. Hey Susan… You kinda totally kick ass 🙂

  32. Amazing post! Thanks Susan!

  33. I love this post! Thanks for sharing your amazing attitude on life.

  34. Honestly, what I’m absolutely floored over is that anyone considered a “professional” would have such a defeatist, negative attitude, and then tell it to your parents’ faces… only 25 years ago!! Your story sounds like something from the early 1900s, maybe even the 50s, but surely not the mid-80s!

    • Believe it! It’s sad to say, but I still encounter some of the same attitudes and perceptions today (yes, from professionals!). I love defying their stereotypes, though, so it’s all good!

      • I’m jumping in this conversation a bit late – Swim Bike Mom from FB forwarded me this article just this evening.

        Susan, you and I are sisters from another dimension. I’m older than you (43), but our parents had the same mentality. I lost my hearing to spinal meningitis at 5 months. The psychologist wanted my parents to understand I would never live a normal life. My dad told him to stuff it where the sun don’t shine (actually it was a bit cruder than that). Like you I don’t even think about my deafness… I just go and do whatever I want. My favorite expression to those who say I can’t… (or tell me that I can’t do things because I’m deaf)… is “how do you know you can’t?” I think of myself as an engineer…a Team in Training volunteer… someone’s wife… someone’s daughter… someone’s best friend… a motorcyclist… global traveller… flamenco dancer… who happens to have a hearing loss. In other words, it’s the last thing I think about myself.

        Marijka, professionals are still squawking the same crap even now. In the 21st century. It’s unbelievable, but I think it’s actually gotten worse! I just had a “co-worker” at the place where I volunteer telling me his deaf uncle is a success story because he’s working minimum wage and is married with two children. I can’t tell you how patronizing I thought that story was. Especially when the uncle is younger than me! What a sad waste of potential.

  35. What a great post. I love your attitude and wish so many more people had it. Keep kicking some ass!

  36. AMAZING post – loved it and GOOD FOR YOU!!! 🙂

  37. Susan, I love your parents. Ok, I love their attitude (I don’t know your parents.) Great motivational post. Thanks for sharing.

  38. You are always so funny and insightful. Even without a hearing impairment you are inspiring. You just gave me a little more ammunition to use against that lame voice telling me it is alright to skip a workout. Thank you so much for sharing.

  39. Loved the post. I have discovered there are an endless supply of “dream killers” out there. I decided a while back they have no place in my life.

  40. Outstanding, kick-ass post Susan! As a young parent to a child with a physical deformity (born with only two fingers on his left hand), your motto is died on to what we say to son (filtered) and to strangers or family members (unfiltered). There is nothing he can’t do.

  41. That is one of the most inspiring things i have ever read! This is my first time on your website and it won`t be my last!

  42. Katherine Nelsen-Allan says:

    I so enjoyed everything you shared and your life journey. Susan there is nothing that you can’t accomplish in your life. You’ve worked through all the obstruction, fatigue and distress, your extraordinary drive and power will always be yours to own. If you are ever in the Phoenix/Anthem area in Arizona I would love to join up with you for a run.
    Katherine Nelsen-Allan

  43. Awesome post. I love the relentless determination. Just the inspiration that I needed today.

  44. I really, really loved this post. Thank you for taking the time to write it, Susan. And thank you, Matt, for posting it!

  45. You’re lucky your parents were so understanding. My brother in law is deaf and his parents never even bothered to learn to sign. Can you BELIEVE that?!

  46. Amazing post!!! I am so inspired and thankful for your post it made my day! You inspire me to be a better person, thank you!

  47. Wonderful post! And a wonderfully inspiring read heading into another busy week. You’re awesome!

  48. jon Weisblatt says:

    When one of the senses is diminished, the others are enhanced. You rock the house! Have fun!

  49. Wow what an inspiring post. I felt so convicted of all my whining rather than viewing challenges as opportunities to grow and develop. And I was absolutely stunned that I have been reading your posts since the beginning and you never mentioned being deaf…I love your sense of humor and refusal to give into a pity party. Such a good post for me 🙂

  50. “Rather than seeing each obstacle as a dead end, realize that it’s nothing more than a speed bump; You might have to slow down a little bit for it, but you can get over it.”
    This is a line that I think about every day. It was amazing to read this post. It hit home pretty hard, I went blind in one eye when I was 15 years old. Since then I have had 5 eye surgeries and still blind in my eye. I have Coats Disease but no biggie. Just like you, don’t pitty me, I don’t need it. Since then I have found triathlon and ultra-marathons. Place in the top 5 in both ultra’s I have done and now training for 2 Ironmans this year, oh year and I am blind athlete guide. I found out about them through a friend and I actually lead the blind athletes in marathons and triathlons in the US and Canada, and yes, the blind leading the blind, I get that a lot. You have to take your “disability” and make the most of it. Me, I know that if something happens to my other eye, I will be needing a guide for my races. I am guiding Boston this year but wanted to earn my spot there, not just go there to guide, so I ran a 2:58 marathon and now I can say I earned my spot there. So, thank you for posting this, it is all so true. I love your blog and keep it up!

  51. I don’t know if this is the best way to contact Susan and I am hesitant to impinge upon her/you this way. I am a writer currently working on a book who’s main character goes deaf. If you are willing to answer a few questions for me, please contact me. I understand if you do not want this to define you. If that is the case, please tell me to “shove off.”

  52. I’m going to have to borrow your mantra from time to time, cause it’s freaking awesome!

    ” I can, I will…and kiss my ass.”

  53. I have goosebumps. My goosebumps have goosebumps. This post was glorious. I’ve worked as a relay operator in the deaf community for years and have never come across someone so pumped and nonchalant in regards to their disability. You even played saxophone! You are officially my new hero! Well done, madam. I applaud you. <3

  54. Thank you so much for writing this. I am not an athelete, yet I can see how this inspiring advice can be applied to so many facets of life. It makes me all fired up to pick myself up and try again.

  55. My daughter sent this to me. I am 66 Y.O. and have a 95% hearing loss. My right ear does not work and my left one is working at 5%. I am going to ASL but it is so frustrating that i can’t keep up. My daughter, son and daughter-in-law are coming with me. You see i am feeling sorry for myself and my daughter sent me this post and it really has given me lots to think about. It has inspired me to do better in class and stop feeling sorry for myself. Thank you Susan for a wonderful article.

  56. Dana Dobbs says:

    I’m Deaf too!!!!!

  57. Dana Dobbs says:

    I’m a 2x Deaf Olympic US track and field team member and a 2x Kona FInisher!!!!!

  58. Kudos to your article, however, I’d just like to snoop a bit further into your life if you don’t mind. 0:) Do you know ASL or have you succeeded by mainstreaming fluently in hearing world? All the best to ya.

    • Hi, Josh…snoop away. 🙂

      I didn’t learn sign language until I was in college. I needed a foreign language, and I figured since I was deaf, ASL would come naturally to me.

      Long story short…I got a B in that class, and only because my best friend sat next to me in class and I copied off her exams. 🙂 So much for it “coming naturally.” 🙂

  59. Definitely a Mantra for those final miles!
    I had my target set for an Ironman 70.3.. You have it signed, sealed and delivered.
    And you have me set on me taking my doctorate.

    Not because of what you’ve done – but because of how I feel and how much I want to help others feel that empowered. I am entirely designed for endurance challenges but have denied myself the pleasure of really enjoying it until about a year ago -> Now: I’m hooked.

    I had a little sticker marked bipolar that I think someone tried to make me wear once – but I’m going to go looking for the one that says Ironman instead – It’ll suit me better.

    There were so many people in this trail of comments that responded to your total commitment and denial of all other possibilities.

    I look forward to authoring my own mantra, to my commiting that sentence to a page that declares who I am and have it be as spectacular as the person you are – AND you’ve got 3yrs on me to continue being ever more incredible!

    We can – We Will – and..(Watch your mouth young lady!)
    ; )

    Thank you Susan
    – You just made many lives more extraordinary

    (Thank your parents for us)

  60. Are you profoundly deaf? Do you wear hearing aids or cochlear implants? What are your decibels for both ears?

  61. I just stumbled across this great write-up. I have switched over to ultras as of September 2013 whuch Im totally loving it. I myself am deaf so just seeing
    who is out there.

    Keep it up!

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