On Testing and Serendipity

By Melanie Moore – August 7, 2012

When you’re in the market for a new appliance, it helps to know what the Consumer Reports rating is…they’ve tested all the food processors, grills, and vacuum cleaners across categories so we, the consumers, can know what to expect. When your relationship survives a crisis, you (or your therapist) might say it has been tested. We are all aware of the standardized testing of students, from TAAS to TAKS to STAR and beyond! SAT and ACT tests are a measure of high school student aptitude which colleges use as a data point for predicting future academic success. Software engineers test their products (or at least their quality assurance colleagues do). Companies of all types conduct “pilot” and “beta” tests. And you don’t have to be Italian to do the “spaghetti test,” literally or figuratively, as we all throw things against the proverbial wall to “see what sticks.”

Some tests are imposed upon us by institutions or by circumstances. Some tests we seek out…or our Facebook friends send them to us. A test, by definition, is an instrument used to measure or characterize or prove something.

Sometimes you study, train, or otherwise prepare for the test. This process is skill-building, not just in terms of the actual intellectual or physical skills gained and honed, but also in the coping skills of not letting nerves or other forms of self-sabotage hinder your performance.

The tests though, that alter the course of a life are those that ambush you…the tests of courage when an endeavor seems futile or doomed to failure, the tests of loving relationships when circumstances such as war or illness or other atrocities land in the middle of your quotidian existence, and the ultimate test of loss leaving you to find resilience wherever you can—hopefully within yourself.

Judy McElroy, Austin’s 2012 Fittest woman, made an interesting comment about the AFM FITTEST. In talking about how people new to a fit lifestyle might get started, she said, like other events, the AFM FITTEST provides a focus for training. I was captivated by her use of the word “focus” instead of “goal.” It’s as though with a focus, you can attain more than the singular end that a “goal” brings to mind in the sense that you may be focused on an event you are training for, but you can wind up gaining many unintended benefits—a sort of serendipity of health and fitness.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, serendipity, “from Serendip, a former name for Sri Lanka…[is] a word coined by Horace Walpole, who says (Let. To Mann, 28, Jan. 1754) that he had formed it upon the title of the fairy-tale The Three Princes of Serendip’, the heroes of which were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.’”

Isn’t it surprising how often we wind up with an amazing bounty of experiences—and possessions—that we were never originally in quest of? Regardless of our stated goal, our forward movement toward a focal point puts us in motion and, given our ability to focus, keeps us in motion. By not giving into inertia, which, (with apologies to Newton and Galileo), can take the form of life, busy-ness, [insert your excuse for not working out here], we stay in motion, just like our Ten Fittest who have stuck with their disciplines for decades. And, like the fabled princes of Serendip, we continue to make discoveries, “by accidents and sagacity, of things [we] were not in quest of.”

How wonderful (full of wonder) the AFM FITTEST turned out to be. It proved to be an event, a contest, and an individual point of focus for many people to start or boost their training. In the process, we all learned new skills, met new people, and changed more than one aspect of our lives. Hooray for the “test” of Serendip!



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