“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
I might change the wording of this slightly. “The secret of “LIFE” is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
All too often, we get bogged down by the old ways or, even worse, complacency takes hold, and we forget how exciting it is to learn and grow.
I prefer to think of life as being similar to compound interest. Every experience, every learning, every mistake, it all contributes to becoming a more robust and fulfilled version of yourself. If we miss an opportunity, we miss it forever, as well as the compounded growth that could have stacked on top.
Every day is an opportunity to build something new. Even if it is only a slight improvement over yesterday, it is still an improvement. Creating a life focused on building the new you choose to create a life of exponential compound growth.
“Our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.”
Do you view the experiences you have had in life as gifts to build from or as anchors holding you back?
How you consider all the things that have occurred in your life, whether good, bad, or ugly, will define your future. You can either choose to carry them with you as baggage, or you can choose to view them as fuel. Baggage slows you, and fuel propels you. Which one do you think will move you forward? It’s up to you, how do you want to live?
“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”
I love this quote because, for me, it defines the difference between failure and growth. If you do the things listed here, then it isn’t a failure. It is merely an experience that didn’t turn out the way you wanted. Then you can learn from it and go forward better and smarter.
Failure is refusing to learn.
Failure is blaming someone or something else.
Failure is quitting.
Failure is letting the past control you instead of owning the opportunity to do something better based on the first-hand experience of what doesn’t work.
“We are made to persist. That’s how we find out who we are.”
Can you imagine who you would be today if you had never been tested or challenged? Those things that are our most significant challenges at the moment are merely the building blocks of the person we are supposed to become. Without them, we are only a shadow of the person we were created to be and can’t serve others in the fullest capacity.
Embrace the opportunities to persist; those moments are the crucible where something extraordinary is being forged. We can either choose to be the iron being crafted into something beautiful or we can choose to be the anvil, unmovable and unchanging.
“This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Merely spending a quiet moment at the end of the day reflecting on what might have made the day even more impactful; is enough time spent on the past. This time is precious; it is time spent learning and growing, so tomorrow will be even more powerful.
Make tomorrow better by actively learning from today. The precious and finite time you have to spend tomorrow is worth it.
“The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.”
Revealing to someone else their own riches is akin to creating and unlocking the secret of the compound interest rates in another person’s life.
Helping someone discover their hidden gifts or talents will create a lasting impact that will extend far beyond the individual you enabled. Just like $1,000 invested when a person turns 18 grows to be worth almost $90,000 (at 10% growth) by the time they retire, the investment you make in others will expand over time. One CRITICAL difference is that the impact isn’t limited by market returns or by the original investment amount. Because you are enabling another person, the returns can generate at an exponential rate.
Because one person’s life is changed forever, they impact 1, 100, 1,000, 10,000 others throughout their lives (or even more…).
Invest in others, not just by sharing your earthly blessings but also by building a 10x impact by unlocking other people’s talents and treasures. The return on your investment might be eternal.
“Genuine tolerance does not mean ignoring differences as if differences made no difference. Genuine tolerance means engaging differences within a bond of civility and respect.”
Richard John Neuhaus
The danger of tolerance is that you are intentionally creating an opening in your mind for both understanding and a potential perspective shift. It is far easier to be intolerant and dogmatic about what you believe than to be open and understanding.
But when you genuinely open your mind to the perspectives and positions of others, not only do you create fertile ground for growth in yourself, you also unlock the power of “we.” The collective skills, talents, and capabilities of a group will always exceed those of one person. Learning tolerance and understanding unlocks tremendous potential, both in yourself and in others.
Besides, by overcoming intolerance, you, by default, begin to remove ignorance from your life.
“Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it… that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear.”
As a young child, I can vividly remember having my right thumb slammed in a door when I was six or seven years old. I don’t recall all the details of what happened, but one thing that stands out as clearly today as it did when it happened. Specifically, it is the image of the doctor using a syringe to numb my finger in preparation for stitches that looms so large. I can remember seeing that needle disappear into my skin like it was yesterday.
That one event served to generate a healthy distaste of needles that I carried forward into life. It was only many, many years later, that I decided to face my fear and donate blood. Because I was not too fond of needles, to say the least, I decided I needed to overcome this irrational fear and watch the technician when they drew blood. Fortunately, I didn’t pass out due to tremendous pain or suffer a great shock by watching the needle penetrate my skin. I barely felt it at all.
The fear that had prevented me from giving blood for years was irrational and unreasonable. All it took was facing it head-on and choosing not to let fear control me. To this day, I still watch anytime I get a shot or give blood to remind myself of how powerful fear can be and how important it is to take control of your fears instead of letting them control you.
Isn’t it amazing how choosing to take action can seem to stop fear in its tracks? Just doing something, anything, creates the momentum necessary to move you forward and slows or halts the spread of fear.
Action mobilizes, fear paralyzes…
Where do you need to take action today? Why are you waiting?
Last Tuesday, I had the incredible opportunity and blessing to share the day with two great friends and colleagues, David Childs and David Lillard of Spartan Planning and Branding. They are in Greensboro, NC, and were putting the final touches on their 2nd Annual Leadership Symposium aptly named “Spartan Pro Day.” Last year’s inaugural event was a resounding success, selling out and maximizing their venue’s capacity.
At the beginning of the year, David Childs asked me to be one of the speakers at this year’s event on the topic of leadership, and I was both thrilled and honored to play a small role in their vision of building leaders.
Year 2 was all set to build on last year’s success with space reserved at a venue twice the size, and present company excluded, an incredible roster of speakers. But, as the year progressed, the implications of a world forever changed by the pandemic began to influence their plans and thinking.
It would have been so easy for them to write off 2020, to say, “due to the state of the world and the restrictions on gathering, we are going to postpone Spartan Pro Day until we can produce the event safely.”
However, they both realized that there has never been a more critical time to highlight the impact of positive leadership and share content that would be highly powerful and meaningful to their constituents. So they did what great leaders do in a time of crisis and uncertainty. They pivoted to a new direction and held true to their vision of putting on a conference enabling leaders to “Grow Personally. Grow Professionally. Make A Difference.”
Spartan Pro Day is now a virtual event being held over the next three weeks, AND it is FREE OF CHARGE for anyone that would like to participate and grow.
Leadership is having a vision, and then doing whatever it takes to make that vision become a reality. As John Maxwell writes, “leadership is influence,” and Spartan Pro Day was an incredible influence on me, and I am grateful to have played a small role in bringing their vision to life.
If you are interested in enrolling, check out the link below. As a sports fan and a Carolina Panthers fan, I particularly loved the stories shared by Mick Mixon in his “Tales from the Press Box” session.
“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
According to Wikipedia, “An experiment is a procedure carried out to support, refute, or validate a hypothesis. Experiments provide insight into cause-and-effect by demonstrating what outcome occurs when a particular factor is manipulated. Experiments vary greatly in goal and scale, but always rely on repeatable procedure and logical analysis of the results.”
How many of your major decisions, or minor ones, have you reviewed through the lens of experimentation? If all life is an experiment, how much of our time do we spending acting in such a manner?
There are three themes of questions: building blocks of experimentation that could and should be leveraged in our daily lives.
What is my hypothesis? What am I seeking to support, refute, or validate with this action or decision?
Based on the results of my experiment, what did I learn? What does a “logical analysis of the results” reveal?
Based on the answers to the above questions, what is my new hypothesis? What lessons on cause and effect will I carry forward into my next decision or set of actions?
When you start some new project, initiative, or idea, are you seeking to support, refute, or validate a hypothesis? Do you seek to understand the results in a non-emotional and quantitative manner?
Imagine how powerful our lives would be if we chose to live with an attitude of experimentation in all of our decisions? What if everything was done through a lens of learning and growth? Test and learn, evolve, and grow.
“You’ve got to get to the stage in life where going for it is more important than winning or losing.”
It is funny how we start life with an attitude of learning and development, but somewhere along the way, we are taught that the result matters more than the attempt.
This belief creates a limit on what people can achieve because there are two key focal points. One, winning is everything, and I won’t try if I can’t win. Two, losing is bad, and I won’t try if the risk of losing is too high.
As young children, we attempt things with no fear of failure because we don’t think of our endeavor as a win or loss. We try, we learn, we develop. Then we grow up, and our measuring stick of success changes. Somehow we must rediscover our childlike attitude of going for it without the requirement of winning or letting the fear of failure limit our attempts…
“If your parents ever measured you as a child, they had you stand against a wall, and made a little pencil mark on the wall to show your growth. They did not measure you against your brother, or the neighbor’s kids, or kids on TV. When you measure your growth, make sure to only measure your today self by your past self. If you compare your relationships, your success, or your anything against anyone else, you are not being fair to you. Everyone has a different path, a different pace, and different challenges to face along the way.”
I love the analogy used in this quote, the absolute truth conveyed by the pencil marks on the wall. Those were specific data points from a moment in time that can’t be changed or stretched to fit a different narrative or used to compare to someone else.
What are the “marks on the wall” in your life today? How do you measure your growth in a specific and objective manner, not subject to interpretation by or comparison to others? What are you doing to ensure that you are capturing your advancement in life and ensuring that you are continually moving forward and making progress?
Perhaps you need to create a measurement mechanism and a timeline for regular review to capture where you are at specific moments in time, just like those pencil marks on the wall.
Ask yourself these three simple questions two to three times per year. Use the same journal or writing medium, so as time passes, you can look back at your answers and see how YOU have grown and evolved.
Who do I want to be?
Why is this important to me?
How do I need to change to become that person?
Notice that none of these questions are about “what do I want?” Or “what do others expect?” These questions are about drilling into yourself and creating a discipline of regular check-ins to establish a baseline and measure your progress.
Give it a try. Go ahead and answer these questions today, and when you get done, put time on your calendar six months from now to do it again. Add another appointment for one year from today. You are making this appointment with and for yourself. Can you imagine how influential this journal would be ten, fifteen, or twenty years from today? I certainly wish I had started this practice twenty years ago, I can’t begin to imagine how powerful it would be to have a quantitative measuring stick of my evolution and progress.
“It’s not about achieving the goal. It’s about who you become in order to achieve the goal. The juice is in the growth.”
Perhaps an alternative way to think about this is to turn the quote inside out. Have you ever achieved a goal that you desperately wanted, and hated the person you became through the process? I position it this way not to be a “Debbie downer” but to illustrate the power of purpose and the importance of choosing the right goals for our lives.
Perhaps we should stop making our plans based on achieving some specific thing or outcome, but instead, we should select our targets based on the process of growth that we will have to complete to make them a reality. Maybe we should choose our goals based on who we want to become through the journey.
Let me share a simple example. Several years ago, my wife (who was my girlfriend at the time) and I traveled to Colorado and climbed Mt. Yale, one of Colorado’s famous “14’rs” (mountains that have their peak above 14,000 feet). We started just after daylight and achieved the summit just before midday. We enjoyed a few minutes at the top of the mountain, took some pictures, and then headed back down the trail for our 6-mile hike back to our car. My memories of that day, and most of the pictures we took along the way, are of the journey. It was the entirety of the shared experience, what it meant for our burgeoning relationship and a discovery of a shared passion for challenging hikes that made the journey meaningful and impactful. Achieving the goal was nice, but it wasn’t the thing that truly mattered. What happened along the way was what was actually important.
Do you choose mountains in order to achieve the summit or do you want to soak in the experience of the journey along the way? “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” Matthew 16:26 ESV
Is it the achievement of the goal that matters or who you become in pursuit of the RIGHT GOALS that is truly important?
“Not seeing results? Feel like giving up? Consider this: The last thing to grow on a fruit tree… is the fruit.”
If you plant an apple seed today then it will take 6 – 8 years for the tree to grow and then begin to produce fruit. Does this mean you shouldn’t plant the tree? Water and care for the tree? Skip the hard work along way while waiting for the tree to mature to the point where it is capable of producing apples?
Consider this. When an apple tree does mature, and begin to deliver on the vision you had when you first planted it, it can grow 2-5 BUSHELS of apples PER YEAR. That’s a lot of apples.
The moral of the story is this. In our “everything now” world sometimes we get focused on eating an apple RIGHT THIS MINUTE. However, focusing on the right now might cause you to miss out on the incredible fruit that is just around the corner.
The ability we each have to deliver on our potential, and produce bushels of output impacting the lives of others, will come through disciplined focus and care on growth process, not on the fruit itself. The fruit is the result you achieve by not giving up on your dreams when the work is hard and you can’t see past the near term challenges.
If we don’t lose focus and hope we will mature and grow and learn to produce fruit for the world to consume in quantities which greatly exceed our current capacities. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
“Self-reflection is a humbling process. It’s essential to find out why you think, say, and do certain things – then better yourself.”
Can you be real with yourself? Truly honest? If you want to create a better version of yourself, the first step is to curate internal conversations that frankly won’t be very comfortable. Sometimes the hardest person to be truthful with is the one who lives inside our own minds.
For me, this starts with a willingness to ask tough questions and then sitting down with a journal to write out my answers. I find the act of writing to be the defining factor that allows me to separate my internal narrative, the story I believe in my head, from a broader and more instrospective truth. When I write the worlds flow from my hands without a filter, without a conscious narrative that distorts the truth.
Of course, the most important step is to find the right questions. The easiest way to circumvent accountability and ownership is to avoid the questions you don’t want to have to answer. I found a good list of questions several years ago and I am going through an exercise now to answer each of these in order. These might not be the right questions for you but it is a good place to start. You can’t create the right answers if you don’t ask the right questions.
Challenge yourself to take the next 100 days and answer one question each day. Be honest in your answers, don’t overthink, just grab a pen and paper or your favorite digital journal and simply write. You might be surprised what you learn about yourself…
“Challenge yourself every day to do better and be better. Remember, growth starts with a decision to move beyond your present circumstances.”
It can be incredibly challenging to remain focused on growth when the weight of the world is on your shoulders and the “tyranny of the urgent” is demanding all of your time and attention. To be intentional about growth one must foster a discipline of lifting your gaze from the current moment and check your compass to make sure you are still moving in the right direction.
In today’s world, we navigate via apps and digital routing engines which tell us where to turn and exactly what to do. We never have to pay attention to the details around us because we have ceded control to a lifeless routing engine which is managing our journey. In many ways, this can be a representation of how we choose to live our lives. Numb to what is going on around us and without perspective if we are truly headed in the right direction.
After making any decision to change the single most important thing you must do is develop a method of measuring progress and direction. This is where an old school map can be so powerful and create such an advantage. In a single glance, one can see the entire route and have perspective on the whole journey. The beauty of a map is that it isn’t a “set and forget” kind of thing. You have to pay attention in order to use it effectively. You must check-in at times to make sure you are still on the right path and moving in the desired direction.
Challenge yourself to do better and better every single day AND create a good map that will allow you to both measure progress and ensure you are moving in the right direction. There is nothing worse than going on a journey and ending up at the wrong destination…
“You cannot be anything you want to be—but you can be a lot more of who you already are.”
So much of our lives can be spent in the pursuit of something you think you want, yet isn’t coming from a place where you are maximizing your God-given gifts. No matter how much I like running, I am never going to win marathons or half marathons. This is just not what my body is built to achieve. However, I can still enjoy running and I can still enjoy the distance and I can still improve on what and who I am within the sport.
The key to success in life is to develop extreme awareness of self, who you are and what powers and drives you. Then put your full and complete effort into becoming more of that person, better at those particular things.
Developing this sense of self means you must become finely attuned to what and who you are not so that you can dedicate the time and energy into being the best version of the person you built to become.
Know your race. Run your race. Improve on your race. That is how you win.
“I am thankful the most important key in history was invented. It’s not the key to your house, your car, your boat, your safety deposit box, your bike lock or your private community. It’s the key to order, sanity, and peace of mind. The key is ‘Delete.'”
It is a sign of our age that the first image I thought of when I read this quote was the “delete” key on a computer keyboard. Though upon further reflection perhaps that is equally fitting since everything comes through some sort of digital filter nowadays!
What really strikes me when I meditate on this quote for a few minutes is while this might be the most important key in history, it is equally likely to be the least efficiently wielded. Well, I can only speak for myself of course!
Saying “no” can be a very hard thing to do at times. But without a doubt, it is the most powerful word in the English language when it comes to getting things done. Let me rephrase this, it is the most powerful word in the English language when it comes to getting the RIGHT things done…
Once a quarter I sit down and take stock of my weekly calendar and routine tasks to see what changes I need to make to ensure I am spending my time in the most productive and effective manner. Invariably I find myself looking at things I WANT to do but in reality, are preventing me from getting the things I NEED to get done done. While I struggle with saying no, the best discipline I have EVER created was the regular and recurring use of the “delete key” on all things that don’t make me more effective in the pursuit of my goals.
In all likelihood, I should wield this discipline more often than once a quarter…
“The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.”
How do you keep growing and learning? How can you take steps to ensure that you are always working on honing and perfecting your craft? What do you have to do nurture a growth mindset? I believe there are three key things one must do to make growing a continual process.
First, be very intentional about cultivating a feedback-seeking mindset with the key people around you. Ask them to help you grow and learn by sharing their perspectives and insights. You must enlist those you trust to help you see your blind spots.
Secondly, never allow yourself to accept the status quo or simply “good enough.” Good enough can very quickly become mediocrity and mediocrity slides into irrelevance. Complacency is death.
Third, constantly remind yourself that your skills and talents are God-given and not something you earned or deserved. Honor these gifts by nourishing them the same way you would care for a garden of flowers.
The beauty of life is that we can never do or be everything, but we can always improve ourselves and the lives of those around us. You just have to keep growing.
“The best feeling in the world is finally knowing you took a step in the right direction. A step towards the future where everything that you never thought possible, is possible.”
One of my favorite speeches from all of Shakespeare is the one King Henry delivers to his troops during the storming of Harfleur. These words convey such passion, such emotion, and summon energy that is palpable every single time I read them. (I might be guilty of having the entire speech memorized…)
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close the wall up with our English dead. In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man As modest stillness and humility: But when the blast of war blows in our ears, Then imitate the action of the tiger; Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
I can only imagine the impact this speech would have had on the soldiers upon hearing this delivered by their King.
Fortunately, we aren’t charging castles much anymore but the passion and fire demonstrated in these words captures the essence of how I feel when I’ve made the decision and it is time to charge forward and turn dreams into reality. There is nothing quite like knowing you have made the call, and you know it is the right call because there is a lightness in your step and an energy that is felt in every fiber of your being.
What are you waiting on? What decisions are you wrestling with? What is holding you back? Find the actions of the tiger, stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood and spring forward. That next step might be the one that changes your world forever.
“Stop being afraid of what could go wrong, and start being excited about what could go right.”
Do you want to spend your precious life afraid or excited? Do you want to live fearfully or with enthusiasm?
It’s your choice. You can do one of two things. You can change your circumstances or you can change your attitude.
Fear is a choice.
Excitement is a choice.
Find something that excites you. Focus on the opportunities, not the failures. Get knocked down and then get back up. If you lean forward and choose excitement, things have a way of working out for the best…
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”
If you aren’t living life in this way what exactly do you have? An existence. Simply a series of events moving you towards a point in the future which may or may not be meaningful. For most of us, present times set aside, our lives are no longer about mere survival. We have more to give, more to see, more to do, more to live.
When we become timid and choose to wait to see what the world throws at us, we lose the ability to seek out the new adventures that might be just beyond the turn in the road in front of us.
The best way to live life in the moment, and not miss out on what is truly important, is to focus on being present TODAY and thereby reducing future regrets. When the end comes, and it will come for all of us, what will you regret having NOT done?What adventures will you wish you HAD taken?Who will you wish you had spent MORE time with?
“I’m always tweaking, always trying to make it better, constantly moving the levers and dials.”
Life is a lot like sailing. You can be headed towards a destination and the winds might shift or die down. If you aren’t paying close attention and making constant adjustments you will lose the wind and might not make it to where you are going.
Another way sailing imitates life is only rarely do you get to where you want to go via a straight line. Instead, you have to make a series of maneuvers (tacks) leveraging the winds you have in order to get to where you want to be. Additionally, the wind and sea will be different every day so rarely is the journey exactly the same. You have to be prepared to make adjustments and changes to adapt to whatever a given day on the ocean brings.
That’s just like life isn’t it? You have to plan, adjust, readjust, and change your plans constantly if you want to make it to your destination. If you don’t, you get lost when the winds shift and you don’t adjust…
“If you want to find the real competition, just look in the mirror. After a while you’ll see your rivals scrambling for second place.”
Every morning ask yourself these two questions. Am I better today than I was yesterday? Will I be better tomorrow for what I going to do today?
If the answer to the first question is “no” then you have established your competition for the day. You have to do whatever it takes to drive yourself forward in a manner that allows you to answer the question differently tomorrow!
If the answer to the second question is “no” then that is a full-on indictment of what you have planned for the day. How are you investing your time? How are you approaching your tasks and challenges? Where do you need to reset the bar so you can push yourself to do more, learn more?
There are so many dimensions of our lives that these questions can, and should be applied to on a daily basis. They touch all of the building blocks that go into creating a successful life. Physical wellness, mental health, career/vocation, hobbies/advocation, family/friends, spiritual alignment, etc.
Each of us has a unique and special set of these dimensions based on our God-given gifts and talents, unique experiences, skills and education, etc. What good does it do to spend your energy trying to compare yourself to someone else? You don’t have their building blocks, and they don’t have yours.
It is great to use the competition as a measuring stick to establish a baseline comparison set for your performance and growth. But the real magic happens when you adopt a mental state of beating and exceeding your own limitations. Raise your bar. Don’t let someone else set that bar for you. Don’t be limited by the competition!
Am I better today than I was yesterday? Will I be better tomorrow for what I going to do today?
Don’t waste the precious gift that you have been given today. Choose to live life in a way where the competitors that truly matter, the pale shadows of an unfulfilled and incomplete self, are left far behind you.
“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”
Do you choose to see the world through a lens of positive or negative opportunities? Is your first inclination to look for the reasons why something won’t work? Or do you have a tendency to see the silver lining in every cloud? How you choose to answer these questions will have a profound impact on your life.
Everything that happens creates an opportunity for growth and development. One technique that I have found helpful is to reframe the current situation and think as if I were recalling it a year from now. Ask yourself this question. One year from today what is the biggest opportunity that was presented I am so glad I didn’t let slip through my fingers?
In many ways, the bigger the difficulty, the larger the opportunities that exist to change your world, and the world of those around you. Reframe your mind to think about the world from a “future back” perspective and suddenly all those challenges will present themselves as opportunities…
“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”
Harriet Beecher Stowe
What motivates you to carry on despite the struggles you are facing? How do you know when it is time to quit? How do you choose to persevere when everything seems to be stacked against you?
In 2013 I participated in the inaugural Ironman Lake Tahoe (IMLT) endurance race. I had completed my first Ironman race in 2011 and found I really enjoyed the training that goes into preparing your body to be tested by a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike, and a 26.2-mile run. I chose to sign up for Lake Tahoe simply because of the sheer beauty of the location and as an opportunity to see a place I had never been before. I trained my heart out all summer and when race day arrived on September 23, 2013, I was ready.
The race was epic in every sense of the word. It was indescribably beautiful, the Sierra Nevada mountains with their snow-tipped peaks visible in every direction, and it was also incredibly challenging. It was so cold the morning of the race that the 64-degree water in Lake Tahoe felt warm and swimming at 6,200 of elevation was just a unique and special challenge. The best way to describe it is to imagine trying to swim while breathing through a single drinking straw. The bike was extraordinarily difficult due to the mountains you had to cross and the grade of the climbs involved (I looked down at my speedometer at one point and I was moving 3 miles per hour). The run was relatively flat but it was so cold down by the river that staying warm was an impossible challenge.
The DNF rate (did not finish) at IMLT in 2013 was north of 23% and I very easily could have been one of those who did not finish. The run was very tough and there were several points where quitting was probably the smartest option. I developed blisters on the bottom of my left foot at mile 8 that were so bad that I had to stop twice at the medical tents to get treatment. Every step was painful and I thought my foot was on fire. But quitting, walking away and actually ending my race early, never crossed my mind for more than a fleeting moment.
Why didn’t I quit? What kept me going when I knew I had 18 miles still to go and my foot was in severe pain? I certainly wasn’t racing for money or a spot on the podium. I am a very atypical triathlete at 6′ 4″ tall and 225 pounds. I wasn’t going to “win” anything. What kept me going was a relentless focus on what I wanted to accomplish by completing this race. My goal was to prove to myself that the mind is stronger than the body. I wanted to challenge myself to take on more than I could handle, and then plow through the wall. I knew I could finish if I stopped thinking about the seemingly insurmountable distance that was remaining and just focused on what was right in front of me at that moment.
I vividly remember the aid station at mile eight where I first stopped to have my foot checked out. I got up and ran/hobbled a few steps and my mind immediately went to a “there’s no way I can do this for 18 more miles” headspace. I remember taking a moment to gather my thoughts and remember what I was attempting to prove to myself, and thinking, “I can make it to mile nine.” So I did. And then mile ten, eleven, twelve, and on and on. I still remember mile 23 like it was yesterday. At that point I knew all was left was a 5k and in my mind, anybody can run a 5k. Running through that finish line chute was one of the most exhilarating and rewarding moments of my life. Should I have quit? Maybe. But I didn’t, and because of this, I learned more about myself than I could ever glean from a lifetime of reading or study.
Sometimes quitting will seem to be the easiest and perhaps the only option available. Before you allow yourself to go down the mental path of quitting I highly recommend that you take the time to think through the following questions.
Why did you start?
Why is this important?
What will matter more a year from now, that you persevered, or that you quit?
Who will you be letting down?
What is God teaching you through this challenge?
If you don’t take the time to answer these, I can almost guarantee that you will regret your decision. If you do answer them, and quitting is still the smartest and best option, you can do so with full faith and confidence that you thought through your decision fully and completely.
Even after you have answered the questions remind yourself of these things when you are tempted to throw in the towel and walk away.
This is all temporary – Tomorrow will come, and so will next week, next month, and next year.
The goal is bigger than the pain – If you had the courage to start something you had to have a reason why. Don’t lose sight of your goal.
When in doubt, break your goal down into the smallest possible step that can be achieved. And then do it again and again and again.
Some things are bigger than yourself – Some challenges, goals, and opportunities rise above your individual feelings and perceptions. Don’t let the voice in your head convince you to lose sight of this.
Who you will become as a person is defined by your decisions and actions in the most difficult times.
Quitting and failing are two different things. Don’t confuse them.
I share this story not because I did anything particularly amazing (I didn’t!), but because it was the best and most vivid personal example I could think of from my life. What I learned is that sometimes the reward is just on the other side of the breaking point…
“Surround yourself with people that push you to do better. No drama or negativity. Just higher goals and higher motivation. Good times and positive energy. No jealousy or hate. Simply bringing out the absolute best in each other.”
There is something special about being around people who push you to be better for the right reasons. These are the people who energize you and motivate you to go and do and bemore than you even thought was possible. People like this make life fun, enjoyable, meaningful, purposeful, impactful, and the list goes on and on.
This is in marked contrast to those who might push you, but they do so for selfish reasons. They push you because doing so is all about them. It is what you can do for them that is all they care about. These people make life challenging, empty, miserable, draining and demotivating.
Here is an interesting exercise. Look at each of these sentences and simply rate the people you have surrounded yourself with with a “Yes or No” for that specific aspect.
“Surround yourself with people that push you to do better.“
“No drama or negativity.“
“Just higher goals and higher motivation.“
“Good times and positive energy.“
“No jealousy or hate.“
“Simply bringing out the absolute best in each other.”
How do the people that you have chosen to surround yourself with measure up to these words? Do your “Yes’s” outnumber the “No’s?”
You have a choice. Pick the people you want in your life. Prune the rest. Life is too short to surround yourself with people that don’t energize and inspire you to become the person you were meant to be.
“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”
Do you choose to live a life based on risk minimizationorrisk management?
While initially there might not appear to be a lot of difference in these perspectives I firmly believe they are opposite sides of a continuum.
Risk minimization is a decision framework based on fear, avoiding something potentially harmful or damaging. Risk management is a decision path that is future focused, where you are intentionally seeking a path forward with the cognitive understanding that something might not happen as you exactly expect. Yet you know you will be equipped to deal with whatever happens because you are willing to think about it now and you aren’t willing to let it stop you or slow you down.
Risk Minimization: A fear-based approach to decision making and action that seeks to minimize any and all risks. The fear of mistakes, and the consequences of those mistakes, will be a driver of your actions, or a lack of action. A risk minimization attitude says “what are all the things that could possibly go wrong, and how do I avoid them?”
Risk Management: A future-based approach to life and decision making that prioritizes action and doing. You choose to make decisions with a clear understanding that not everything will go according to plan. However, with sufficient planning and an appetite for healthy risk, obstacles can and will be overcome. A risk management thinking style says, “what is the worst possible outcome of this decision or action, and how do I prepare for it?”
If you want to live life as a doer, a person that takes action and gets things done, then you must embrace a future-based approach to decision making and action. Risks simply need to be understood and managed, not avoided. Mistakes will happen and should happen. Not everything will go according to plan.
A mistake is nothing more than an opportunity to make a different decision based on better information than you had when you made your last decision. If you aren’t making mistakes then you aren’t trying hard enough and you aren’t creating opportunities for learning and growth. After all, what is the worst that can happen?
“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
The minute you believe that you are better than someone else you have lost the essence of our shared humanity; you are buying into the lie that the world revolves around self and our reason for existence is simply to serve our own egos and desires.
Nothing could be further from the truth. We aren’t here on this earth to build monuments to ourselves. The pale accomplishments we take such pride in today will mean nothing in just a few years. We are here to impact the lives of others and make a difference through service to others.
In order to accomplish this we must completely surrender our desires to be better than any other person and put our energy and focus into being the person that God created us to be. Relentless discontent with the status quo, our own status quo, is the key to becoming the person that you were born to be…