What does it take to succeed?
Even with the toughest of people, life will test them and make them question how mentally strong they are. Everyone on the planet gets tough times thrown at them, so why do some people come out stronger for it? I am always reading stories of incredible human endurance that could kill most ‘normal’ people. They have been most formative to me and I’ll never forget some of the stories I have read or the lessons that I have learnt that have helped me develop my own mental strength. Here are a few that scratch the surface.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes is touted as "the world's greatest living explorer."
In the year 2000 Sir Ranaulph Fiennes was crossing the arctic on his own, carrying all of his equipment and food, Along the way, his sled fell through the ice. Fiennes had no choice but to pull the sled free because he was on his own. He pulled off his gloves and dipped his left hand into the frigid water, which hovered around 30 degrees Fahrenheit. "My fingers were ramrod stiff and ivory white. They might as well have been wood ... I had seen enough frostbite in others to realize I was in serious trouble. I had to turn back," Fiennes wrote in his autobiography. The explorer was evacuated the next day. Fiennes learned at the hospital that the top third of all of his fingers and half of his thumb would have to be amputated. He also learned that he would not be able to complete any further expeditions in the arctic with his fingers in their current state. So, "I purchased a set of fretsaw blades at the village shop, put the little finger in my Black & Decker folding table's vice, and gently sawed through the dead skin and bone just above the live skin line," he wrote. "The moment I felt pain or spotted blood, I moved further into the dead zone. I also turned the finger around several times and cut into it from different sides. This worked well, and the little finger's knuckle finally dropped off after some two hours of work." He then completed his expedition.
What did I learn from this story? That some people can be so focused on their goal that nothing, absolutely nothing will get in the way. That is the way of the worlds greatest sports men and women. Ussain Bolt, Serena Williams, Roger Federer and my all time hero, Michael Jordan. Ok, so the example might be a little extreme for a pursuit like CrossFit which focuses on health, but you get the idea. Focus on your goal and simply get there. Remain laser focused and do what you need to do to get there. Any goal worth achieving will require some level of sacrifice and the greater the achievement, the greater the level of dedication and sacrifice. Understand what it takes and simply get it done. If you don’t get there then the chances are you didn’t mean it in the first place.
When Michael Jordan was playing high school ball, he tried out for the junior team at Laney high school. This was at a time when any media was far less developed than it is now and Michael had never even seen a pro game. He had no idea of the level to aspire to and this was critical in forming the immense athlete he became. It’s well known that his coach cut him from his high school team and legend has it that he went home and cried to two days straight. His mum came into the bedroom and simply said ‘Michael, you’re just not working hard enough’. And that was it, his hard work ethic was born. He would arrive early before practice and run suicide drills on his own and he would stay late after practice and run more suicides. He would work on all the basics, the drills and the positions that would make him the most fundamentally sound player of all time. All he knew was hard work, that was it, hard work would get him results and because there was very little media that was available to him he could not see a celling of achievement, there was no pre conceived idea of how good he could be. Hard work and ridiculous levels of dedication develop him into the greatest of all time.
A member of staff I used to work with in the prison was an avid football fan and loved to play against the prisoners. Every afternoon we would get outside in the summer onto the AstroTurf and spend 90 minutes out there playing hard ball with the lads. Not being a football player myself I would often supervise the whole pitch from the sideline. I’ve always been deeply interested in the actual mechanics of motivation. Motivation being defined as – the internal mechanisms and external stimuli, which arouse and direct behavior. I always knew there had to be much more to it than that and formulated a few opinions of it myself. I would watch this member of staff play football and could see that although he tried hard he wasn’t that good. He would often lose the ball, turn around and kick out at the prisoner in a fit of rage and frustration. (Yes, an abuse of position). I remember asking a colleague of mine why he had to be like that? “Oh he’s just really competitive” was his reply. This really got me thinking and realising that he wasn’t competitive at all. In fact he was a very poor competitor. If he was a actually motivated he would have stopped smoking, trained outside of football, studied YouTube clips of technique, sought out a coach, looked after his nutrition, played against better opponents, welcomed critique and stopped drinking coffee and slept better. The list is endless and as the level of motivation goes up, so does the sacrifice of what you find comfortable. You would seek out the reason to take ice baths and develop mental strategies raise the level of your game. Read books to understand the mental traits of the worlds most successful people and start to adopt them for yourself. Some would even delve so deep into Michael Jordan’s past in order to understand why he became the athlete that he did.
Simon Sinek is an optimist, motivational speaker and marketing guru. He also knows a thing or two about social media and the negative impacts of the dopamine addiction. Dopamine is the chemical behind most of our most sinful behaviours and secret cravings. It’s the hit we get when we gamble, make love, commit adultery, get attention……dopamine is addiction. It is also the chemical that gets released when we receive a text message, get ‘likes’ on a facebook post, the little red number that appears on your facebook icon to say you have interactions and you have to look straight away. We are all slowly becoming addicts of social media and facebook, of course, play to this. We check our facebook accounts an average of 20 times a day! That’s a compulsive addiction right there. We also make addicts out of our children with instant gratification during formative years. ‘No losers’ at sports day for example. This has been shown to have a negative effect at all levels. The children who don’t win get a false sense of achievement and when they enter the work place, guess what? They don’t appreciate what it takes to succeed and invariably fail. They then turn to social media that has filters and instant gratification to display a life that is false in order to get their dopamine hit. It also underplays the sense of real achievement that the children who win so richly deserve to reinforce the result of hard work. This is all directly related to an increased level of loneliness, depression and suicides because they haven’t been taught the true value of failing. Where am I going with this? The ONLY way to succeed is to fail. Fail forward. When you listen to all of the most successful people of the world they have all failed catastrophically in the past. Even Michael Jordan released an advert which said, ‘I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career, I’ve lost almost 300 games, 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot…and missed. I’ve failed over and over in my life, and that is why, I succeed.’
Only by failing and feeling the pain of that fail can you learn the true catalyst of the drive to succeed. To avoid the pain of failing you will work even harder and smarter to achieve your goals. It will light a fire inside of you to become the best at what you do. If you fall off a rope from 25ft high and lose the crossfit games, guess what…you might just win the next four. It all comes down to how you handle the failure and what you do about it. You can let it eat you up and define you or, you can use it fire you, guide you, drive you and get to the top of that rope.
Success, it seems, comes down to how you view the hard times of life, how you view the fails that must happen, how hard you’re prepared to work for it and what you’re prepared to sacrifice in order to get it.
Get off your phone, define your level, get shit done.