Wouldn't it be great to be a pro surfer? Just surfing every day. Or to be a writer! Just writing awesome stories. What is it that you really wish you were? Golfer? Musician? Photographer?
Here's the truth. You don't really want to do that. Because if you really, truly wanted to you would. What you actually want is to have the benefits of being that person without doing all of the work that it would require to become him/her. To be the surfer without the inevitable near-drowning experiences. The lead guitarist without all of the lessons and scale practice. To be the mountain climber without giving up the normal day-to-day life and routine comforts. And that is fine - just don't fool yourself about who you want to be.
But, there IS something that you would like to be. Maybe it involves what you are already engaged in, and you seek to improve. It may mean a wholesale life-change. In either case, "being anything" takes effort. Often massive, concentrated effort. And, the "cooler" and rarer the job-title-position-accomplishment, the greater the commitment and sacrifice it generally requires. That is WHY it is rare. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. And then it would no longer seem so awesome, nor would the rewards be there.
“If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. It's the hard that makes it great.”
I have been confronted with this reality recently in my own life. I decided I wanted to be an extreme-adventure-ultramarathon athlete. I had completed a 5km Spartan Race last summer at Mt. Tremblant, and run a couple of marathons, so it seemed like "the thing to do". I signed up for The Death Race (June 24, 2011 in Vermont). This is a 50+ mile, 48 hour mountain trek that involves running, crawling, climbing, dragging, chopping, swimming, and surviving unimaginably difficult tasks in heat and cold, day and night. This video describes the 2008 race - which was 1/5th the distance of this year's.
So, I guess that makes me a radical athlete, right? Nope. It just makes me a guy who has signed up for a race that he has no hope of finishing. What will make me a Death Racer is a stomach-churning amount of training, involving pain, discomfort, sacrifice and suffering. And overcoming a lot of self-doubt. A LOT. What the #@$% was I thinking??
Truthfully, I was probably thinking how cool it would be to be someone who could say "Yeah, I am a Death Racer. No big deal". To be someone about whom people say "That guy is crazy [meaning awesome]". And how great it would be to be around people who are doing incredible things. These are all the things that I described above as "the benefits".
But here's the reality of getting there ... Every day in the gym. Crawling through freezing streams in the middle of a winter night. Significantly injuring myself as I find new limits, and knowing I can't stop but have to find a way to press through. Training for 48 hours straight to find out how my body adapts to sleep deprivation. Hearing my own "sensible" voice telling me it is okay, even advisable, to just admit that I can't do this and to quit. These are the things I have been doing, and will be dealing with for the next few months. Like I said, "What the #@$% was I thinking??"
Another thing I have always wanted to do is write. To share my thoughts. To construct and communicate ideas that would entertain and inspire others. The fact that I never actually got around to doing so was always rationalized by "I just need a great topic". So now I have one, so it should be easy right. Nope. Not at all. It is brutal. Every word is second guessed, by none other than myself. Suddenly every conceivable distraction seems imminently important - Facebook, more coffee, the dishes. Do "real" writers feel like this? Doesn't prose just flow effortlessly from their fingertips? The reality is that they face all the same struggles that I do. They have just committed to their craft and do the work.
There are those three words again... Do. The. Work. What do I even mean by that? And isn't it "Just Do It" anyway? Nike made it sound easy - Just Do It. Cool! So all I have to do is Just Do It? Perfect. Okay, here I am, ready to just do it. What is "it"? Snowboarding? Mountain Biking? Skateboarding? Terrific. But if you want to become great at it, here is what just doing it will look like.
That's right. Are you prepared to fail? Repeatedly? Horribly? You won't play your first concert to a standing ovation at Madison Square Gardens. First you will get boo'd off the stage at a local divebar, and that is after thousands of hours of practice just to get that far. Do you have what it takes to brush yourself off and keep going?
There are countless success back-stories I could reference. Michael Jordan being cut from his Grade 10 basketball team. Chicken Soup for the Soul being turned down by 123 publishers. Colonel Sanders, broke at 65 after his restaurant business failed, using the $105 from his first social security check to drive around the country (sleeping in his car) pitching his franchise idea. The common thread to these tales is simple. Every one of these people was a failure. Told by experts in their field that they were not good enough. But they were 100% committed to their goal - their dream - so they did more work.
"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 and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. "
We all know people who are waiting for their ship to come in. Buying lottery tickets with a genuine expectation of striking it rich. Taking courses that offer a sure-fire shortcut to success. Anything but applying consistent, focused effort.
A perfect example of this is the runaway success of the "The Secret", the wildly popular book/movie promoting "The Law of Attraction". The message has been interpreted by most people as "If I just think hard enough about anything, I will receive it. By simply focusing my thoughts on a desired outcome, I will cause it to come about." While it is wonderful that this simplistic packaging has given hope to millions of people, it misses the point almost entirely. Yes, the first step is to train your thoughts. Without faith and focus you will never get out of the gate. But now comes the REAL "secret" ... DO THE WORK! Knock on the doors, put in the practice, hone your skills, seek assistance, make the sacrifices.
Consider this - the woman behind The Secret, Rhonda Byrne, writes on her website about how her book and film came about... "a two-month odyssey of research and investigation... to make a movie, to carry joy to every corner of the Earth, to share this knowledge with billions... the office was filled with brilliant, creative and talented people, all working to complete the most ambitious project any of them had ever worked on... The ensuing four months saw daily gatherings of the team to set intentions for one another and for the project..." As you can see, the secret behind The Secret is that it took a massive amount of work. Yes, it - like everything - began with a thought. And focusing that thought was the next step. But without work it would have been literally nothing.
... and instead would find themselves starting like this and quickly become discouraged...
I called it the "Bruce Lee Effect". People sign up for Karate lessons wanting to be like Bruce Lee, and then quit when they discover that there is no shortcut to getting there. Same goes for windsurfing, writing, extreme-ultra-racing, losing weight, or anything else. You have to DO THE WORK... and it could take a long time!
Doing the work often requires what others would see as enormous sacrifice. One of my all-time favourite companies is Life Is Good. Their feel good vibe and joyous life philosophies are embraced by millions who wear their hats and t-shirts, throw their frisbees, and now attend their annual music festival. Their Foundations raises fortunes for children's charities. Their "overnight success story" started in 1989, as explained on their website ...
"For five years, the brothers hawked tee shirts in the streets of Boston and traveled the East Coast, selling door-to-door in college dormitories. They collected some good stories, but were not very prosperous. They lived on peanut butter and jelly, slept in their van, and showered when they could. Chicks were not impressed."
Of course, all of that work paid off handsomely, both for the lads and for the world. But it WAS hard work.
Now, here is the good news ... are you ready??? Once you start to do the work, you will be astonished at the "coincidences" that occur to help you along and the people you meet who will be happy to teach and mentor you!
"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and endless plans. That the moment one definitely commits oneself then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never have otherwise occurred. A whole stream of events issue from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Begin it now. Or as Nike says, "Just Do It." Definitely begin by focusing your intention, and think positively. That really is no "Secret". An enthusiastic, optimistic outlook is fundamental to most successes - how else do you submit your Chicken Soup for The Soul book to the hundred and first publisher after a hundred "no thanks"? And be prepared to DO THE WORK.
Back to my Death Race. I committed. I sent in my $500 entry fee. I told friends and family. Wanting to pin myself down even further, I gave an interview to my local paper so my whole city could hold me accountable. And then incredible things began happening ... A chiropractor offered me complimentary weekly treatments to maintain top health through my brutal training. A massage therapist did the same. Race organizers introduced me to several incredible athletes who are willing to share their experience. I was invited to a training weekend in Vermont next week. My high school wrestling teammate offered to travel to the race with me for the week in June to support me. My brother offered to drive us down so I can stay focused on the race.
For my part, I am doing the work. I am trudging through miles of snow-covered hills carrying 88 pounds of salt. I am up before dawn every day to go to the gym. I am scouring the net for the craziest workouts I can find and then doing them. I am also recruiting friends to do what they can with me, and we all push and inspire one another.
So what happens if I do all of this work and then fail miserably at The Death Race. Well, let's see. I will be in the best shape of my life. I will have learned so much about what I am capable of and what my limits are. I will have inspired old friends and made new ones. And I will try again. Yes, that is right. I have already signed up for the 2012 Death Race. And it is guaranteed to be even more difficult than this year's. And I will have one more whole year to build myself up for the challenge. And if I do succeed this year (which I will - remember that positive attitude!) there is are always bigger challenges to take on next. (If that philosophy resonates with you, please click to read Jason Jaksetic's phenomenal blog post "Disapprobation, Abandonment, Injury, Death")
"Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they've got a second."
You may be saying, "So? I don't want to climb mountains or conquer the world or strive for so called greatness". And that is absolutely fine. You may be perfectly content and, if so, I wish you all the best. This post is really only for anyone who has ever said "I just wish" or "Wouldn't it be great". You know, like everyone. Because there is always going to be something that you would like to accomplish, change, achieve, make, do or be. Do you want to be a better Dad? Eat healthier? Save the planet? Start a business? And all I am saying is DO THE WORK. It is that simple.
A current client in my coaching practice (I ceased referring to myself as a hypnotherapist to stop attracting lazy clients!) has a goal to lose 100 pounds by October 16th, 2011. That is 32 weeks from now. He has tried and failed many times before he came to me for help. When I explained to him that hypnotherapy is just the first step he did not shy away. I asked him why it is important to lose the weight (going from 6'2" and 325 pounds to a fit 225 pounds) he emotionally described his 11 year old son who he loves and who he is afraid will emulate his habits, told me about his new wife with whom he wants to have a long life, about his family history of diabetes and illness, and about seeing his life energy slipping away as he is less and less able to do the active things he has always enjoyed. Now that he is crystal clear about these compelling motivations, he is finally prepared to do the work. He doesn't just think it would be cool to be 225 pounds. His life and his quality of life depend on it. I have laid out a detailed plan that will require enormous effort on his part - diet, exercise, mindset changes, daily accountability. And I know he will succeed, because I am just as committed as he is and am helping him do the work... one day at a time. THAT IS INSPIRING TO ME!
Anyone can buy the t-shirt or the bumper sticker. I want you to live the life. Be who you want to be. DO THE WORK.
"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined."
Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau