One of the great things in life is standing in awe of those we look up to – whether they are athletes, business people, world leaders, Olympians, or our own colleagues – as they perform exceptionally in their chosen profession or craft.
They WOW and inspire us and may define what it means to be the best at what they do.
Today, I challenge you to want that success for yourself. All too often we look at those examples of greatness and say to ourselves that it could never be me. They have too much talent and natural skill. They were blessed with this or that and had more resources to end up where they are…
Some of that may be true. However, despite all that natural ability, intelligence, or resources, those people we look up to put in days, weeks, months and years of HARD WORK when no one is watching. Their success doesn’t just happen – it is worked for and earned.
Regardless of what we have or have not been blessed with, NO ONE can prevent us from putting in the HARD WORK!
I’ve been fortunate to be on leave for a couple weeks with our new baby, and during naps, I’ve done what most might do – binge watch some Netflix and Amazon Prime.
With football season approaching, I latched on to season 1 and 2 of Amazon’s “All or Nothing” where the camera crew followed the 2015 Arizona Cardinals and 2016 Los Angeles Rams.
It was a great dose of football and more importantly a strong reminder of how much daily blood, sweat and pain goes into creating a professional-grade star performance that the rest of us only see on football Sundays…
This show helped serve as a wake up call as I enter the home stretch of preparing for the Washington DC Spartan Sprint in September. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been training and putting in the work before watching the show. Yet it helped remind me of the importance of pushing beyond my comfort zone, shaking up my routine, and embracing the discomfort that is required to become your best.
More to come on the Spartan Sprint. I’m looking forward to sharing my lessons learned from battling that course like I did following my adventures on the golf course.
Putting in the work when it matters most
I can’t help but bring in football throughout this post… it’s just that time of year and despite being removed for years and years from playing, I can still smell it in the air.
It takes me back to those first days of double sessions during the preseason. You were able to see who put in the hard work off the field when no one was telling them what to do and those that were picking their game back up for the first time in months.
I admit, I played on both sides of that line. During my first 2 years of high school football I showed up on that first day to get in shape. I ended up being fortunate enough to be pulled up to Varsity my sophomore year and received the well deserved and rude awakening of realizing all the work required BEFORE preseason to be successful and make a real difference on the field. I put that lesson to good use for my last 2 seasons.
Whether we are on the sports field or in the board room, the rule is the same. Get after it and put in the work when no one is watching.
For you, this may be waking up before the sun to get in that physical, mental or spiritual workout to make yourself better. Or perhaps it is sacrificing your lunch hour to remain heads down on an important project or studying for that new certification or degree. Perhaps it is getting after it at night when your family goes to bed.
While I don’t know what is right for you, I want to speak to some of the key attributes that will help propel you towards success.
Discipline – The difficult thing with hard work is… well… it’s hard! Take the time and have the patience to create a routine, mindset and drive to execute. We must create a framework of discipline if we are to be our best. It is too easy to throw in the towel when things get tough and when no one is watching. The temptation and excuses are ready to pounce. Trust in your routine and the process, and eventually doing the hard work will become easier than not.
Ownership – As I mentioned in my posted on Extreme Ownership, it is ALL on us whether we will or won’t be successful. Talking about tough breaks or not having what others have is a waste of breath. Your path and future is all yours to maximize… or waste. I won’t lie – I’ve been fortunate that my network over the years has created incredible opportunities for me. It helped elevate me faster than I expected. It also reminded me of the importance of maintaining a strong sense of ownership. While the opportunities were presented to me, I was the one to took it, ran with it, and made the most out of it. Furthermore, while these opportunities have helped me in the past, I know I cannot always rely on them. I will own my future and build the skills and knowledge to make great things happen no matter what.
Self-Motivation – If we are to be successful and become our best then we MUST learn to motivate ourselves. Believe me, I miss having coaches push me on the field well past when I thought I needed to take a break. It is a beautiful thing and one of the reasons I would still love to coach one day. However we cannot rely on others to push us when we feel like we can’t go any further. Or pump us up when we don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, eat right, exercise, study, or do the next action step required to move towards greatness. Get yourself fired up whether through watching / listening to motivational content, creating rewards for yourself if you hit your next milestone, or perhaps even set a punishment for yourself if you slack off. Steve Kamb, the head of NerdFitness.com, instructed one of his team members to donate $500 of his hard earned money to an organization that he detests if he is ever late on a blog post. To date, he has never been late. Always soak in the motivation of others, but never rely on it. Build that internal fire and let it burn!
Embrace Discomfort – Nothing worth doing is ever easy. If we are being true to ourselves and pushing our limits then we should rarely feel comfortable. This is something we need to pay particular attention to because there is a very fine line between hard work and good discomfort. My preferred form of exercise is far and away weight lifting. I love it – period, exclamation point. However, in preparing for the Spartan Sprint, it became crystal clear that I wasn’t pushing myself beyond my current ceiling and into that realm of good discomfort. I was working hard, but my standard workout routine was not going to make me successful on race day. It was time to flip it on its head. Sometimes we need to throw out the playbook and start fresh – challenging our go-to routines and approaches to challenges. We aren’t going to shock the world or at minimum, ourselves if we maintain our current level of comfort – our ‘good enough’. Get comfortable being uncomfortable!
Your Why – I’ve written often about dialing into your internal ‘Why’, and I will continue to do so as it is beyond critical to our future success and greatness as an Inner Athlete. Putting in all the extra work to achieve your goal is daunting, and as I mentioned, the temptation to quit will always be there. No amount of discipline or self-motivation can ever destroy that internal voice telling you to ease up. With that said, if you are clear on your why, then quitting – while tempting – will NEVER be an option. That voice will never be loud enough to sway you. Whenever you are about to embark on a new challenge, take the time in the beginning to clearly write down the WHY behind what you are about to take on. Keep it close to you, and refer back to it in times of difficulty or doubt.
Don’t complain! – The early mornings, late nights and sacrificed free time are tough – no doubt. However, let’s challenge ourselves to avoid complaining at all costs! Don’t complain to yourself and don’t complain to others. Complaining is dangerous, and creates a slippery slope to falling back into bad habits, complacency, and the status quo. Complaining creates negativity which will suck your energy, willpower and desire to become better. Let’s stay positive and celebrate each of our work sessions as one step closer to our goals, and becoming 1% better than who we were yesterday.
As I close today, let’s take today as an opportunity to reassess what we want for ourselves and create a plan (full of hard work) to help us achieve those dreams!
Discussion Question – What is one area of your life that is ripe for taking to the next level? How can you challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone to elevate your performance? Build a routine around improving that area, put in the hard work when no one is watching, and get ready to shock the world!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."