The Gap...Chasing Dreams While Managing Life

I have to say that I’ve been truly touched and overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from so many folks during my quest to break the world record and complete 60 ironman triathlons in 2018. A series of comments from my friend Chris Miller, however, really touched me and got me thinking more about what doesn’t get shared in Facebook posts or casual conversations. I want to share some of our dialogue on Facebook and add more to it:

Chris Miller: Will Turner, you are truly creating legacy. That’s an amazing thing to do in an entire lifetime – yet alone while still here on mother earth living; and truly alive inside challenging yourself so repeatedly.

I have to admit, I started cheering you on after hearing of this quest…casually and on the surface with a ‘like’ and an occasional comment, but I have to say it’s going deeper as it goes on and I wanted to share more with you.

I’m truly inspired and intrigued by the ‘gap’ that passes before I see your next post. Not the ‘what you’re actually doing’ between these Herculean OYO (On Your Own) ironmans; as I can’t even imagine the fun, pain, recovery, experiences, and anticipation for next one you must feel.

The ‘gap’ I’ve been exploring myself (for a while now) is the ‘stuff that matters’ that nobody else sees or thinks about. It’s the grind, the work, the mental recovery and build of athletes, entrepreneurs, struggling cancer patients, or bullied kid that has me in awe and wonderment? This ‘gap’ of good times and bad; celebration, and doing is life itself. Your races must be amazing but also could pass like a fog when in the zone. It’s the ‘gap’ that builds legacy and causes success or failure to steer us to our destination or an unknown lost path. When time allows; I’d love to hear or read more on your thoughts of this ‘middle time’ and what it means to you. How did you get here? How did you fill it; break through it; or perhaps beaten by it (even if momentarily).

I’ve been fascinated to observe my own ‘gap’ shrinking with more tasks, to do’s and distance between the child with dreams, or student with ambitions has morphed into a Dad, husband, son, and 47-year old adult with a 30-year old mind and aging body. I’m driven and wondering why it (the gap) of selfishness and dreams seems to shrink for many with the increased demands of everyday life. The chaos of clutter, emails, wider network-but less deep relationships or time to develop them, piling to do’s (of which most of just don’t matter) where does the road lead and are we following a path we built or someone else steered us on. I’m intrigued by people’s ‘purpose’ and ‘direction’ and building more time for the ‘gap’.

Your quest has reminded me less is sometimes more; and more can result and actually become less. Plan B’s and attitudes are a blessing and necessity; but even more than that is the ‘will’ (pun intended) to plan, execute, and believe for you <yourself> no matter what while doing daily and moving towards your goal.

I’m in envy and awe of your focus to have created and now protecting this sacred time for yourself each day – nobody runs, swims, bikes, or cheers for you like you do. Your kindness to thank others is beyond words and appreciation; but thank yourself often on your journey and not us. You deserve it and earned it.

Many get lost in the chaos of everyday life, and you are showing the world it’s possible to not only dream as a kid to do the impossible but to do it and enjoy it; and share it. Kudos – as the adventure spirit still lives!

Some Excerpts Of My Response To Chris: First and foremost, Chris I am so appreciative or your kind words and enthusiastic support. Your comments brought tears to my eyes in a very affirming and powerful way.

You’re absolutely right that so much happens in the “gaps” that goes unsaid… the good, the bad and the unvarnished rawness of it all. Sometimes it’s just the mundane, other times it’s the profound…each taking a seat on this journey. This morning, for example, I awake and see the first bands of morning sunlight splash across Mt. Whitney. It’s breathtaking…the mountain, the snow-capped peak with clouds dancing around it, as if rejoicing for this glorious day that we’ve been given. Trust me, it’s not always so awe-inspiring, but taking the time to notice and be present is a gift of this journey that I’m on. I think it’s sometimes easier to capture and record these in our heads when we’re in such places as I am now, at the foot of the Eastern Sierras. But we all have them before us every day…your son’s laughter, your wife’s smile or that first sip of coffee.

My Additions, After More Thought & Time To Reflect: When I read what I wrote to Chris above, I had to chuckle a bit. It was true that I had this amazing morning at the foot of Mt. Whitney. About an hour later, however, I was broken down on the side of Mt. Tom with an electrical fire in my car, towing my new camper. Even more interesting is about 20 minutes before, I had a conversation with my traveling companion, that I was going to only be focused on the positive for the day. Partly inspired by my exchange with Chris and an Eckhart Tolle quote that I had recently read, “The basis for true change is freedom from negativity. And that’s what acceptance implies: no negativity about what is. And then you see what this moment requires: what is it that is required now so that life can express itself more fully.”

I think I was being tested. Here I was stuck on the side of a mountain road, 20 miles from the nearest town on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. And I had just proclaimed that I was going to banish all negative thoughts for the day. No complaining. No whining. Only focusing on the positive.

Long story short, we were stranded all day. But despite the conditions, I didn’t utter a single complaint (and that was really hard). And before the day was over, a guardian angel, DJ, an auto mechanic from the town 20 miles away, gave up his planned Saturday of watching the local parade and hanging out at an outdoor festival to work tirelessly to get us back on the road safe and sound. I could go on and on about DJ and how he went above and beyond, but the point is that he was a true gift in a time of need. Did DJ appear because of my being open and appreciative of the day, casting positive energy instead of negative? I’m not sure. But I do know that I am forever grateful and am reminded that we all need each other and should be appreciative of what is given or done for us. (And look for ways that we can pay it forward.)

My car experience is a great reminder that it’s easy to get bogged down with the clutter in our heads, which is often negative and unnecessary. But because of my pledge to focus on the positive, my outcome was different. Instead of me bemoaning the fact that my plans were blown for the day as I was stuck on the side of the road for hours and hours or me getting upset over the expense of the repairs and towing, I looked over at the majestic peak of Mt. Tom, snow-capped and breathtaking. Again, I felt gratitude (even though it was a little forced), for being able to slow down and take in the beauty around me. And at least in the moment, I knew what Eckhart Tolle meant when he said, “The basis for true change is freedom from negativity.” By eliminating the negative, whether it’s the thoughts in your head or your verbal outbursts, you’re able to get rid of unnecessary and unproductive distractions. I have to admit, it’s challenging and I have not mastered it at all. But my self-awareness is keen and my desire is strong, so I know I’m on the right path.What if we all took the time to be in the present moment, focused only on the positive that surrounds us. Would we start to get a better grasp of living fully? Would we be able to “live our bold?”  

What does this have to do with “the gap?” The gap, from my perspective, is life. It’s how you fill your day and where you put your intention and focus. Do you put it toward the good, making a positive difference and bringing your gifts to bear? Or do you use it to restore yourself so that you can be ready and able for the next thing. Since my ironman races and events have to be completed every six days, on average, I understand the need for focusing on my recovery and restoration. For me, preparation for the next event and restoration to recover for the next are huge  – mentally, physically and spiritually.  I have realized that self-care is paramount. I can’t be my best version of myself and expect to achieve my huge goal if I don’t incorporate practices that will restore and refresh me. For my daunting goal, it’s an absolute necessity, so it’s easy for me to see the value and make the time. There is no way I could stay on my record setting pace if I wasn’t on top of my game. In contrast, I think in our every day lives, it’s easy to put off the self-care as we rush from one task or obligation to the next. What would happen if we all made self-care a priority and worked the rest of our lives around it?

I’ve also simplified my life so that the important things get done and I continue to fine-tune, going deeper into what is important and meaningful for me on this journey and how I can serve others. My purpose is very clear and to veer off-course is not an option in my mind. Yes, I am what one friend called “freakishly determined.” But it’s because I have committed 100% to this journey and it’s role in fueling my purpose of serving others. So each day, I know exactly what needs to get done and the extraneous stuff goes by the wayside. It’s so clear to me that, like Chris, we all get bogged down with too much clutter in our life and work. It becomes habitual, but not valuable. Simplification, in a world of excess, allows me to do what matters most and it’s very liberating to let go of everything else.

In addition, this quest of mine has allowed me (for the second time in my life…the first time was when I took off two months to travel New Zealand) to get out of my day-to-day routine and all the busy activities that normally consume me . While I’m still working virtually as I travel and complete my ironman events, I have intentionally cut back on my day-to-day schedule and eliminated all tasks that really aren’t serving my best interests or priorities. I don’t think I’ll go to my grave wishing that I spent more time answering emails or addressing some random to-do list item that really doesn’t matter in the long run.

So, as I manage the gap, I think of some guiding principles: purpose, focus, intention, positivity, gratitude and simplification for starters.  And there’s probably one more that ties them all together. It’s love. Do what you love…follow your passion and purpose. Be with those you love…spend time with those who support and encourage you and that you can support in return with an open heart. Spread love…being of service drives passion and purpose and makes life fulfilling. And while you’re at it, ditch the stuff that is cluttering your life. If you do, I suspect the world, and your journey in it, will forever change.

Olympic Gold & The Power Of Going Big

I love the Olympics. As I watched Shaun White’s epic third run to clinch Olympic gold in the Men’s Halfpipe in Pyeongchang, the emotion and exuberance of the moment was truly inspiring. It was made all the more poignant because it was part of a larger narrative, that included an awe-inducing comeback story. With two gold medals under his belt from 2006 and 2010, Shaun faltered in 2014 and came up empty in Sochi. More recently, he suffered a devastating injury in New Zealand leading up to the 2018 Winter Games. But he went on to make the team and in his final run in the halfpipe event in Pyeongchang, he pulls out an amazing run to reclaim the top of the podium from younger rival, Ayumu Hirano of Japan.

There’s another part of the story and one that Shaun shares with every Olympic athlete. Their dreams and goals are big! And the work and sacrifice to achieve them is big as well. Let’s face it, you don’t make it to the Olympics by being like everyone else.

A wise friend, Carin, recently commented to me that society has two types of people. There are the herd members who basically follow the societal norms and live ordinary lives and there are rogue members who step out of the norms and conventional comfort zones. Herd members can admire the rogue members, whether it’s an athlete who is achieving amazing feats or someone overcoming huge obstacles and fighting to be who they are. With that said, herd members are happy in their status quo and can rationalize their choices to “stay within the lines” as logical and common sense.

If you're one of those sensible types, you probably think that those rogue members are the crazy ones. And that’s exactly what I’ve experienced as the overwhelming reaction in my current quest for a world record, the most ironmans in one year. I can assure you that most people don’t want to be me and most can’t understand why I’m doing what I’m doing. Without a doubt, the prevalent response to finding out that I’m averaging an Ironman (a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile marathon) every six days for 2018 is that I’m crazy.

Accompanied by the initial assessment of my sanity is a litany of reasons why they wouldn’t do it (or why I shouldn’t). One friend told me that he only had so many heartbeats left in life and he didn’t want to waste any of them on jogging, as if jogging was going to shorten his lifespan or somehow strip away his joy of living. (I think every runner I know would challenge that.) But flawed logic is still logic and many of us follow our head to rationalize what we do or don’t do, what’s normal, acceptable and fits our belief system.

In my case, I think to go big and to go bold, you have to be willing and able to follow your heart and not just your head. I would argue, without any scientific evidence to back my claim, that other rogue members have come to embrace their hearts, as well. At least for when they set big goals. The passion and the emotion from the heart leads you down a path that really drives you. That doesn’t mean that we don’t tap into both the heart and the head. In my case, my heart got me on the path for my world record quest, but the head helps me prepare to be successful. For example, I tap into my head to analyze the obstacles, assess the landscape, determine the best course of action, create the training plan, etc. In other words, the heart looks for the way to make it happen versus all the reasons why it won’t work. And then the head follows along and says, “Ok…if we have to do this, how are we going to get it done?”

I’m not sure if you ever had a big dream or goal that just consumed you. It may have started as a whisper but it built to a thunderous roar. When I came up with my Sixty@60 goal, I was so excited for days that I could barely sleep. My heart was speaking to me. And it wasn’t that my head was absent from the conversation. I just chose to follow my heart, and let my head catch up and get on board later. If I had listened to my head (or those of others who I initially shared my dream with, I would have quickly talked myself out of it.)

I would argue that big goals tap into your heart…to your passion and your emotions. And that can be scary and exciting or probably both. The benefits of following your heart are many but I find  two are most compelling to me.  The first is that it makes me feel "ALIVE." The second is that by accomplishing bold goals, you quickly start to see all aspects of your life differently. You recognize more of your potential and how fear or uncertainty or a myriad of other excuses are just that...excuses. And in so doing, you start to break through barriers and beliefs that, in hindsight, you realize were holding you back.

One of my favorite quotes that I use as a way to stay focused on the power of big is “If your dream doesn’t scare you, it’s not big enough.” To do big things, you are going to have to get out of your comfort zone. In other words, you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Big, by definition, also means that it will likely take lots of work and sacrifice. There are millions of people all over the world who watched the recent Olympic coverage. Most were entertained or inspired. A very small subset of these viewers are future Olympic hopefuls who will actually make the hard sacrifices and put in the years of hard work and dedication to pursue their dream. Tonic Motihala said, “There is no success without sacrifice.” Suffice it to say, the bigger the goal or level of success, the more sacrifice is required. And sacrifice would be something that our heads may rationalize is not in our best interests.

It’s a small example, but I think it makes my point. I don’t own a TV. I don’t even have internet in my home. And it’s been that way for years. It’s not that I can’t afford it. And it’s not that I don’t enjoy watching TV or mindlessly surfing the web. It’s because I have other priorities and goals that require me to look closely at how I spend my time. It’s a sacrifice that I choose to make. We all have choices, so before you say you can’t do something, I have found it’s better to ask, “Do I really want this? And am I willing to make the sacrifices to achieve it?”

There are two other questions that I ask myself (and my coaching clients) when setting goals.

  1. What are the benefits that I will get if I achieve this goal?
  2. What are the consequences if I don’t achieve this goal?

With each of these questions, I don’t just stop at the easy, surface-level answer. I want to go deeper and get to the emotional drivers as well. Coincidentally, to put these in context, I find that some people are benefit-seekers and others are consequence-avoiders, hence the value of asking both questions. From my personal observation with hundreds of clients over the years, most folks that fall into the herd category are consequence-avoiders. They don’t want to upset the apple cart and they want to avoid bad things that could happen if they don’t do something. In other words, they want to maintain the status-quo. Benefit-seekers, on the other hand, are driven by the possibilities and are generally more roque-ish in their quest for achieving their goals and the accompanying rewards that come with their accomplishment.

In a Today Show interview with Shaun White the day after his halfpipe gold medal performance, he was asked, “What’s next?” He started sharing his big dream of “going for it” in the next summer Olympics in the skateboarding competition. He clearly continues to think big and as one of the oldest competitors in his sport at 31, he is far from done. To watch the interview, it was clear that Shaun still has a lot of passion and heart for competing and being one of the world’s best athletes.

Nelson Mandela similarly tapped into the heart when he said, “There is no passion to found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” So regardless of whether you’re a member of the herd or a bonafide rogue, stepping out of your comfort zone and going big, at the very least, amplifies who you are and your potential. You could even discover, like Shaun White, that there is much more of your story to come.

 

 

 

 

7 Ways To Make 2018 Your Boldest Year Ever

Here we are…at the beginning of the year when all things seem possible. Goals and dreams are dancing in our heads and we convince ourselves that this year is going to be different. We think that we will learn from our past mistakes and follow-through, be more consistent and achieve whatever we set our hearts on. Or, some among us, have already simply given up thinking “New Year’s resolutions don’t really work for me.”

I’ve seen and set more New Year’s resolutions and annual goals than most, with mixed success over the years. I’d give myself a “B+” most years, but I’ve had some dismal failures and big wins as well.

Before I share what I’ve learned during my own trials and tribulations, I want to declare that my goals and dreams are bigger and bolder this year than they have ever been. And not just a little bigger! We’re talking GINORMOUS! Many of you know that I just turned 60 years bold. And I’m on a world record quest to do 60 ironman/full distance events this year – what I call Sixty@60. Only nine years ago, I did my first Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run) and thought it was a HUGE deal. And it was!

But I didn’t want this year to be just about me and my journey, although that could be enough. I wanted it to be a way for me to serve others. Earlier this week, we had MLK Day. One of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. is “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’” So the question that rattled and somersaulted in my brain for over a year was, “How do I use my Sixty@60” to serve others?”

I eventually came up with Live Your Bold! It’s a movement that I’ve started to provide FREE resources and training while building a community of like-minded, inspired folks who want to live their bold, whatever that might be. It’s interesting that as all this started to coalesce, it felt more like a calling than anything else in my life. For more details, check out www.liveyourbold.com.

I think one way we determine our path is to be still and listen. And then to step forward into our boldness with passion and resolve. I’ve carried around a Live Your Bold journal for about 18 months. And I write down notes and ideas daily to help me process, clarify, challenge and reshape what I want to do. Which reminds me of another wise quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. when he talks about taking the first step in faith, “You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” I don’t see my whole staircase yet. I’m still finding my way on this journey. But I am ready to take one step at a time.”

With that said, here are seven lessons that I am applying, and you can too, in order to make this year your BOLDEST ever.

Buck Conventional Wisdom – I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve read about taking baby steps with your goals. In other words, the best way to achieve your goals is to make them manageable and comfortable for you (with perhaps a little stretching for good measure). While there is nothing wrong with this advice, I feel that most folks hold themselves back and don’t come close to living to their potential. And making baby steps become another way that we are complacent and living small. If my Sixty@60 demonstrates anything is that we are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for. So instead of making small, incremental changes, perhaps you should think of shaking things up and going really big and BOLD.

You Must Believe – The immediate reaction I get when I tell someone about Sixty@60 is either an incredulous look or a flat out, “You’re crazy!” Perhaps I am…and I’m ok with that. But I’ve come to realize that their reaction is based on their “limiting” beliefs, not mine. They can’t believe it because it’s not something that they have wrapped their head around. And it’s not something that they have witnessed with someone else. I, on the other hand, have lived and breathed this dream for almost three years. I’ve conditioned and trained my mind and body. I’ve been inspired by people who have done other amazing and seemingly “unbelievable” things. So "I BELIEVE!" and for the sake of my goal, that's essential!

 Build Your Resilience And Your Support Team – It was interesting when I got “brave” enough to start sharing my big “Sixty@60” dream with a select few people a couple of years ago. Of course, I went to some of my closest and dearest friends who, almost to a person, told me that I was crazy. And then proceeded to share their concerns. If I was easily discouraged, I would have been. And I could have tucked my tail between my legs and never spoken of this haunting dream again. Luckily, I’m not easily dissuaded when it comes to matters that I’m passionate about. And I had a couple of people who “got it.” They were supportive and inspired. And now, many of the folks that originally “poo-pooed” the idea are there to support me, convinced now that I can and will get this done.

Go Big Or Go Home – I realize everyone is different, but what has gotten me more fired up than anything with my Sixty@60 is stepping out of my comfort zone. I have always challenged myself and I feel more alive when I’m pushing limits in any area of life. When I did my first Ironman in 2009, I used another quote as a constant reminder of my path and why I was on it. “If your dream doesn’t scare you, it’s not big enough.” I’ve since used it as a litmus test to see if my goals and dreams are worthy. If they’re not, should I go bigger?

An interesting side note: when I was first thinking ahead to how to mark my 60th in a bold way, I thought of doing six Ironmans for the year. I happened to mention it to someone who immediately responded, “Oh…that’s what someone else did…” Hmmm…time to rethink. Not because I wanted to do more than the other guy (well, maybe…I’m very competitive), but because I realized that I was thinking smaller than I should be for me. There is something called the 10 x goal or the power of 10. Take your goal and multiply it by 10. Now your big goal becomes humongous!

The power of this approach is that it makes you rethink your whole approach. It’s stretches your brain and requires you to abandon conventional wisdom and your well-entrenched habits and shake things up. All of a sudden, doing things the same old way is no longer an option. You’re challenged and tested…and while that is scary as hell, it’s also exhilarating!

Stomp Out Self-Doubt – This one is tied to your beliefs and your thoughts and that voice in your head. As much as I believe, I still have to quiet the voices. The important thing, from my experience, is to acknowledge them but not let your negative thoughts get any legs. Sometimes your nagging thoughts are legitimate concerns that you need to fix or at least be aware of. For instance, I just finished #2 of 60 Ironmans a few days ago. I had completed my swim and bike and was at mile 17.2 (out of 26.2) on my run. I took in some nutrition, a couple of blocks and a swig of my sports drink. And I immediately started throwing up. It happened once and then again. And again…and again. Trust me, my first flashing thought was “Oh sh*t! This is not good.” I understood that with nine miles left to go, I may not have enough fuel in me to finish (dehydration-alert) or I could derail and miss my time cut-off, essentially making all my efforts of the day a moot point. There were other thoughts, processing and problem-solving, simultaneously flooding my brain. Instead of going into despair and potentially giving up, I went into “how do I fix this mode.” And that’s exactly what I did. And with any big goal, we’re going to have lots of times when we are tested like this.

Get It Done – With any big goal, there are highs and lows…moments when you’re cruising along on a high and other times when you feel stuck and second-guessing if you can figure it all out. That’s when you have to pull on that MLK quote and just take the “next step.” Often times, just being present and taking some action, any action is enough. With faith in your dream, fire in your belly and passion in your heart, you will have what you need to keep moving forward. I’ve said it many times before, understanding your “Why?” is critical. It drives you when obstacles clutter your path.

Focus On Recovery – One of the keys to me achieving my Sixty@60 world record is to give ample attention to recovery between my races/events. I need to push hard and then recover. And then repeat 59 more times. Recovery is when you step away from the hard work and do the things that take care of you. A big dream can be inspiring and sometimes all-consuming, but I learned a long time ago that life is more abundant and full when we have some balance. That means that we step away from the hard work and restore ourselves in other ways. Look for daily and weekly practices that gives you the proper self-care. You can’t give your BOLD goal your best if you’re not at your best.

What's Your Grit Quotient?

This is a confession that I probably don’t need to make. But here goes. Drum roll… I’m an overachiever. Shocking…well, not so much. I’ve actually done some soul-searching over the years to figure out what makes me tick and why I’ve made the choices from a very early age to push myself – from excelling in school or extracurricular activities as a kid – to being a crazy ultra-endurance athlete and mindful business owner as an adult.

I share this because for me, I always knew that it wasn’t talent or smarts that made me different. So I was a little perplexed why more people weren’t like me. Turns out, most people don’t think the way I do. Nor do they necessarily aspire to be like me, because… why would they…especially if they don’t think the way I do.

The bottom-line is that I’ve developed a fascination for understanding personal achievement and what motivates people. I’m an avid student of the art and science of peak performance and I love to feed my brain (as one friend tells me, I’ve got a ‘hungry brain’) when it comes to discerning why some people excel and others shortchange themselves and never live up to their potential. In fact, I’ve devoted much of my adult life learning about the psychology of achievement and helping clients develop and tap into their own strengths and gifts.

You’ve likely heard Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule. In his book, Outliers, Gladwell notes that great achievement in any pursuit is the result of spending 10,000 hours or more in active engagement and practice to gain mastery and expertise. He highlights the Beatles and Bill Gates, along with stars in the Canadian Hockey League as testaments to his theory. Of course, I’m simplifying. Gladwell presents a provocative tale of human potential that is also influenced by a host of other circumstances.

Of course, there is the counter-argument that less time practicing and more time practicing perfectly can shorten the learning and mastery curve. Or that perhaps some people are more gifted, intelligent or talented so they may require less than the magical 10,000 hour threshold. And what about those other factors and circumstances like when you were born, how you were raised and what opportunities were uniquely aligned with your journey. Others retort that it’s all about flow. Fascinating stuff.

But what is it that makes someone focus 10,000 hours in a given pursuit in the first place? And is that enough? What drives one person to high achievement who has the same circumstances and opportunities as another person who, in turn, falls short of their potential? How do you give yourself an achievement advantage? According to some research in the area, it comes down to grit.

So what is grit? Angela Duckworth, author of the book, Grit, has a compelling explanation:

In sum, no matter the domain, the highly successful had a kind of ferocious determination that played out in two ways. First, these exemplars were unusually resilient and hardworking. Second, they knew in a very, very deep way what it was they wanted. They not only had determination, they had direction.

It was this combination of passion and perseverance that made high achievers special. In a word, they had grit.

The evidence is pretty strong. People with more grit are more successful in their pursuits. So that begs the question, “What can you do to cultivate more grit?” Let’s start with a few don’ts. These are the some of the things that are commonly done that actually inhibit your full-blown grittiness.

Don’t… hop around from one pursuit to another. That’s not to say that you can’t have multiple interests and passions, but if you want to realize your fullest potential, you need to have passion and perseverance that is focused. I know what some of you are thinking as you read this… “But…but…I have so many interests and passions. That’s just the way I am.” My advice would be to separate high-level goals and purpose from your low-level goals and ancillary interests. You can have some low-level goals and interests that are not aligned with your primary purpose or high-level goals; but you can’t let your low-level goals derail you. To be gritty, your primary focus must remain steady, as should your devotion to making progress through concerted effort on what is most important to you.

Don’t… get in your own way. Some people have a tendency to find excuses for why they can’t do something or to always think that they’re not lucky enough. Or perhaps, they think that something is too hard. It’s often that they have had bad experiences which have crushed them in the past. They give up, they lose their fight and they lose their belief in themselves. They shrink their expectations so they won’t be disappointed, and they maintain the status quo instead of pursuing their passion or their dreams. Regardless of what is holding them back, the result is a diminished life.

Don’t… live a life unexamined. I was having a conversation today with a coaching client. From my perspective, he was holding himself back because of fear. He’s challenged by getting in his own way (see above), but related to that challenge is not knowing or fully embracing what he wants. To have more grit (i.e. to be more successful), you have to know what you want. You have to create your own vision, your own purpose and your own passion. That’s not done without some excavation work; you have to dig down below the surface and figure out what’s really important to you (not to anyone else). Digging deeper can be painful; sometimes we have to face our own demons and the choices that we’ve made in the past – the good, the bad and the ugly.

In the end, however, that work is what’s going to make us whole. And we will never be our best and grittiest selves without our own deeper reflection and examination to arrive at our purpose. So what would make you wake up in the morning feeling alive and on the right path with your life? In the case of my client, he has created one compartmentalized area of his life where he feels confident and on the right path: but is that enough in the long run? I think not.  Our lives need to be fully integrated to realize our truest potential. To move forward, we have to let go of the past and we have to let go of those things, people and circumstances that no longer serve us on our journey forward. That can seem overwhelming, too hard or just downright scary.

Now, let’s look at a few things you can do to increase your Grit Quotient.

Do… focus on deliberate practice. To master anything, we need to practice; and I’m not referring to simply going through the motions. I’m also not referring to working to exhaustion if it’s not high quality practice which is also thoughtful and purposeful. Duckworth articulates deliberate practice as practice that starts with a clearly defined stretch goal, requires full concentration and effort, provides immediate and informative feedback along with creating space for repetition, reflection and refinement. This is hard work and is usually done in solitary pursuit of our dreams. Interestingly, whether it’s kids studying for the National Spelling Bee or an Olympic swimmer with her eyes on the gold, research indicates that people with more grit not only do more deliberate practice, they enjoy the hard work more than their less gritty competitors.

Do… find a community. While deliberate practice is best done in a focused solitary pursuit, it’s still invaluable to find a community that can support, encourage and raise you up. Equally important, it’s invaluable to find others who are where you want to be and learn from and be inspired by them. For example, if you want to improve your tennis game, you get a coach or find someone who is better than you to play with.

You don’t improve by being the smartest, fastest or strongest in the room. You improve yourself by surrounding yourself with others who are smarter, faster or stronger. And if you have the responsibility and privilege to be a parent, mentor or coach; one way you can instill grittiness is by being grittier yourself. In other words, lead by example. Whether it’s with my business clients or the triathletes that I coach, I make sure that I do what I expect of my clients. In fact, I generally do more so that they can see that the hard and focused work has its rewards and that digging deeper can be learned, perfected and…enjoyed!

Do… make progress. Whether it’s massive action or baby steps, move in the direction with consistent effort. It’s interesting when you study the psychology of personal achievement that many people think it’s all about talent. As explained by Duckworth, “Talent is how quickly your skills improve when you invest effort. Achievement is what happens when you take your acquired skills and use them.” In other words, effort is the critical factor and I would add, purposeful effort is even more critical. One thing that is clear, people with more grit are more successful than those with less grit. And those who are the grittiest have a stick-to-it-ness that keeps them focused on making progress in a singular direction for the long haul. All the more reason to create your own vision, define your own purpose and passion and march steadily to becoming the best you can be.

The ONE Thing That Will Transform YOU (and give you a BOLDER life)

Growth doesn’t come when things are going smoothly. And in my experience, “transformative” (I know…I hate that word too…because it’s overused and overhyped) growth is usually born out of struggle and sacrifice and a steadfast commitment to something that is hard and challenging.

The reality is that most people avoid the one thing that gets them to those breakthrough moments. Hard work…that focused, committed discipline to “get it done,” when there are a hundred other things that you would rather be doing or that simply get in the way.

There are some real and present enemies to the “get it done” approach. Ironically, it’s much more exciting to think and dream about a big goal or an important endeavor. In fact, according to the research, the anticipation of an event or a particular accomplishment can be as powerful as the achievement itself. If we get a healthy dose of feel-good dopamine from dreaming of something bold and amazing, do we really need to actualize the dream?

The fact is that we can trick ourselves into thinking that we’re making real progress by creating a vision board, writing out our goals or talking about what we plan to do. Not that any of those things are bad; but the constant thinking and talking about our grand vision does not make it happen. We can get lulled into a false sense of accomplishment when we really haven’t “done” anything.

On the flip side, we can spiral into a sense of overwhelm. Our lack of real progress or real momentum can make us feel inadequate, unsure and more tentative. Perhaps this big dream of ours is too big. And we can certainly always pull out the “I’m too busy now” card. It’s so easy (and natural) to delay taking action and defer to excuses and rationalizations like “When the kids get through school, I will…,” or “When I pay off my debt, I will…” or “When I do some more research, I will…”

With an obscured path or an unclear vision, we can also default into a common malaise of doing nothing. Besides indulging in the occasional obsession or guilt-ridden internal drama, we may find that we constantly feel disappointed or frustrated. Perhaps you’ve embraced a series of excuses or rationalizations to why you’re not ready. Or maybe you beat yourself up with thoughts like, “I can’t believe I can’t get this off the ground. What is wrong with me? Why do I always fall short?” A sad but true realization comes with the research on willpower that concludes that the more you “beat yourself up” over your bad habits or sabotaging behavior, the more likely you are to repeat the cycle. Sucks…doesn’t it.

One of the biggest enemies to “get it done” and our self-sabotaging behavior is distraction. We all have our personal battles…whether it’s our addiction to social media, our preoccupation with Trumpsteria or countless other sirens that beckon us daily. I was listening to a podcast interview yesterday between Tim Ferris and Maria Sharapova, 5-time Grand Slam winner and Olympic silver medalist. From a very early age, Maria practiced. She lived and breathed tennis. It was part of her bigger purpose and she felt that calling from about the age of 7. So even though it was hard and lonely (she moved to the States with her father while her mother remained in Russia for two years because she didn’t have a visa), Maria did the hard work. She literally put her nose to the grindstone. Day in and day out. And she ultimately became one of the greatest female tennis players of her generation. Like so many other greats, she had to have “horse blinders” on to the many distractions that occupied so many of her colleagues (other young girls who were identified at an early age for their on-court potential).

The single most important thing that you can do to transform (there’s that word again) yourself is to learn how to FOCUS. In fact, in our world of constant interruptions, distraction and limited attention spans, I would argue that FOCUS is the holy grail and perhaps as elusive.

I know, it’s hard. And each day that you distract yourself with mindless activities or less important tasks, you reinforce the neural pathways that make it harder for you to break your bad patterns and give concentrated attention to what really matters.

I watched Limitless with Bradley Cooper last night. Bradley’s character, Eddie Morra, is an unfocused writer in New York City. His life is crumbling around him. His girlfriend left him, his editor/book publisher has had enough and, most importantly, he’s given up on himself. He’s drinking, wasting his days and feeling like a worthless, pathetic excuse of the man he wants to be. But despite his dire condition, he can’t seem to get out of his own way. That is, until he gets a break. He runs into his former brother-in-law, a hustler with a shady persona, on the streets and ends up with a pill that changes everything. Feeling like he has nothing to lose, he swallows the pill. And then the magic happens. In 30 seconds, he is transformed. Yep, he really is. He makes things happen. He’s his optimal self on steroids accessing every nook and cranny of his brain (not just the measly 20% that the rest of us seem confined to). His best-selling book is written in hours and that’s just the beginning.

Unfortunately, to my knowledge, the “magic pill” that Eddie Morra swallowed is not available to the rest of us. But don’t despair. While you may not instantly transition to your fully-optimized self, there are things that you can do today to build a stronger and more resilient focus muscle. I say muscle because, like a muscle in your body, if you activate and use it, it will become stronger. And if you don’t use it, it will atrophy. Use it or lose it as they say. Your choice. Just make sure that you make it intentionally, because the stakes are high.

Since there is no magic pill; what can you do to increase your ability to focus on the important stuff? Here are some things that can work. Pick one to start with. Consider this your daily workout for your all-important focus muscle.

See & Define Yourself As “That” Person

I often do this at the gym or on a cardio workout. I see and define myself as someone who is a badass when it comes to my physical training. I certainly don’t always feel that way when I am beginning a workout. But as I go about my routine, my mind may see a machine or even someone else working really hard and I may have a passing thought like, “That is really hard.” What I do next is what matters. Instead of avoiding the hard thing, I will challenge myself to do it. For example, the other day, I was in the middle of a core workout and I thought about a type of burpee that is really hard. Instead of a simple push-up in the middle, it’s a triple push-up. That fleeting thought could have been easily dismissed as, “Yea, not today. I already have my workout plan.” Instead, I said, “Who are you?” The answer was a less-than-enthusiastic, “I’m a badass.” And what would a badass do? Exactly what I did…add a set of the killer burpees into my routine. I share this because I want it to be clear that I am usually not excited about making my workout harder in the moment. But I will tell you, when I’m done and I’ve pushed myself harder, I feel great. But it all starts with how I define myself. If I wanted to look and act like an average middle-aged guy, I would just go through the motions of my workouts because I would define and see myself as “that guy.” But that doesn’t work for me. I want to be one of the fittest athletes for my age and I want to be competitive with guys half my age. That’s how I define myself and what I aspire to be. I work harder to live up to that expectation, that vision of who I am and how I see myself.

Set Time Limits

We all know that our days can get away from us. Despite our good intentions, the important stuff can get pushed aside. Let’s face it, the really important stuff (the stuff that can change our trajectory or our life) is rarely urgent. It’s easy to let the important things slide in the moment or to not hold ourselves accountable to a disciplined timeline. We can always work on it tomorrow, right? If putting it off, whether intentionally or not, is a real struggle for you, I would encourage you to start with setting aside a block of time to focus on your most important goal. Start small and build. An important side note here is that when I say block time to focus, I mean block uninterrupted time where you are devoting all of your attention to the task at hand.

Perhaps you decide that today you will spend 15 minutes of uninterrupted time on your important activity. And you may find that your focus muscle is so weak that even 15 minutes feels like an eternity. That’s ok. It will get easier the more you do it. And the more you do it, the more you can increase the time you block. Today, it’s 15 minutes and tomorrow it could be 20. And before you know it, 20 minutes can become a half-day. Like any workout, consistency matters and will make it easier and easier. The added benefit is that your small accomplishments will start fueling you to do more. You’ll feel good and your momentum will create real sustainable progress.

Examine Your “Why”

When you set bold goals, there is always a reason. A reason that resonates and is important to you. What is it? Why is your big goal or dream important to you? You need to answer that question. And you need to write the answer down?

I was recently interviewing a candidate who wanted me to coach him. In the conversation, I asked a lot of questions about his big goal including, “Why do you want to do this?” And “How important is this to you?” To which he responded, those are really good questions. I wanted to assess his “why” and to see if it really was something that he was willing to do the hard work for. Because sometimes, we say we want something, but our heart isn’t really into it. In the case of my interviewee, he had attempted this big goal twice before without being successful. In a situation like his, I wanted to understand whether his failure was going to fuel his desire and motivation or whether he would repeat the pattern and fall short again. It’s my opinion that his “why” has to be revisited and fortified if he wants to successfully move forward.

Sometimes we convince ourselves that if we do this “thing,” it will be awesome. But when it comes to doing the hard work to get there, we feel uninspired and lack enough motivation or discipline to make it a reality. In his book, The Dip, Seth Godin points out that despite our initial excitement with an idea or dream, we will eventually fall into the dip. It’s that low point when things get hard (and get real). Perhaps other work or life demands seem daunting, our plate is full or overflowing and/or the path to our goal is littered with obstacles that were unforeseen when we started our journey. Regardless, we find ourselves in the dip and we are at an inflection point where we have to make a critical decision. Do we exit stage left and give up on this endeavor or do we push forward and overcome the obstacles in the way? In the latter choice is made, then we must determine how committed we are and the level of investment we are willing to make.

According to Godin, we are often making an unconscious decision on what level of performance we’re willing to make. And typically, it’s what he calls some level of mediocrity. We do enough to get by or to make it happen. But the real magic can happen when we decide to be the best and to do whatever it takes to accomplish our goal at its ultimate level. If your “why” has you fired up and determined to push yourself to a new and higher place, you’re on the right path. Constantly reminding yourself of the desired outcome and “why” it’s so important to you is a powerful ally to your ability to focus.

Talk To Yourself…The Right Way

It may sound hokie to you, but positive self-talk and affirmations work. Most of us are really good at letting negative thoughts and emotions fill our head space. It’s that built-in pessimist that tells us why we’re not good enough or why something wont’ work. I love a quote from Winston Churchill that says it all to me, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity and an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Reaching our dreams and bringing our ideas to fruition is challenging enough without self-doubt and negative chatter bouncing off the walls in our head. Research actually indicates that positive self-talk is an important component of achievement. It starts with our beliefs which translates into our attitudes and thoughts. Those attitudes and thoughts will fill our minds and either give us positive fuel for our journey or choke our momentum and leave us stranded on the side of the road. The great car maker and industrialist, Henry Ford, famously said, “If we think we can or think we can’t, we’re right.” Our thoughts and those inner dialogues we have with ourselves really do matter. Make sure you are feeding yourself a healthy diet of positive thoughts and you will see positive results.

Build The Right Support System

We know it doesn’t pay to be pessimistic. Although if you ask any pessimist why they feel the way they do, they will simply say that they are realistic or they’ve been around the block enough to know better. And if you dare share your grand vision with one of these naysayers, the first words you’ll hear from them is something along the lines of “You can’t do that!” or some equally negative or disheartening remark. So, if you want to embark on a bold adventure, whatever it might be, choose your confidants wisely. Surround yourself with people who will support and encourage you. Finding an Accountability Buddy is also a great strategy, particularly if you are embarking on a goal simultaneously with others. It could be that you’re training for a race, taking a class or embarking in some group activity where having a partner-in-crime can be a real boost.

If you need an extra level of accountability, work with a coach or mentor. Either can be a critical and vested partner in your success and can help you overcome shortfalls that may trip you up or slow you down along the way. One of the other key benefits of a coach is the accountability for taking action. Little is more motivating for focusing and making things happen than realizing that you have to call your coach to provide an update on your progress. In fact, if we’re a people-pleaser, we will often work harder knowing that we don’t want to disappoint others who believe in us and want to see us succeed.

Don’t Delay & Succumb To The Law of Diminishing Intent

In his book, Leading An Inspired Life, Jim Rohn talks about the tapping into your ability and avoiding the Law of Diminishing Intent. Specifically, he shares, “Engaging in genuine discipline requires that you develop the ability to take action. You don’t need to be hasty if it isn’t required, but you don’t want to lose much time. Here’s the time to act: when the idea is hot and the emotion is strong…Take action as soon as possible, before the feeling passes and before the idea dims. If you don’t, here’s what happens. You fall prey to the Law of Diminishing Intent. We intend to take action when the idea strikes us. But if we don’t translate that intention into action fairly soon, the urgency starts to diminish. And a month from now the passion is cold. A year from now it can’t be found.

So the lesson is to take action. Set up a discipline when the emotions are high and the idea is powerful. “Do it now!” is a powerful mantra that has been used by many successful doers!

Next Step:

As noted above, the important thing is to take action. You’ve invested the last few minutes reading this article. What stood out to you? What strategy for focusing and taking action would work well for you? And what can you do TODAY to build a little momentum? You’ve got this!

 

 

Is Following Your Passion Wrong?

“(You can) cooperate fully, humbly and joyfully with inspiration.” I love that line which I recently read in Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear. I was listening to an NPR interview on Sunday morning in which Gilbert was sharing insights with On Being host, Krista Tippett.

What captivated me was something she said about the advice that we constantly hear, “You should follow your passion.” In Gilbert’s opinion, it’s the wrong message. Believing fully that you should follow your passion, I was sucked in and wanted to understand more. Her point was something I’ve not experienced personally, but definitely something I’ve seen with friends and clients who feel stuck.

She said that telling people to follow their passion is not the right message because it can be a very overwhelming and hard directive. People become burdened with the responsibility and essentially struggle feeling lost or inadequate when they can’t figure it out. Her suggestion was to follow your curiosity instead. It’s a kinder and gentler approach that can help people get unstuck.

In other words, without the pressure to discover your passion, you could more openly explore your curiosities. It allows you to move forward with more courage and less fear. Following your curiosity is certainly less daunting. And in a great case scenario, perhaps you discover your passion along the way. And in a good case scenario, you engage with the world around you and discover new and interesting paths on your own journey. Not a bad outcome at all. And certainly, one that is less harsh than “failing” to figure out your life’s passion.

The interview got me thinking and inspired me to get the book, Big Magic. As I’m assimilating what I’m reading, it’s clear to me that we all take different paths. And there is no right or wrong when it comes to following our dreams and pursuing our passions.

Since I’m a trainer and coach at heart, I always assimilate in a manner that makes content easy to learn and use. First for me. Then for others. I immediately came up with an acronym…as I do. I didn’t have to force it; it just popped in my head. The acronym is P.I.C.

The “P” stands for passion. The “I” stands for interests and the “C” stands for curiosity. Some of us may know clearly what our passion is and if that’s the case, that’s awesome. Others may not be as clear. For those people, it would be appropriate to follow your interests and see where that leads you. And for still others, there may be curiosity. Perhaps it’s not a full-blown interest, but it’s an area or endeavor that you’re curious to learn more about.

What if each day, we spent a little time pursuing our P.I.C.s – our passions, our interests OR our curiosities? Pretty cool things would manifest for sure. Our path would take shape and we would get the mental jolt of feeling a sense of progress and momentum. So today, I took a few minutes and outlined some ideas for a big new project that is part of a longer-term plan that I’m working on. I think about it every day, but sometimes it’s just a fleeting thought. And therein lies the danger, right?

Have you ever had an inspiration or idea that came to you? And when you first got it, you were intrigued and perhaps even excited? And then, without much discourse, it was gone. Perhaps you thought it wasn’t feasible to pursue, perhaps you were too busy to give it attention or there were other stumbling blocks that caused you to deflect the idea. Or perhaps you simply let it lay dormant until further inspiration struck.

According to Gilbert’s theory, ideas are living, breathing entities which are looking for hosts to partner with. And if you don’t pay ample attention to them, they will gladly move on to another host who is more hospitable and welcoming. Ever seen one of the fleeting ideas that you discarded pop up in full bloom from the efforts of someone else?

According to Gilbert, there are too many ideas to engage with fully. Nor should you feel obliged to. My mind goes to an image of a networking event or party…lots of people and ideas mingling. You may run into a bunch of ideas, but not all of them are ones you are interested in having a conversation with. It doesn’t mean you can’t smile and wish them well. It’s just not a good match for you. Carry on.

But perhaps you’re curious. In that case, you may want to linger and begin a conversation, so to speak, with an idea.

I’m a big fan of intuition and by cultivating yours, I think you are able to be more present to see and be open to new ideas…and to new possibilities. Intuition will help guide you to the right choices.

Being mindful and aware will also help you recognize the ideas that you should give attention to. And by giving them attention, you can decide your next steps. It all ties into following your curiosities, interests and passions. I haven’t finished the book yet, but my guess is that is exactly what leads you to “Big Magic.”

So if you’re starting on a new project, wanting to manifest some different energy, or searching for your life purpose; perhaps you can take this approach. Give space to the ideas and inspirations that come to you. Allow them to marinate with you long enough to see if they resonate, and if they don’t, release them with gratitude to find a more enthusiastic host.

When you catch an idea that you want to hold onto; your next step is to give it some legs to get a footing. Start by spending some time on it consistently, each day. It can be just a few minutes if that is what you have. Or you may find yourself diving deeply into your next big adventure with more gusto. Either approach is fine. The important thing here is to create your own momentum. At that point, the ball is rolling.