Thursday, January 3, 2013

How to Succeed: Kryptonite, Games Standard & Perseverance

Seeing the world from an inverted position in Patagonia!
I am a lifelong devotee to athletics and physical fitness. For the last 2 years, I have been a "CrossFit Athlete." (What is CrossFit?). CrossFit aims to improve people's ability to live life to the full, by providing a regimen for developing 10 general physical skills (Endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Agility, Balance, Accuracy, Coordination, Power and Speed). The CrossFit program has been a challenging one for me, even though I have been a successful lifelong competitor in distance running.

Like anyone that is beginning CrossFit, 2 years ago there were few things in the program that I could do well.  And to this day there are many elements of the program that I am no where near mastering.

Today I did a workout that included 30 Handstand Push-Ups.  The beauty of CrossFit is that it allows for "scaling" movements, so that elite athletes and new athletes alike can capture the essence of a movement and benefit from the effort while accommodating the differences in abilities. For 2 years I have been unable to complete a workout that included "Games Standard" Handstand Push-Ups and have instead needed to scale the movements. "Games Standard" requires strict adherence of the movement without any mercy. This morning, I completed the workout, but only moments before time ran out to complete the workout.  But for me, it was a real breakthrough and now I have a real sense of accomplishment!

In order to achieve my seemingly silly personal accomplishment I had to do three things and these three things are metaphors for the journey to success:
  1. I am one of just a few "old-timers" in a gym that is full of strong, vibrant 20 and 30-somethings. Sometimes us old-timers jokingly say things like, "Just wait until they get to be our age, then they will know how tough this is!" But the truth is, early on I rejected that kind of thinking as "excuse making." No one becomes a better athlete by making excuses. I had to give up on excuses early in my CrossFit start-up and embrace who I was and work with the raw material that I was: an arthritic joint, tight hips and shoulders, various weaknesses and still I was a potentially very powerful and strong person.  No excuses, just hug your kryptonite instead of making excuses about it.
  2. I had to decide with just 6 repetitions completed in my workout today if I would continue the effort to do the movements according to Games Standard or go back to scaling.  I actually began the process of scaling the movement, then caught myself giving up and said to myself, "No way." Those 30 Handstand Push-Ups took me 17 minutes to complete. By comparison it would take someone that has mastered that movement just a few minutes to do the same. My point here is that there was a moment of real doubt, and it took only one other moment of decision to overcome that self-limiting thinking.
  3. The other way to see this is to say, "It did not take me 17 minutes to do 30 Handstand Push-ups.  It took me 2 years of training to achieve 30 Games Standard Handstand Push-Ups."  It was perseverance and consistency that brought me to the moment of doubt, decision AND accomplishment.
The Metaphor to Work:
  • What excuses are you using that are keeping you from getting started on some challenging, but necessary work? What part of the issue you face has your name on it? Are you ready to admit how flawed you are?  Are you ready to see how much greater is your potential power than the flaws you carry? Hug your kryptonite today instead of leaning on your strengths, covering your doubts and guarding your vulnerabilities.
  • What uncomfortable thing will you do today that will give you real doubt? The kind of doubt that in the past has made you into a "quitter."  No one wants to be a quitter.  Is it a phone call you have to make to an unhappy customer?  A conversation that is needed with a non-performing employee?  Is it a boss that needs to be confronted about their arrogance? Do you start to work on a critical long-term project, but become anxious and instead work on your email? Decide before you start to do something hard that when the moment of doubt comes, you will be prepared to make the decision to continue according to "Games Standard." 
  • Consistently Persevere.  There is no substitute for hard work done regularly and done as well as you can possibly do it. The idea of an "overnight success" is ludicrous; a lie with which we anesthetize ourselves. Have nothing to do with such nonsense and weak thinking. Without persistence and consistency you have no hope of making large impacts in your company's profits or in your desire to lead a life of significance. With them you will flourish during the journey and arrive with joy in a place of success.  

Hug your kryptonite.

Decide to perform Games Standard when the moment of doubt arrives (and it will arrive).

Consistently persevere.