Originally this post was going to be on the need for continued Personal Growth. It was going to be about how I choose to stretch myself by completing an Ironman Triathlon (half) and a marathon at age 50 in the same year. But a funny thing happened along the way.
My wife and I drove to Custer South Dakota so I could compete in the only triathlon event I could find that wasn’t cancelled or postponed. I had a LOT of time to think while driving 2 days to get there and in taking almost 11 hours to finish the race. There is nothing like total physical exhaustion to provide mental clarity! And the clarity led me to change the topic of this article.
I began to think “Why don’t most people do what I have done physically?”, and “Why don’t most people do anything challenging at all?” In simple terms, I think it goes back to how we were created and the Pareto Principle. Applying the principle, 80% of the results are found in 20% of the activity, and the ratio continues infinitely. Meaning that as things get harder, fewer and fewer people are willing to accept the challenge.
One of the best books I’ve read recently is Warrior Elite (Couch). In it the author, a former Navy SEAL, revisits the training of a new group in Basic Underwater Demolitions (BUDs), the initial training for any future SEAL. Except in rare instances, the only way you fail BUDs is by quitting, or Dropped on Request. In fact, on average, only 20% finish. Why?
Jocko Willink, another author and former SEAL, was recently quoted in describing BUDs.
“It’s fun. Everyone makes a big deal about it, the big SEAL training. It’s push-ups, pull-ups, dips, ropes, climbs, swims, and runs.
There's a very limited amount of headspace coaching in basic SEAL training. They don’t say: ‘OK, listen. When you start to get to a point in your mind where you’re feeling tired, what you need to do is calm your breath, relax your inner mindset.’ They don’t say that to you. They’re like, ‘If you don’t like it, quit.’”
So the answer is simple. Don’t quit.
I really dislike all of the platitudes by business coaches and speakers around this topic. Yes, the answer is simple, but not easy. In fact, most of us WILL quit (Pareto says 80%).
Which brings me to my real point. The United States has provided the greatest opportunity in human history for individuals to achieve their full potential vis a vis individual liberty. This is not a political statement, it's a fact.
My perception is that there are fewer people reaching their full potential, however. Where is the Abraham Lincoln, the John Kennedy, the Ronald Reagan? Where is the Crazy Horse, the Harriet Tubman, the Dr. Martin Luther King?
We entrepreneurs are the 20%. WE took the challenge, and overcame the difficulties. WE didn’t quit. But we have to do more, and not just in our businesses. We must apply our determination to the problems outside of business, in our families, and our communities. Forget politicians and talking heads, they are merely a reflection of our society, and frankly are part of the 80%. They’re not going to fix anything.
America has given us the opportunity to achieve greatness, let’s not waste it! DON’T QUIT!