“Most people are the lion in the cage. Safe, tame, predictable, waiting for something to happen. But for humans, the cage isn’t made of glass and steel bars, it’s made of bad advice and low self-esteem and bullshit rules and tortured thinking about what you can’t do or what you’re supposed to do.” – Tim Grover, Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable
Most people fail to get what they want because they give up too soon. They’re not willing to put in the hard work. They just don’t want it bad enough. It’s too damn hard and they quit.
If you have a dream, a goal, a quest you’re going to have to be relentless in your pursuit. You’re going to have to push through pain, fight with adversity, and challenge yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Last December I finished a book by Attack Athletics owner Tim Grover titled Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable. Tim has worked with Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, and other high performing athletes that have excelled in their sport. He has also worked with athletes that have had all the physical gifts, talent, and ability but yet somehow found a way to underperform.
In his book Tim details the differences between those that excel in their sport and those that do not – and in short, it is your ability to be “Relentless” in you pursuits.
Over the past year I’ve practiced “Relentlessism” – Yes, that is a word – and today I’d like to share how you can become Relentless not only with your health and fitness but in your life.
What does being relentless in your life look like?
THE RELENTLESS TAKE RESPONSIBILITY
Note: Thank you to Mark for telling the story of William
In the early 19th century a boy was born partially blind in his left eye and with severe stomach issues that would force him to adhere to a strict diet for the majority of his life.
As the boy aged he struggled with severe bouts of anxiety and depression. Although he worked diligently to become a world-class painter, a career path his father severely disapproved of, his pursuits were riddled with failure. Meanwhile, his anxiety and depression were only elevated as he failed to live up to the expectations his brother, a famous author, had set.
William was an exceptionally bright kid and with the help of his father was able to get into Harvard Medical school. During his college years his anxiety and depression only got worse.
Although he found his studies to be manageable he never felt comfortable in his academic pursuits. During this time his relationship with his father continued to breakdown and Williams suicidal thoughts were only getting stronger.
Poor health, constant failure in everything that he attempted, and a life of isolation led William to the conclusion that suicide was his only choice. However, he made a deal with himself. He would spend an entire year taking 100% responsibility for everything that occurred in his life. At the end of the year if he found his circumstances did not improve and he still felt like taking his life than he would do so.
The William in this story is American Philosopher and Psychologist William James, one of the worlds leading thinkers and is often labeled the “Father of American Psychology.” Over the course of that year William discovered that by taking responsibility for his actions and choices the way he viewed his circumstances changed.
For example, living a healthy life is a choice. In Relentless Tim writes, you’re choosing the physical and mental discomfort of being out of shape over the physical and mental discomfort of being in the gym and eating healthier foods.
- No time
- No motivation
- No money
What choices have you made that have led to those excuses?
THE TRAP OF VALIDATION AND KEEPING UP WITH THE JONES’S
If you want to get anxious and stressed out as fast as possible the best way to do it is by comparing yourself to everyone else.
I use to get caught in this trap all the time. I’d be lying if I said I still didn’t but I’m starting to get pretty clear on the things that matter most to me.
A few decisions I’ve made simply to seek the approval of others:
Went to school to earn a Bachelors and Masters degree. I’m proud of the accomplishment but in my opinion our educational system does a really good job of teaching you how to work for someone else and not how to work for yourself.
How many times have you heard, “get good grades so you can get a good job?”
Not once have I ever heard get good grades so you can create your own job.
When I came out of the womb (is that too much info) I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur and work for myself. If I was smart I would have found a mentor at an early age and got busy creating.
I say YES 90% of the time. I say yes to everything. I’m not even sure I know how to say NO (does that count?). Half of the time after saying yes I think to myself, “What the hell did I say that for?”
The other half of the time I realize I’m already committed to something else and am left with more than I can handle, some extra stress I don’t particularly care to have, and I end up either letting someone else down because I can’t follow through with my commitment to them, or myself down because I do a piss poor job due to the disease I have just created for myself known as #Tomuchontheplateisitis.
Maybe you don’t have the seeking the approval of others problem like myself and some others. You might just be trying to keep up with the Joneses by constantly comparing yourself to others.
- My friend lost so much weight on this diet, why can’t I?
- So and so has a great job, a beautiful family, why can’t I?
- This person or that person has it all figured out. How come I’m struggling so much?
However, it’s important to remember that you only get a small snippet of others lives. You see the show that’s on the stage, you miss the behind the scenes.
Everyone has their own personal struggles, weaknesses, and comparisons that they make. For example, take a look at the following.
Bill Gates: Gates didn’t seem like a shoe-in for success after dropping out of Harvard and starting a failed first business with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen called Traf-O-Data. While this early idea didn’t work, Gates’ later work did, creating the global empire that is Microsoft.
Walt Disney: Today Disney rakes in billions from merchandise, movies and theme parks around the world, but Walt Disney himself had a bit of a rough start. He was fired by a newspaper editor because, “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” After that, Disney started a number of businesses that didn’t last too long and ended with bankruptcy and failure. He kept plugging along, however, and eventually found a recipe for success that worked.
Charles Darwin: In his early years, Darwin gave up on having a medical career and was often chastised by his father for being lazy and too dreamy. Darwin himself wrote, “I was considered by all my masters and my father, a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard of intellect.” Perhaps they judged too soon, as Darwin today is well-known for his scientific studies.
Thomas Edison: In his early years, teachers told Edison he was “too stupid to learn anything.” Work was no better, as he was fired from his first two jobs for not being productive enough. Even as an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. Of course, all those unsuccessful attempts finally resulted in the design that worked.
Jerry Seinfeld: Just about everybody knows who Seinfeld is, but the first time the young comedian walked on stage at a comedy club, he looked out at the audience, froze and was eventually jeered and booed off of the stage. Seinfeld knew he could do it, so he went back the next night, completed his set to laughter and applause, and the rest is history.
Everyone has their owns struggles, weaknesses, and demons to fight. Those that come out winners stay true to who they are and their beliefs. (Special thanks to Onlinecollege.org for the awesome resource)
LEARNING TO ADAPT
Adaptability can quickly be summed up as your ability to move in a given direction at anytime. This may mean physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually.
- It’s your willingness to learn, make mistakes, and learn some more.
- It’s your ability to render adequate feedback and make adjustments or changes in your behaviors that produce positive and productive results.
Most of us walk into any new situation with a set of prejudices about what we think is possible. These prejudices can come from past personal experiences, other people’s experiences, or simply mistaken beliefs.
We then form rules about what will happen based on these beliefs and those rules typically affect that choices or actions that we take.
Whether it’s changing your diet, starting a relationships with someone, or taking a new job all of us go into every situation with a set of expectations, requirements, and desires.
- Expectations: Where we assume what will happen
- Requirements: What we need to actually happen
- Desires: What we want to happen
The power to adapt to any situation in life lies in getting clear on what these expectations, requirements, and desires actually are.
Gary Gagliardi tells us that to get to the Magic Zone we have to become more adaptable and that act requires great courage, tenacity, and experimentation.
Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War says that to get to this magic zone you have to be willing to expect anything and everything and admit that we might not know what we will find.
Science as a practice tells us that we should constantly be seeking to disprove ourselves in order to find better and more useful theories, solutions, and outcomes in our life.
In his book Everday Survival, Lawrence Gonzles tells us that the ability to adapt to any situation or change can be looked at in four ways:
1. Willingness to search and understand: To seek out different people, cultures, religions, and theories. To get away from what you assume to be right and to be willing to admit that you might just be wrong sometimes.
I could not phrase it any better than Vera Nazarian from the Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration.
“It’s a fact—everyone is ignorant in some way or another.
Ignorance is our deepest secret.
And it is one of the scariest things out there, because those of us who are most ignorant are also the ones who often don’t know it or don’t want to admit it.
Here is a quick test:
If you have never changed your mind about some fundamental tenet of your belief, if you have never questioned the basics, and if you have no wish to do so, then you are likely ignorant.
Before it is too late, go out there and find someone who, in your opinion, believes, assumes, or considers certain things very strongly and very differently from you, and just have a basic honest conversation.
It will do both of you good.”
2. Sometimes you need to throw away your mental scripts: Mental scripts are those automatic habits that make life easier for us because you never have to really think about them anymore. They remove the thought process and make things automatic. Like tying your shoe, the route you take to work, or the foods that you eat.
These come in pretty handy most often except when the necessity for change is upon you. Then these habits or routines are pretty tough to break and unfortunately life often requires you to break them every so often.
3. Catching yourself in the act: Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and almost immediately dismissed their opinions on a topic just because it was the opposite of yours?
Yeah, me neither
You’ve got to catch yourself here and become aware of why you are automatically shooting down stuff?
Arguments are not opportunities to prove you’re right they’re an opportunity to learn and understand where someone else is coming from.
4. Believing you can adapt: Your brain is already equipped to adapt. Through neuroplasticityyour mental abilities, memory, and ability to learn are designed to improve over time. So essentially you’re already hard-wired to adapt.
5. Practice makes perfect: Yup, practice being adaptable by working on building the adaptability habit. Do something little to break routines every single day.
Take a new route to work, go vegetarian for a month, try a new ethnic cuisine, use your other leg to put your pants on, a new exercise routine, have lunch with different friend or stranger even.
6. Exercise consistently: No joke, exercise is one of the best ways to practice adaptability. By consistently doing so you are breaking down muscles and forcing them to repair, grow, and get stronger in order to accommodate your increased activity.
7. Take your time making decisions but also shoot from the hip: Practice both decision-making techniques but on occasion also act on impulse. More importantly take notes and measure which process is more successful for you.
8. Create problems in stead of waiting for them: Anticipate failure but expect success. Becoming aware of what may go wrong can help you to prepare for it in the future. Instead of trying to figure it out on the fly it’s a good idea to think about some obstacles you may face and to plan for them accordingly.
- What hiccups might arise when trying to start exercising?
- What might hinder your progress when trying to establish healthy eating habits?
- If you take this new job what are some things that may have to change?
9. Knowing the rules is important but understanding when to break them might be even better: In the book The Big Picture: Essential Lessons From The Movies an example of Babe the pig is given. Babe doesn’t succeed by acting the way a pig is supposed to, Babe finds success because he breaks the rules and acts with manners, politeness, and a positive outlook. The exact opposite of what you’d expect from a pig.
“…The father of the modern automobile, founder of the Ford Motor Company, and inventor of the moving assembly line was a highly unconventional business leader. Henry Ford challenged his times (and his investors) by insisting on producing affordable automobiles for a mass market. He paid his employees much more than was common at the time, creating what he called “wage incentive” and thereby attracting and keeping a strong work force. Advocating “welfare capitalism,” Ford took an unusual amount of interest in the lives of his employees, requiring them to live according to the rules set by his “Sociological Department,” which restricted how they spent their leisure hours. His risks paid off, and Ford Motor Company has helped define the modern urban landscape…” – Businesspundit.com
10. Don’t waste your energy on every challenge: Save some of your mojo for the really big important stuff. Why fight certain battles when you can simply go around them. Save your energy for the big stuff that doesn’t have roads surrounding them.
WHAT ARE YOU WILLING TO GIVE UP?
Instead, I ask them what they’re willing to give up.
What are you willing to give up, sacrifice, suffer through, accept, tolerate, put on hold, and struggle with to reach your destination?
Mark sums this up beautifully in an article he wrote titled The Most Important Question Of Your Life.
“Everybody wants to have an amazing job and financial independence — but not everyone wants to suffer through 60-hour work weeks, long commutes, obnoxious paperwork, to navigate arbitrary corporate hierarchies and the blasé confines of an infinite cubicle hell. People want to be rich without the risk, without the sacrifice, without the delayed gratification necessary to accumulate wealth.
Everybody wants to have great sex and an awesome relationship — but not everyone is willing to go through the tough conversations, the awkward silences, the hurt feelings and the emotional psychodrama to get there. And so they settle. They settle and wonder “What if?” for years and years and until the question morphs from “What if?” into “Was that it?” And when the lawyers go home and the alimony check is in the mail they say, “What was that for?” if not for their lowered standards and expectations 20 years prior, then what for
…People want an amazing physique. But you don’t end up with one unless you legitimately appreciate the pain and physical stress that comes with living inside a gym for hour upon hour, unless you love calculating and calibrating the food you eat, planning your life out in tiny plate-sized portions…”
If losing 20 pounds is your goal are you willing to go through sugar withdrawals, early fatigue, a sore body, waking up earlier to get in your workout, skipping late nights out and drinks with friends?
- Are you willing to decline the crap food in the buffet line at the party you’re at?
- Are you willing to spend an hour or two every Sunday prepping meals for the weak?
- Are you willing to be “the weird one” and order baked Salmon and extra veggies at dinner while everyone else is having lasagna and dessert?
- Are you willing to accept responsibility for the results in your life today?
- Are you willing to push through plateau’s and to never give up but instead re-evaluate when times get tough?
Ken approaches the keyboard player at the end of the evening and tells him how talented he thinks he is. Ken comments that he would love to be able to play the keyboards as well as Charles.
Charles responds by saying “No, you wouldn’t.”
Ken is a little shocked by his response and insists that he really would love to be able to play the keyboard as well as him.
Charles elaborates and says “No, you mean you like the idea of playing the keyboards. If you’d love to play them, you’d be doing it.”
Are you willing to get started and put in the hard work or do you just like the idea of the end result?
HOW WILL YOU BECOME RELENTLESS?
“Don’t tell me the glass is half empty or half full. There’s either something in the glass or there isn’t. What will you do with it.” Tim Grover
Most people start a lot of things but don’t finish them because they either they don’t trust themselves, they second guess their decisions, or they start listening to the opinions of others.
Is there an area of your life you keep giving up on? What can you do today to become relentless in that pursuit?
Resources & Gratitude:
- Mark Manson: The Prime Belief: Story of William James
- Tim Grover: Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable
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