It’s 45 minutes in.
I’m feeling pretty special.
If it wasn’t covered in mud and horse piss, I’d probably kiss my own face and lick off the awesomeness.
Months of training was paying off and I was sitting in 44th place out of however many thousands are on the start line at Tough Guy. One of our clients was positioned at the end of the initial 8-10km cross country run.
(Nobody knows for sure how long it is but it sucks.)
Then all of a sudden, like the irrepressible wave of excitement that you can’t control when you find yourself next to that hot chick at the bar, my entire lower body cramped up.
It was like a tsunami of pain starting from my calf muscles and, apart from the day I fractured my spine, the closest I’ve come to understanding paralysis.
I spent the next 20 minutes watching people over take me because I physically couldn’t move my legs as I limped on / dragged myself along.
In the end something snapped inside me and I just started hauling ass over the various fires, trenches, pipes and A-frames Tough Guy is famous for.
What I discovered what that “It’s Never Always Worse” and “This Too Shall Pass”.
If you can believe and harness the power of these two phrases, I guarantee you that your life will start taking twists you never saw coming.
What I found was that the human body is a phenomenal piece of kit when under the most severe pressure but only if one thing is true.
The person wrapped up inside the machine is willing to believe beyond every sense of logic that they can keep going mentally.
We only really discover if this is us in the extreme circumstances, where the balance is tipped more heavily towards the pain of failure than the pain of giving up.
I want to tell you more about the cramp.
Imagine that cramp you get in your hamstrings when you sit in the wrong position too long.
Triple it, then spread it like butter all over your feet, quads, inner thigh and butt cheeks.
Now imagine your legs are locked up with your knees straight.
Now try and jump over some 5ft high concrete tunnels, crawl under some barbed wire and get over some 10 foot fences with nothing but a rope.
The idea of pulling out of the race was just inconceivable for me.
I had come as leader of the team of clients we brought to the event.
Basically I’m a stubborn bastard.
And I knew that “this too will pass”.
Now I hope you never find yourself in this position. It’s not nice when you feel you are struggling forward against the most powerful braking system in the world, desperately fighting just to move.
However, I can state without a shadow of a doubt than one day (in fact probably on many days) you will find yourself in a situation that scares you.
You don’t want to move forward.
You build up in your brain that if it hurts this much now, imagine what it will be like in another 60 seconds, 30 minutes, 5 hours whatever situation you find yourself in.
It might be an Ironman, a set of squats, a prowler race.
You will not be able to logically fathom how the hell you will survive any more of this torture.
I get you. I know what you’re thinking.
“My life is too precious. I can’t die now – it’s not worth it.”
Now I don’t know why or how this happens, but know this.
“It’s Never Always Worse”
Whatever you feel is going to kill you, will at some point flatline in terms of pain, or at least the curve will become much less steep.
Maybe it’s some weird psychological thing we don’t yet understand about humans.
Maybe it’s a survival mechanism where our subconscious first tries to protect us, then decides there is a reason for this insanity and it’s best to settle in for the ride.
Quite honestly I don’t care.
The first time you approach a girl in bar, you feel like the world may well implode.
The second and third can be just as bad especially if you screw it up. Or she’s a lesbian. It’s ALWAYS because she was a lesbian.
Actually this isn’t true, it’s because you don’t get that girls need three things:
1) They want a compliment that doesn’t involve their tits or ‘hot ass’ and they want a non-sexual reason you gave that compliment.
2) They want to have a laugh, play some games and find out you are worth spending time with more than the sleazy shitbag who just ordered 4 bottles of champagne he can’t afford.
3) They want to learn more about themselves and be intrigued about what else you might help them discover.
(NB Don’t go and ask a girl if this is true)
The increasing difficulty you see often isn’t really there.
Who’s to say making conversation with the 9/10 girl is harder than the 3/10 girl?
It’s not 3 times harder to speak to the 9 than the 3!
It will be if you go in like a 12 year old walking erection but it doesn’t work as a straight line.
Why do we assume the hot girl is less into chatting, having a laugh and learning some more about herself?
Similarly, if you actually get into the right situation to chat with someone worth £10,000,000 and someone worth £10 it’s really not that hard to find out more about that person.
It’s certainly not a million times harder.
“But how do I do that?”
The best rated conversationalists are the ones who get the other person talking about themselves.
Things sound different when we talk out loud and we learn about ourselves.
Then we want to spend more time with the other person.
BACK TO THE POINT
“It’s Never Always Worse”.
HERE IS THE KILLER:
Difficulty is not directly proportional to the time the challenge goes on or the number of times you need to do something.
It’s just not that simple.
How often have we seen someone who swears they could NEVER run a mile without stopping because they’re too fat / too lazy / too unhealthy / never run etc?
The first 2-3 weeks training are in a word, shit.
Everything hurts and that mile marker is like a boat that floats out with the tide and never gets any closer.
But once they get that mile, Miles 2, 3, 4 and 5 come along pretty quick.
Soon, our novice runner is pumping out 10+ miles and it doesn’t feel any worse than that first mile.
For some of us we there isn’t much difference between 10 miles and 5 miles.
But suggest doing a marathon and it’s like we’re back at the bar with the hot chick, thinking that this is an insurmountable challenge.
The truth is that “It’s Never Always Worse”.
Miles 10-20 are often not really that much worse.
Call it a trance, a zone whatever.
The fact is it’s often not that much harder to make the step up.
I don’t really know.
Clearly your body will adapt to training factors but physiologically you don’t make massive improvements each week.
This applies in so many situations not just endurance work.
Last week I was just going to three rounds of a prowler set in a day when one is sufficient.
Then I nearly talked myself out of it expecting it to get progressively more horrendous.
Then I got going on round 2 and realised it was certainly harder, but not THAT much harder.
Round 3 was no harder than Round 2 and I was maintaining pace.
“It’s Never Always Worse”
Out of fitness the same applies.
The thought of making those 30 important calls can seem monstrous.
But what if you just make 1?
That will be the worst one.
The next 4 or 5 might also make you nervous.
But after that, something flips and you just get comfortable.
This happened with my Tough Guy cramp.
I was in a whole world of pain, but keeping moving didn’t make it any worse.
So I had the choice of fighting on and getting the job done, or stopping.
The pain of that would have lived with me FOREVER.
But carrying on when you just want to stop does not produce a linear progression of pain and I think that is what stops most people every getting beyond what is mildly uncomfortable.
We have people on our fitness camps or following nutrition plans quit because they have been programmed to believe life is a straight line.
“If I’m struggling on Day 3 imagine what Day 20 will be like”.
But it doesn’t work like that.
Something settles down.
The universe gives you a hand and steadies the ship.
Unfortunately those who are most desperate and need it most don’t stick it out long enough.
They don’t trust that “It’s Never Always Worse”.
Take an example from The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy.
He talks of how if I ask you to walk along a 20ft plank on the ground, you’d most probably do it without thinking and maybe do a dance in the middle.
If I put the plank between two walls 10ft high, you might think twice but give it a go.
Then we put the plank between two houses. This gets you thinking…
Two 20 storey buildings? NO WAY.
Why is it any worse?
You’re scared you might fall off and the fear of failure is HIGH!
But the task is completed by just doing more of what you’ve proven you can do.
It’s about confidence.
So if the fear is of what might happen if you fail, don’t fail.
Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. The next step is as easy as the last one.
Step 15 is no more dangerous than Step 2.
For years athletes and scientists believed the 4 minute mile was physically impossible.
But one man believed he could do it.
Roger Bannister broke that barrier.
Since then many, many athletes have done it.
All it took was knowing that the difficulty didn’t keep rising past some unachievable level of pain and ability in a linear fashion.
It was in fact a case of putting one foot in front of the other and believing.
Look at the difference in professional footballers teams.
The winner of the Premier league in 2012 received £15,101,240.
The bottom club received £755,062.
Are Manchester City 20 times as good?
Did they get 20 times as many points?
Did they score 20 times as many goals?
No but they got 20 times the rewards for just doing what mattered a little longer than everyone else, CONSISTENTLY over the season.
Funnily enough they literally snatched the title with the last kick of the season.
They just kept on doing what they needed to do.
Each kick will have seemed insignificant but it was harder to win 30 matches than it was to win 1 if they just did the same things with the same quality over and over.
Life doesn’t deliver things in straight lines and you’ll often find you’re not that far off the required standard for whatever your challenge is.
You just have to make the choice whether you’re going to keep going and going and going or quit, assuming that things are just going to get worse.
This is not to say that anybody can just go out and do anything.
Obviously we need to train hard and need quality programming (physical and mental) and at some point the body can’t go on.
But whatever your ‘limit’ is right now, you’ll probably find to succeed and raise that bar, you just need to take care of:
– The next 50 metres
– The next push up
– The next 2 inches on the push up
– The next 40m on the prowler
– The next free throw
– Winning the next tackle
– Staying in the ring for another round
FOCUS ON THE DETAILS OF THAT MOMENT
Stay strong and don’t collapse – get that one done, then the next one.
“It’s Never Always Worse”.
I often see people start the 5th or 6th rounds on the prowler slower than before.
Now there is no reason for this, other than believing that it will ALWAYS get worse, that the end of that 40m will be impossible unless you hold back now.
Sometimes it will be, sometimes it won’t.
But “It’s Never Always Worse”.
When you complete that round, it won’t necessarily hurt even more than the 3rd or 4th rounds and what you’ve done is raise that bar.
Always try it, even just the first 10 steps.
If you’re still alive, do the next 10.
You know what to do.
At some point it’s going to stop getting much worse.
The hurdles don’t get always higher.
What if it does get worse and you just can’t do anymore?
Congratulations, you just got better.
“This too shall pass”.