Embracing the suck isn’t necessarily fun to think about. Going after big challenges evokes fear and brings stress. That’s why I spent two chapters to help you deal with those two motivation killers. Now it’s time to get serious about making uncomfortable things, comfortable. That’s not just a Stoic platitude, but a critical skill for your future. It’s not a talent that badass people are born with. It has to be developed methodically, patiently.
Let me use a personal example to get more practical. In August of 2017, my stepdaughter Catherine and I challenged each other to do 100 burpees every day, including during our 12 day Kokoro Yoga teacher training (12 hour days). It sucked for a few days, then started to get fun. Later in December, I challenged myself to up it to 200 burpees a day for the month. By the end of December, I didn’t want to stop. During one of my sessions a nutty idea popped in my pea brain: Could (or would) I do 300 a day for an entire year? I had enough evidence by then that I could, so the real issue was would I. I figured I would if I had a team, and a big “why.” I had already launched a foundation to help vets suffering from PTS. You may not realize that 22 vets a day (as of this writing) are committing suicide. This is so disturbing that I wanted to do more. I put these ideas together and hit upon the challenge. The next day I went to the SEALFIT and Unbeatable Mind tribes and asked them to join me to do 22 million burpees in 2018 for the cause. That’s unreasonable… uncommon, right? I think so anyhow. And it means that I had to do my part with 300 burpees a day. I started with something I could chew with 100, then ratcheted it up to 200, and when I was ready, it was game on for 100,000 burpees. At the moment I am at 120,000 personally and the tribe is past 12 million. We have raised $200,000 and I am heading to Google tomorrow for an event where they are supporting the cause. That is how this works.
Do the uncomfortable in small bits until it becomes comfortable. Then you take it up a notch. Rinse, repeat. Simple. The formula again:
- Step up to the challenge to embrace the suck.
- Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
- Double the challenge.
- Get comfortable with the new level of discomfort.
- Triple (or more) the challenge.
Start at 25 burpees a day. When that’s comfortable, go to 50 burpees a day. When that’s comfortable, go to 100 burpees/day, then 200, etc. Pretty soon you’ve seriously embraced the suck and have found another 20X.
Of course, a big component of this philosophy is choosing wisely. You have to decide what it is you should be challenging yourself with. What is it that you want to accomplish, and who do you want to be so badly that it hurts not being there now? If your mission is to communicate to 100 million people, you have to start with communicating to 1. Then learn how to reach 2, then 4, 8, 16, 32, etc… until 100 million.
I did hundreds of training and speaking events for groups of 5 to 10 people. Over time, this grew to 20, then 40. And sometimes 200 or event 800 to 1,000. But It’s taken ten years and I’m just getting warmed up. I frequently speak to hundreds of people at events where I discuss the principles of developing an unbeatable mind, total leadership and elite teaming. I teach box breathing, and visualization, and embracing the suck, and learning to be silent. Everything we are discussing in this book. It isn’t easy, but it is not as hard now as when I started. In fact, it is really enjoyable in spite of the challenge. But, the point is I had to step up to embrace the suck in something important to my mission. I didn’t waste time trying to master wingsuit flying or stand up comedy, both of which interest me. Maybe someday, but first things first!
Where do you want to build competence, courage, and confidence? If you are a leader, it could be learning to communicate from the heart… to start facilitating difficult conversations with your team. I love the work of Brene’ Brown in this area. Her book, Rising Strong is a good place to start. It could be forming a team to launch a business, or non-profit. In order to be an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to work with a team, start lean and fail often. Embrace the suck and don’t expect victory on your first lap. You’ll learn the lessons you need to go bigger next time. By the time you get to the 5th or 6th attempt, you’ll be on your way to huge success.
That’s my experience anyhow… others are way better at business than I and get there sooner!
You have heard these refusal to fail stories before, but some are worth surfacing again. Newspaper editorial cartoonist Theodore Geissel was rejected by 27 publishers before And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street made him Dr. Seuss. Henry Ford went through Models A-S before he finally produced the Model T. That car accounted for over half the vehicles on the road during the 1920s. Winston Churchill failed time and time again until he became prime minister during World War II. Lincoln failed relentlessly before being elected President and ending the slavery and the Civil War. Each embraced the suck and refused to quit in the face of failure. They developed the character needed for their ultimate success… and when they were ready, the challenge came to them. That’s truly uncommon, but not undoable by you.
Begin with Why
How do you find the initial motivation to embrace the suck? Daniel Pink, author of Drive, says the 3 most powerful motivators have nothing to do with money. According to him, sociological studies have shown the biggest motivators to be purpose, autonomy, and mastery. We’ve explored each in this book. You must have a powerful purpose, such as eradicating the suicide paging veterans, or healing mother earth, ending world hunger or eliminating nuclear weapons. Maybe your why isn’t so daunting, you can still find that reason why you feel you are on this planet and do something about it. That is the first drive, the first place to embrace the suck.
We’re working on mastery through this course. Mastery is a journey, not a destination. Master the skills, and the person you need to be, to accomplish your mission. Your mission is connected to your purpose. First, master your body, then your thoughts, then emotions. Interestingly, the pursuit of master also brings one that third driver, autonomy. Autonomy is freedom, and a disciplined body, mind and emotional life is the surest path to freedom. Discipline requires you to embrace the suck to be self-directed, to choose the things that are good for you, and eliminate the habitual things that aren’t leading you to excellence.
If total development as a human is your ideal, then embrace the suck to develop all five mountains as a challenge of integration. Design a strategy, commit to it and discipline yourself to do the work daily. You will see it transform you as a person soon enough. My burpee challenge was deeply connected to who I am as a person. I treated it as a daily practice spanning all five mountains. As a result, it was far more than a workout, or just another physical challenge. It brought humility, gratitude and spiritual growth. I don’t love burpees, nor did I need to get even more fit. It is about growth… self-mastery in service to something bigger than myself.
A lot of the people who go through SEAL training do it to challenge themselves, to see what they are capable of. Others have a burning desire to serve their country, and some just want to play Navy SEAL. I wanted to serve my country, but to be honest, my primary urge was to embrace the suck and develop the character of what the Navy SEAL represented to me. That was how I could align with my newfound purpose of being a warrior leader. I didn’t do it to prove that I was better than others. No, I just wanted to be a better me. The SEAL training, just like the training I recommend herein, does its job of cracking the shallow shell of the ego, allowing humility and raw potential to show up in its place.