It is important to perform an honest assessment of your skills and capacity before embracing the suck. Start from ground zero and shoot for 20x doesn’t usually go so well. What is your baseline from which to build your 2X goal? If you’re going to accept a challenge like 100,000 burpees in a year, you have to your benchmark.
My 17-year-old son said he wanted to get a master’s degree. Great! But he had just finished high school and was struggling to get started in a 2-year associates degree. He has a long way to go to develop the discipline and focus required for graduate school. One brick at a time. A good benchmark for him would be to finish his first semester of college with decent grades.
Where are you right now? A lot of people have an unrealistic assessment of their current state.
We had a medical doctor in our burpee challenge start with his hair on fire, setting a goal of 500 burpees a day. I private messaged him and said, “I applaud your zeal, but that goal does not sound like it is built on a good self-assessment. You will burn out or get injured. Try ratcheting it down to 150 or a number more achievable over the long haul. This is a marathon, not a footrace!” His ego was too invested after putting his number out publicly. He ignored my advice and fell off the challenge after about 30 days. Failure to properly benchmark.
There are three primary things to assess:
- Where you are at…
- The steps, or process, you will take to get to the next level…
- The milestones you will measure to adjust your process along the way.
Using my burpee challenge example— my process was to do a set number of burpees every day. If I missed a day due to travel, or injury (only 4 of these happened in the year) I would make it up. I’m started at 100, then went to 200, and stepped it up 300 a day. I do each burpee with as much awareness and “virtuosity” as I can, and measure y progress. This is a simple example… it can be more complicated with a specialized training plan or skill. n
When I meet my daily target, I’ll exceed it by a few reps. That’s what I call “shooting over the bow.” Don’t just hit your target. Beat it. That way I am conditioning my body-mind for another level, even if I don’t need to go there. Psychologically it feels good to exceed your target. When you climb a mountain, your target is the top of the mountain, but you’ve also got to get back down. You’ve got to build the energy for more work than the stated goal because it’s never a direct line.
300 burpees a day got me to roughly 9,000 each month. When I add in the extras, and a 24-hour period where a few thousand, the actual number of burpees performed in that year was 114,500. And we broke a world record. My goal was 100,000, but I shot over the target for good measure. I embraced the suck and accomplished something worthy (for me and the Vets).
The best outcome of embracing the suck: What seems difficult at the start becomes something enjoyable and transformative. That’s self-induced motivation. Daniel Pink might be proud.
Embracing the suck isn’t limited to big challenges. You can use this principle to do “little hard things” every day. This will hone your edge and keep you growing. I mentioned earlier that SEAL Admiral McCraven was my Commanding Officer at SEAL Team Three. He did a terrific commencement speech at the University of Texas. In it, he said to: “Do something good the first thing when you get up.” In Navy SEAL training, we had to make our bed first thing… getting ready for inspection. His point was that simply making your bed every single morning, and doing it well, was starting with a “little hard thing” already in the bag. It gives you momentum.
I get up, make my bed, take a cold shower and begin my morning training. The cold shower is a classic little hard thing. There are great physical and psychological benefits to cold showers. For me, it’s an extra hard thing that is invigorating.
I recommend doing your physical training in the morning if you can. When you’re doing it, challenge yourself with at least one thing that’s harder than you want. Learn to love to surpass your previous limits. And whatever your goals are for the day, do the hardest thing first. Whatever’s most uncomfortable, get it out of the way right off the bat.
For me, that is often some critical conversation. Hard conversations are very uncomfortable. It is easy to avoid them until you convince yourself problem is solved. Usually, you have just swept it under the rug unit it becomes an even bigger problem. So get comfortable having small, critical conversations daily before they evolve into the big ones that blow up relationships.
Another thing I have had to learn the hard way is the power of saying “no.” It belongs in the “embrace the suck” category because it is so easy to say yes to everything and everyone. We have to learn to say no to the wrong things so we can say yes to the right things. So I look for things to say no to after my conversations. What have I agreed to do today that I don’t need, nor want to do? Say no now. Who am I supposed to call, or what commitment did I make that I wish I hadn’t? Say no now. Be sensitive to not ruin your reputation… but this practice will make you more sensitive to what you say yes to, so you will have to say no, less often!
These are just some examples of embracing the suck challenges that seem like little things but can make an outsized impact over time. The devil is in the details means that if we pay attention to the small stuff, the big stuff will work out just fine. These little things seem more difficult than they really are, and feel good once you’re doing them.