I am very excited to be a member of the Next Level Performance Leadership Group, which was founded by my Crossfit mentor, Mycal Anders and meets monthly. He is a former Marine with an MBA who is a leadership instructor and Crossfit gym owner. The Leadership Group meets monthly and is composed of “faces” that I regularly see at the gym. When I first joined, I was shocked to discover that these “faces” are highly accomplished in their chosen fields.
Why should I have been surprised? Only Type A people gravitate to Crossfit. Type A people have the discipline and persistence necessary to succeed with Crossfit. It is only natural that they would carry these traits to their professional lives. But the intense drive to succeed carries with it some liability. As a result, each meeting usually tackles the personal issues from a volunteer who agrees to expose his or her liability in exchange for advice from the group. Exposing one’s fragile ego to extreme vulnerability is no easy thing to do and I commend the bravery of every volunteer who has done it.
Liabilities that are exposed always turn out to be far from unique. Almost everyone in the group has faced the exact same issues! This week, a member of the group volunteered for “deep work.” This was a highly accomplished individual who confessed to suffering from lack of confidence, a plague of negative thoughts, inability to sleep and anxiety over perceived threats. Interestingly, Mycal began the meeting with a quote from Ed Mylett, who is an entrepreneur, best-selling author and peak performance coach. He wrote on the quote on the white board: “Don’t Give Up for One More Day.” Uncannily this turned out to be directly tied to the “deep work” discussion.
Fear and failure are first cousins, says Denis Waitley in his epic book Being the Best. He pointed out that a study conducted at the University of Michigan discovered that 60% of our fears are unwarranted and that another 20% have already become irrelevant past events. Another 10% are so petty that they cannot make any difference whatsoever. Out of all the fears only 4 or 5% are justified and real. I can personally testify from all my worrying in the past that the worst-case scenarios rarely happen. All of the anxiety and worrying usually turns out to be an embarrassing waste of emotion, sleep, and time.
Failure is inevitable in any endeavor, and it is not reasonable to expect that we will only experience success on our journey through life. In fact, without failure we would never even appreciate our success! Many people can’t cope with failure and give up when the journey turns sour. Perhaps one key to success lies with the ability to handle failure.
“To handle failure, you need to know how to handle fear,” says Denis Waitley. Denis pointed out in his book that Thomas Edison’s ability to handle disappointment and failure is unparalleled in the history of science. He failed 5000 times trying to find a suitable filament for his electric light bulb. Do you know what he said? “I succeeded in learning 5000 different things that would not work.” Thomas Edison also failed 25,000 times while trying to invent a storage battery. “Failure? I’m not a failure. I now know 25,000 ways not to make a battery.” Denis emphasizes that “To be the best you can be, never label lack of success as failure.”
In our society, there seems to be a great deal of needless angst and anxiety that arises from negative self-talk inside our heads. Almost everyone has encountered this. Too often negative self-talk has been engraved in our minds by well-meaning parents, teachers, or peers. We become our own worst enemies. Isn’t it interesting that we never seem to focus on our positive traits or great achievements? We do not see ourselves in a realistic and balanced way. Perhaps it is human nature to let the negative dominate our self-talk. We have to learn how to talk to ourselves!
John Maxwell, a life-coach leader observed that “the major difference between successful and unsuccessful people is how they think.” Pat Williams pointed out in his book Extreme Winning: 12 Keys to Unlocking the Winner Within You, that of the 60,000 thoughts that we average per day, 92% are not pictures of our reality. He noted that Norman Vincent Peale, who is regarded as the man who brought positive thinking to the masses with his book The Power of Positive Thinking, struggled himself with positive thinking! He had to overcome his intense fear of public speaking arising from negative self-talk. “Change your thoughts, and you change the world,” he said. “The person who sends out positive thoughts activates the world around him positively and draws back to himself positive results.”
My Crossfitting classmates don’t do Crossfit because it is easy. They do it because it is hard. The do it for the challenge of pushing themselves to heights never before achieved and the thrill obtained from achieving them. Crossfit teaches that succeeding at any endeavor in life that is worthwhile is never going to be easy.
I believe that those who look for the easy way out in life never really find happiness or fulfillment. Failures are a sign that you are doing something!
“Ever tried, ever failed,” says Samuel Becket. “No matter, try again, fail again; fail better!”
The brave volunteer bared his soul to the group with great trepidation. He looked like a man on his way to the gallows and he braced for the worst from the jury: “you are hereby sentenced to a lifetime of therapy.” But surprise! Everyone thought he was normal. Who hasn’t wrestled with that same elephant?
Instead he was sentenced to a lifetime of positive thinking. He was charged with seeking ways of accentuating the positive and with viewing himself as he truly is—in a positive light. By accentuating the negative had overlooked all the positive assets to be grateful for—including the fantastic fiancé sitting next to him! He did not even realize that she had the fortitude to help him navigate the negative minefields.
The takeaway from this week’s exercise is this:
Be kind to yourself.
See yourself in a positive light, as the person you truly are and aspire to.
Don’t look at failure as proof that you are “no good,” but rather as a learning experience on your journey.
Don’t ever give up. Listen to Ed Mylett: “Don’t give up for one more day.” During that day you will acquire a new perspective, a fresh new insight, a potential answer to that perpetual frustration. It will keep you going.
Here is an anonymous poem from Zen Gardner which is very a propos:
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out–
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.
– Author unknown (ZenGardner.com)
My classmate sitting opposite from me no doubt had lots of gut-wrenching stories to tell. In exasperation, she leaned over to me and let it out: ”I’m 40 years old and I feel like I’m just getting started!” Do you know what I said to her? “I’m approaching 70 and I feel like I’m just getting started.”
Your journey is your journey. There are no time markers on it. Just markers of experience and fresh pavement ahead.
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