Whatever avenue I choose, I want to be the very best. And the very best may not be “I’m Number One”. The very best may be “Did I leave everything inside me out there?” . . . The best is . . . I’m running against myself in everything I do.”
If you’re reading this, you probably know a little about my background as an Special Forces soldier. Many people assume that most of what I’ve achieved is beyond their capacity. But over time, I’ve learned three things. First, most people have an imperfect understanding of what they are capable of, which is always much more than they think. Second, mindset matters, perhaps much more than actual capability. The ability to ‘back yourself’ and not be deterred by obstacles or failure, for failure is only a matter of perception. And third, we are all travelling our own journey. So comparisons with other people don’t make sense. In our last blog, we talked about the importance of thinking about where we operate in our daily lives. Are you firmly in the green zone? Or is the red zone your playground?
This question was brought home to me when I stumbled across David Goggins in a YouTube Video. This is, without a doubt, a man who lives firmly in the red zone. Growing up disadvantaged and bullied, he learned at an early age to turn inwards for drive and strength. He remains the only member of the U.S. Armed Forces to have completed Navy SEAL, U.S. Army Ranger School and Air Force Tactical Controller training. Since leaving the military, he has taken up ultra-marathon running and ultra-distance cycling. All of this is extraordinary in itself, but what sets Goggins apart, and caught my attention, is not Goggin’s obvious physical capacity but his specific attitude towards life.
Goggins has built his life around a recognition that the only person who truly matters is yourself. That, when you look in the mirror, the person looking back at you is the only one who can see inside and knows whether you’ve given it all. The only person you cannot lie to, and who can tell if you’ve taken the easy way out. And, what I know myself, is that the easy way out, the short-cut, the stopping when it hurts, are all choices which are ultimately unproductive. So Goggins has chosen, consistently, the “path of most resistance.” The more difficult option, the struggle, the challenging and the painful, choices which have enabled him to surpass, and then far exceed, the limitations others have attempted to set for him, and the limitations others have set for themselves.
This too is how I’ve approached my own life. When someone told me I couldn’t do something, I told myself I could. And then I did. But what sets me, and Goggins, and my former comrades apart, is one simple thing. We are willing to spend time with the operator within.
This operator within is the person you see in the mirror whose eyes you can’t quite meet when you’ve done something you’re ashamed of, when you’ve quit too easily, or given up too soon. It’s also the voice in your head which, when you’re pushing yourself as hard as you can and it starts hurting, tells you to turn inwards and keep on bearing down. And the more time you spend with that person, the more you realise that the physical pain isn’t really the problem. It’s the mind games you play with yourself. The excuses, the little voices of fear that say that you should stop, take the easy way out, do it tomorrow, or not take the risk because you might fail, get hurt, or rejected. So you can ignore the operator inside. So you can just walk away. And maybe you do. Or maybe, you shrug, bite down on the pain and the fear and just get on with it.
When you’ve learned to do that, and to take the pain and discomfort and use them as a motivation to spur you onwards, then you are operating in the red zone. It is only through challenge that you grow. And you are only challenged in the red zone.
We noted previously how easy it is to avoid the red zone in daily life but without risk there is no reward. Interested in challenging yourself, and equipping yourself for success? We have a few ideas for you. Stay tuned for our next blog.