building a mountain, one layer of paint at a time. “
I was listening to a Joe Rogan podcast a few days ago, heard him make this statement and thought, “wow, what a perfect analogy”. It really does put into context the time and effort it takes to learn a craft to the point of mastery. There are no shortcuts, there is no easy way. The only way to success in anything is to put on layer after layer of work (paint) until you start to have base you can stand upon. Once you get a glimpse of what that new level brings you, you will want more. You will have learned the key to success, and you will get better at getting better.
If you really commit to a new skill or endeavor, there is a huge learning curve in the very beginning of the process. Think back to learning to ride a bike or the first time you drove a car. It’s scary, exciting, and you struggled to keep things under control. Now you drive from work texting someone and eating a cheeseburger at the same time. You don’t even give it as much attention as you should at this point, and this is because of your level of “mastery” of that task. Although if you watch the morning or evening news traffic reports, clearly many of us are in need of applying much more attention to the detail of driving safely. If you are learning to paint or hit a backhand or swing a golf club, it will ideally become as automatic as driving has, but that is going to take a massive amount of work.
When I was an up and coming racquetball player, I talked to a LOT of really good players trying to find the secret to what they did to be such an accomplished player. The difficult part of this is that I didn’t know enough about the game or the swing mechanics to know good advice from bad. I had to try things and find out if they would work for me or not. One of the reasons I turned Pro when I did was because I was out of resources to learn from. I was one of the best players in AZ at that time, and I had exhausted my resources for ways to get better at the task at hand. It wasn’t until I played for a year in the Pros that I became friends with one of the best players of all time and finally had the resource for the information I was seeking to maximize my potential. But let me be clear…HAVING the answers doesn’t mean squat without the willingness to work hard and TAKE ACTION to deploy this new knowledge.
You can “armchair quarterback” your way through life pretty easily these days, it is simple to read or watch a YouTube video to learn about a topic. But do you really know it if you just watch a video to learn about it? That would be equivalent to reading about World War II and thinking you had been there. NOT. EVEN. CLOSE. This is why the the famous “Man in the Arena” quote is so perfect and so powerful. Teddy Roosevelt was spot on with this, basically stating that the opinions of those who have not stood on the grounds in the arena in front of the crowd, willing to risk it all, have NO BUSINESS espousing their opinions about the combatants efforts or results. Lions do not concern themselves with the opinions of sheep.
The only way you GET TO enter the arena is to do the work…one layer of paint at a time. I had to hit a million forehands and a million backhands on the practice court before I was “eligible” to step into the highest level of competition. I remember playing in a tournament forever ago and a guy who was my level entered the appropriate “middle of the road” division, and also entered the Pro division. When I asked him why on Earth he had done this he simply answered “I want to see what its like to play one of the best”. Now, while there might be a single strand of valid thought to this, the rest was flat out crazy. And in a way, it was insulting to the game itself. In my opinion, he had tried to shortcut the process by simply entering a division of play for which he wasn’t remotely qualified. For that Pro player, it was the easiest first round match ever, and while it was laughable, it was an easy payday. For the “offending” player, it was as close as he ever got to playing at the Pro level. He paid is entry fee, he got his ass kicked in about 18 minutes, and it was over.
This is a great illustration of the fact that short cuts do not work. He was so ill-prepared for this task that he was ridiculed for this move for years after. If you knew this individual, and the way his life played out, you would consider this one of many bad decisions that led to an early demise. That is as much as I will say about that, but the willingness to try to take the short cut ended up causing him a LOT of problems.
You have to be willing to work…hard. Champions, in any walk of life, are those of us who are willing to put the blood sweat and tears into their craft. They are willing to try and fail, and then try again. How difficult something is can be a great eliminator of those not willing to earn the privilege of success at the highest level. This is why kids with mega rich parents are almost destined to be failures in life in many cases. They skipped over the struggles and the lessons their parents and grandparents had to deal with and overcome. These hurdles are what make people better, more resilient, smarter. You cannot inherit these traits, you have to struggle, suffer, and do the work yourself to join the few in the rarified air at the top of the mountain. And believe me, building a mountain one layer of paint at a time is not easy, but it is the only way.
The lessons I learned on and off the court as part of my racquetball career were the perfect roadmap to follow with all of the other things I have tried to achieve in life. I consider myself one of the best salespeople in my industry, and I firmly believe I would be a great salesperson in any other industry that I moved into. The skillsets are there, embedded, from years of toil and trouble.
I learned the hard way how to make things easy.
The basics are where its at; you have to have a strong base to construct the rest of the building on top of. If your foundation is shaky, you are in danger of the whole things collapsing. Although I did a “total remodel” of my game after reaching the Pro level, it was worth it to maximize my potential. Looking back, it was the right amount of discomfort and struggle to make me:
A. Appreciate what I had achieved
B. Embed the work ethic and skills to succeed elsewhere
C. Develop the empathy and knowledge to become a coach and help others
The layers of paint I laid down over the years on the practice court got me to the upper echelon of my sport of choice. Becoming world class at one thing gives you the knowledge base to excel in other areas; there are no guarantees of course, but the groundwork has been laid. I have signed autographs in two different “worlds” and am on my way to reaching that same level in a third. I am not telling you this to brag, and I sharing this to let you know that this is how it is done. There are no shortcuts, there is no express lane nor is there an elevator to the top. Take the effen stairs, put your time in, and eventually climb to the top. Trust me when I tell you, the view will be worth it.
I wish you luck in your endeavors.