When I was 19 I got the chance to do a really cool thing, and some of those memories are etched so deeply in my brain it is as if they occurred yesterday. I went to the US Olympic Training Center after qualifying for the Elite Racquetball Training Camp by winning the AZ State Junior Racquetball Championships. It was an amazing week, and I learned a lot in those five days.
One of the toughest workouts we did that week took place on the track at the facility. One of the coaches had watched a racquetball match and timed how long each rally was; some were a few seconds, some lasted 45 seconds, and charted the course of one game with each of the rally times. The exercise was to sprint when the whistle blew, and run for an unknown amount of time until the next whistle blew. The difficulty lies in the fact that you do not know how long you are going to have to sprint, or how long this exercise will last. It was clear those who were pacing themselves and those who were sprinting. Interestingly, and maybe not too surprising, was the fact that there were players all did the drill correctly and the ones who were not willing to push that hard. Human nature in full force…some are willing to sprint even when you can’t see the finish line, and others prefer to pace themselves and not put what is perceived as too much strain on the system.
If you have read any of my other content on mindset, you probably know what I did in this situation. I ran my ass off, each and every time. When the whistle blew, I took off, running hard as I could. Many of the durations were sprints of five to ten seconds, and despite being at altitude, I was able to handle this pretty well for about half of the exercise. Then things started getting harder, I could feel my lungs burning and my legs getting tired. But I persisted, I kept running hard every time. I had no idea when this would conclude, so I had to trust that I could make it to the end. Unbeknownst to me the last segment came, but of course I was not aware this would be the last one. I was about to run a forty-five second sprint, but I had no clue it would be that long. It was the longest segment of the exercise, it was truly a sprint to the finish. I did what I done to this point, putting my head down and sprint as soon as the whistle blew. I was hoping for a short time, but it kept going, the whistle was taking forever. I could feel myself on the verge of breaking, ready to give in. As I rounded the corner of the track I could see my team coach standing there, and I needed help. I yelled to him “Talk to me Chris!” desperate for some kind of assistance to fight off the desire to give in.
Chris’s voice was exactly what I needed, it got me out of my head for split second. It was as if he physically grabbed me by the shirt and pulled me forward around that corner, sling-shotting me to the end. For a brief moment I was impervious to the burning in my lungs and the pain in my legs. Everything went silent other than his voice cheering me on, propelling me forward. Finally the whistle came, and then two more right after, signaling to everyone it was over. I fell down on the track, exhausted. I made it farther than almost anyone else, despite not being a strong runner. I did it on sheer will and determination. I was willing to run, hard, despite not seeing the finish line until the very last moment.
Let me lay it out for you, life is more like a marathon than a short distance run, but the activities within it are similar to this example from the track that I shared. So my question for yo is this: Do you have the faith in yourself to undertake a task, of any kind, where you can see the starting point but not the finish line? If I think of any of my traits as a superpower, this would be the top of the list.
Any new activity is somewhat like this scenario, whether it be going to college, starting a new job or a new relationship. You need to have faith in yourself to figure things out along that way, and not wait until you think you have all the answers before you start something new. Allow me to give a hint…you will never have all the answers, so waiting until you think you do, or you feel comfortable and ready is going to hold you back forever. You will miss out on opportunities, experiences and more by taking the safe, wait and see approach. I am not condoning for you to be reckless and not think things through, but you need to assess and act if you want to make things happen.
As a recent example of this, I undertook the project of doing my own phone app to release in conjunction with my Public Speaking. I found a solution on social media and decided to take the plunge. Like many times before, I had no idea what I was really getting into, and it did take a little longer bringing it to fruition than I would have liked. So right there is an example of a finish line I could not see. But I didn’t allow this to deter me, I just kept working at it and eventually I had a finished product ready to submit to the app stores. Now I have my own phone app; to me, it seemed like an inevitability, I just had to keep working until it was completed. In the end, if you want to do things that are ambitious, impactful, and bigger than average, this is the path you have to follow. Walk through the dark forest one step at a time, only able to see the next step. As long as you can see the next step, you can keep going. At some point, you will start to see light ahead. Once you do, you are almost there…
If you need to, start small and build up the trust in yourself to use this process. It can take time to prove to yourself that you can be trusted, so to speak. I was fortunate to have been taught this early and life and have made a habit of diving into things that I cannot see the end of, but trust that I can figure it out along the way. To some degree, you need to operate in this manner, but of course temper that with some forethought and research when needed. I am not advocating for reckless abandon, but cautious bravery.