“The thing I admire about you is that you can do anything you set your mind to.”
This was something my sister told me about 5 years ago, when I had just completed my first 100-mile ultramarathon. She thinks it’s a combination of luck and determination, but she was unaware of the most important part to my success…
I had slowly built up my training miles from a strong marathon foundation, slowly increasing to longer 40-50 mile training runs. I studied nutrition and blister repair. I practiced running while cold, wet, and sleep deprived. I monitored my body and learned everything about each muscle and joint. I even learned techniques for recovering from temporary low morale. But all of this hard work and dedication wasn’t enough. All of this preparation only got me to mile 70, a point where over 50% of the field had already dropped out of the race due to the grueling conditions.
All of this training would have been for nothing had I not done the single most important step in my training: I made the decision that running 100 miles was a worthwhile pursuit and that it was possible.
At mile 70, I was trudging up a 3 mile long hill that was at a 15% slope (if you want to feel what 15% is like, you can get on a treadmill and turn it to it’s steepest incline). The hill was made up of smooth wet rocks, causing me to regularly slip and fall. My leg muscles were weak and throbbing, and I had no skin on several of my toes causing a pain so intense I lack the writing skills to describe it. But as I slowly made my way up that mountain, I reminded myself that I had a choice. Since I had decided that finishing the race was possible, now I just had to make the choice of whether I was willing to endure the pain required for me to finish. Nothing short of a broken bone could take that choice away from me. And so I spent the next several hours in severe pain and mental torture – but I finished. And the accomplishment has made me a far stronger person than I could have ever imagined I’d be.
Deciding that something is possible is exactly what makes it possible. Conversely, if you decide something is too difficult or impossible, then it is. This is an incredible power that is so often wasted.
When I started my career, I decided that becoming a lead engineer within 5 years was a worthwhile goal and that it was possible. It required an unprecedented career trajectory at my company, but I believed I could do it. Not because I’m smarter, but because I had such a strong belief in the possibilities.
When I was 22, I decided that it was possible to retire with a savings of 2 million dollars by age 40, while doing it all on an engineering salary. I remember saying this at a party with some co-workers and they laughed. “Wait until you have kids” they all said. My goals have changed, but I’ve proven that hitting $2M would have been very easy if I were to stay in engineering. Instead, I’ve changed my goals to something I believe is far better.
At the beginning of this year, I decided it was possible to reduce my expenses down to less than 50% of the expenses I was currently living on. And so my wife and I made a plan, executed it, and here we are living on far less than 50% of what we were spending as recently as 8 months ago.
My question is this: what have you previously declared as impossible that you are willing to reconsider?
(You don’t have to leave a comment if you don’t want to, but at least spend a few minutes thinking about it)