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I’m convinced that the pursuit of hard, uncomfortable and flat-out crazy challenges will improve your life exponentially.
Give me a few minutes of your time to make the case. It’ll change your life (really). Not in an instant, but over time. Your willingness to try one crazy thing in the months ahead will impact your mental health, resiliency and all-around good looks (I may be reaching too far on that one). Anyway, let’s talk about the benefits of an intense challenge in a minute.
Over on the Oneicity blog we’re talking about my blood test, liver failure and fundraising. It’s a combo parable and cautionary tale. I think you’ll like the lesson and the story. You can read it here.
Back to that crazy challenge. One of the best things you can do for yourself is build your “grit muscle.” Before you jump to google, I think I made up the phrase. Of course, there’s no actual “grit muscle.” But I like the mental image.
When you think of grit muscle don’t visualize the body builder’s smooth gym-built pumped-up muscle. Grit muscle looks like a shrink wrapped logging chain. It’s lean. Sinew and bone. It’s all work, no show.
Grit Muscle is resiliency. It’s courage. It’s persistence. It’s hardiness. It’s grit and strength.
Grit muscle is what helps you face the bank, the boss or the board without excuses, tears or throwing up.
Grit muscle is what you use at 2AM to scoop up your screaming baby, start feeding that little darling, and never completely wake up for the 21st night in a row.
Grit muscle is what sees you through the office restructuring when you’re waaaayyyyy to old to find another job.
Grit muscle is what keeps you going back to see your mom even though she doesn’t exactly remember who you are anymore.
Grit muscle is what you use when your family depends on you, your team needs you and you have commitments to keep.
You build grit muscle through challenges. Specifically, grit muscle grows in the low moments of a huge challenge. The trick is to find something that challenges you completely and isn’t part of your day job.
Here’s how it works.
Choose the challenge. It can be doing a Ted Talk if that terrifies you. Maybe it’s declaring you’re going to run a half-marathon when you haven’t run since 9th grade gym class. Maybe it’s deciding that you’re going to finish that graduate degree you started years ago.
Join Toastmasters, take French, learn to tango, write a book or climb a mountain.
Here’s what I’ve found works best in my pursuit of the ever elusive grit muscle.
Find something that challenges you at your core. Be sure that little voice in your head is doubting if you can pull it off. You’re looking for something that won’t come easily or quickly. Ideally find something that takes you a 3 or 4 months of learning, practice or training.
Make sure it is completely, 100% out of your comfort zone.
Now declare your intention publicly. This is key. It holds you accountable and pushes you through the inevitable discouragement.
Now you have to decide what success or failure looks like. If there’s no actual finish line then you have to decide up front, before you start what will completion looks like. Is it navigating Paris on your own with the French you’ve just learned? Is it taking your Sweetheart to that Spanish restaurant and tangoing like you’re a native-born Spaniard? Is it climbing a mountain?
For me, it was about climbing a mountain. And it was also about that moment when I was sure I wasn’t going to keep going. When I wanted to listen to that voice in my head that was advising me to quit. That moment when my tank was empty. That moment when quitting became more attractive than continuing. I was done. Which was startling to me but it was a grit-muscle moment if ever there was one. If you want to know about my recent brand of craziness, you can read about it here.
Hear this. The older we get the more we have to pursue discomfort. We have to find ways to push ourselves. We need to be sure that without regard to the calendar or conventional wisdom we are growing and gaining strength.
Ryan Holiday sums up the reason why in his new book “Stillness is the Key.” He says:
“Life is hard. Fortune is fickle. We can’t afford to be weak. We can’t afford to be fragile.”
If you’re not growing, you’re in decline—whatever your age. There’s no such thing as standing still. If you aren’t swimming against the tide, you are being swept out to sea whether you recognize it our not.
Grit muscle built in one area of your life transfers to another. What I gained at my breakpoint on the mountain translates into my businesses and my work. Every day.
All strength comes from challenges that push us to near failure. But it’s worth it. You’re worth it.
If you are going to live wisely, you must have grit muscle.
What do you think? If you’re working on your grit muscle, I’d love to hear how you do that. If you think I’ve lost my mind, let me know. You won’t be the first to wonder about it. Hit reply and you’ll get me.
You have the capacity to be stronger than you imagine…but only if you decide to grow stronger.
Let me know what’s happening with you.
You can always email me: sthomas AT wizardofads DOT com.
Grateful for you.