Usain Bolt is one of the world’s top athletes and dubbed the “fastest man ever”. I just watched a video of him in action. Wow!
I wasn’t aware that Jamaica had such advanced laboratories where the best and brightest could build such a machine. His body in motion is a brilliant piece of engineering, with all the wiring, traction control systems, internal pounding engine, and outer streamlined shell working simultaneously to produce colossal, explosive firepower. It’s beautiful to watch!
Since I’m skeptical of Jamaica’s laboratories I think we can safely put this remarkable athlete’s power and skill down to other factors.
Raw talent, desire, diet, winning the physical genetic lottery ticket,…
What else, I wonder?
Yes, puking. I wonder how many times Usain has puked in his efforts to push the limits, to be stronger, better, faster? I’ve met plenty of talented people who have won the genetic lottery, so to speak, and some of them are nowhere, really. I’ve often thought to myself what a shame that was. Without drive and determination talent just goes to waste.
Here is Usain throwing up after a strenuous workout. What I’d love to know is whether he always believed he could be the world’s best, or did he gradually become aware of it… Did he surprise himself along the way?
Over the weekend I ran up a small mountain with my son. It takes about 45 minutes top to bottom, and it’s mostly stairs. I’ve come close to vomiting on it a few times myself when doing personal training runs. My son’s a good athlete and usually extremely competitive so when we finished I asked him how he felt.
“Do you think you can do it again?”
The problem was he knew he could do it. We’ve done it before.
“Of course Dad”
“Right away, right now?”
The doubt was there. The ego didn’t want to admit it but the doubt was there.
“Yeeeah, sure. Of course I could if I wanted to.”
I knew he didn’t actually believe it. The word IF is a killer. IF and SHOULD are two words that, together with Ebola, need to be eliminated. We don’t need any of them. People “should” all over themselves. I should do this and I should do that. It’s defeatist language.
At times I find myself using it and I cringe. I have to tell myself to shut up and grow some balls. You either do something or you don’t. If you don’t intend to do it then don’t waste the breath talking about it.
Pushing oneself lets you know where your boundaries currently are. Do you really know where your personal boundaries are? Have you tested them?
Clearly when you’re puking you’ve already stopped exercising. There is a boundary right there. BUT, and this is the important part, when you exceed what you thought you could do, suddenly the world looks entirely different. It shows you that you’re actually better, stronger than you thought: “Hey, if I can do that, then what else can I do that I have been secretly telling myself I can’t do?”
Why is this important to me?
It’s important to me because I’ve experienced my own set of barriers in my life and I continue to experience more. I’ve spent my life pushing boundaries and I want my kids to do the same thing. That’s how we grow and become better. Quite frankly aside from sex it’s what makes us tick.
Accomplishing simple tasks doesn’t inspire us or anyone. Accomplishing large, seemingly insurmountable tasks does inspire us. It creates pressure and pressure, if managed correctly, is a powerful force for the good. Managed poorly it causes all sorts of problems.
Here’s a fact.
Angels invest in people more often than they invest in ideas. Those people are typically the type of people who will be prepared to “puke” for their business because it’s going to get tough, really tough. Some time ago we interviewed the CEO of one of our portfolio companies. I’d like to share some of that with you because I think it highlights my point.
When you bootstrap, the enterprise is inherently personal. Full stop. My co-founder and business partner Tim and I made a conscious decision to continue trying to build a business. We had crossed our self-drawn lines in the sand several times and kept reaching deeper into our reserves – something we told ourselves we’d never do – because we had faith in the product, business and our team. Every positive meeting, every positive instance of feedback was exhilarating. Every negative meeting and every set-back was crushing. Luckily, we were able to attract a team of incredibly talented and committed individuals who not only talked the talk but walked the walk and shared the hardship of no money because they also believed. Without that, we would have stopped long ago.
Now, if you’ve conditioned yourself to be pushing hard and are now used to getting scrappy, you’ve got a much better chance of success than if you’ve always taken the easy road. That’s not what Usain Bolt does and that’s not what winners do. Winners push, winners puke.
You probably want to know what happened with my son. The truth is I feel terrible. I let him off. I’m not always a good Dad. I should have encouraged him to run and if he puked – all the better. We should have done that mountain again.
A habit of pushing himself instilled early on will be invaluable to him. There is a saying, “Thoughts create action, action create habits, habits create character and character creates future.”
Next time I’ll help him prove to himself he can do more than he thinks he can. Next time I hope to be a better Dad. He doesn’t know it but next time it’s probably going to be math problems.
“Commitment is a big part of what I am and what I believe. How committed are you to winning? How committed are you to being a good friend? To being trustworthy? To being successful? How committed are you to being a good father, a good teammate, a good role model? There’s that moment every morning when you look in the mirror: Are you committed, or are you not?” – LeBron James