One of the big things we learned in Special Forces is that you have to pace yourself. I don’t mean, take it easy and don’t give as much as possible. We learned that we had to know ourselves and give as much as possible while making sure we had enough to finish whatever the mission was.
Take a sprinter on a long run with a marathoner and you’ll notice something: The fastest man in the world isn’t so fast once you get past the first 10 miles. The marathoner, who started out at a more moderate pace, slowly overtakes the sprinter who has trained himself for short distances. It’s the classic tale of the tortoise and the hare.
If you tend to start out with a bang on a new idea or project, only to get discouraged when you hit that mental “wall” around mile 13, you may be out of shape and lack stamina. And while you may be banking on becoming the next overnight success, you need to know that:
A. The true overnight successes of today become the one-hit wonders of tomorrow, and
B. Most overnight successes were many years in the making.
Look behind virtually any rags-to-riches story, from Susan Boyd to Zappos, and you’ll see that years went into the preparation for their time in the limelight. It took months for a Green Beret to reach basic proficiency in his specialty and then it took years before we thought of him as an expert.
If you see yourself having trouble with your stamina, it’s time to work on building your endurance. Here are some exercises to help you:
1. Track your progress.Often progress is so incremental that you can become discouraged before you hit your goal. Write down the successes – small and large – and review them regularly to remind yourself that you are making progress. You may even want to make a large visual representation of your goal and track your progress towards it, just like schools put up huge thermometers to show how much money they’ve earned towards their pool fund.
2. Pace yourself.The marathoner knows that going out as fast as possible in the first mile is usually a recipe for disaster. Yes, you’re excited about your new venture, but keep some of that excitement in reserve. You may feel like staying up until all hours working on your goals, and while that’s great, don’t expect to be able to maintain that level of commitment for weeks or months on end.
3. Cross-train.Find other activities to give you a break from your main focus. You just might find that time away from your goal refreshes and energizes you, and keeps you from burning out. Even if it’s just an evening a week, make sure you take mini-vacations.
4. Find a partner or a coach.Partners and coaches are great whether you’re heading to the gym or working your way through med school. Sometimes an outside commitment is needed to help you stay accountable and stay on track. Having someone who understands the challenges you’re facing can make all the difference between giving up and going on.
While a sprinter can be in great physical shape, most goals require a long-distance mindset. On my A-team we knew that staying up all night in mission prep was a recipe for disaster on the actual mission. Remind yourself what the tortoise knew: Slow and steady wins the race.
P.S. Please leave me a comment below and let me know what you learned. I read them all…