04 January 2008

Beyond Achievement


We have a family tradition of buying pajamas for Christmas. This year, I modified it by purchasing Monica a red bikini. However, my editorial board has instituted a new policy regarding bikini photos --"Clavicle Up". I managed to get this one past my publisher, it is one of my favorites.

Alternative Perspectives has an new piece by Clas on Damage Control. The photo he sent is a keeper. Bike skills work, Swedish Style.

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What are you going to do after you win IMC?
-- Monica, October 2007

In the Northern Hemisphere the mixture of long nights, weak December nutrition and overall holiday stress can leave us with the need to “take action”. Armed with a burning desire “to do something” we often sit down and write out our New Year’s Resolutions.

I consider my life on a quarterly basis. Monica, jokes that if she doesn’t like my personal plan then she only needs to wait a week and we will have another one. She’s quite patient and doesn’t voice objections until it looks like I might actually do something.

This week’s letter isn’t about the right action to take – I’ll leave that to you. What I am going to do is share my experience on what has driven me towards the actions that I have taken in the past.

Scott wrote a great piece about how he motivates himself. This letter is about what is motivating me.

Did you get the distinction there?

There are tricks, tactics, habits and strategies that we can employ to do the work necessary to achieve our goals. That’s Molina’s piece.

There is the psychological profile that underlies the selection of our goals in the first place. That’s this piece.

Some common goals:

  • Lose X pounds by Y date
  • Walk X minutes Y times per week
  • Save $X per Y
  • Qualify for X
  • Break X hours for Y event
  • Get my NAV to $X

Various goals of mine:

  • Finish an Ironman
  • Train at least 25 hours per week as many weeks as possible
  • Win Keauhou Kona Triathlon, Ultraman Hawaii, IM Canada or IM New Zealand
  • Qualify for Ironman Hawaii
  • Swim the English Channel or Rottnest Channel.
  • Swim sub-6 400 IM or sub-20 1500 LCM free
  • Swim, bike, run across America
  • Reach one person, one thousand people, or one million people
  • NAV equal to five/ten/twenty years of personal expenses (indexed/not indexed)
  • Own a house/flat/cottage anywhere, in Boulder, in New Zealand, in San Francisco, in Arizona, in the mountains, in Noosa, in Paris or in Scotland
  • Raise $5 million, $50 million, $250 million, or $1 billion for a client
  • Write a book about Ironman Training, Personal Excellence or my life
  • Climb Mt Kilimanjaro, Denali, Mt Cook, Mont Blanc, Mt Tasman, Cho Oyu, Mt Vinson or Aconcagua
  • Run the Leadville 100, Run Boulder to Vail, Run the Hong Kong Trailwalker
  • Sail to France, to Antigua or around the World

Goals are items that we are actively working towards – everything else is dreams or personal legends.

When we combine moderate talent with extreme work ethic then we will achieve results in most areas. If we stumble into a field where we have some real aptitude then results can be amazing -- especially with the tailwind of favorable conditions (and a bit of luck).

Do you notice a theme across my list?

+++

One of the greatest motivators in my life has been the pursuit of “things other people don't do”.

My friend, Kevin Purcell, once marveled at my ability to leave a goal after I achieve it. Finish one job and move along to my next task. It was an honest complement on non-attachment. However, I was deeply attached to my true motivator – self-affirmation through relative performance.

If you share this trait then be wary of placing yourself in a position where you are surrounded by people that are superior achievers of your goals. For personal satisfaction, you will need to spend time in an environment where you are able to exhibit relative out-performance.

“In a team, it is important for everyone to get a chance to be strong”. That’s a tip from Scott Molina – a guy that seems to get along with just about everyone.

“Envy, not greed, makes the world go ‘round”. That one is Warren Buffet, a man with a lot of first hand experience on what motivates people.

+++

Six years ago I can remember feeling the absolute healthiest of my life. I have memories of lying in bed and enjoying breath after breath of cool, calm air. I had completed 12 weeks of intensive yoga and freed many restrictions.

This “health” memory came to me in early December when I realized that I was, once again, lying in bed felling very good. For the first time in six years I was free of soreness and deep fatigue. There are two constants in the life of an elite athlete – fatigue and soreness. Learning to cope with this fact is a large part of the mental game of ultra endurance sport.

In December 2001, a sport psychologist asked me “why do you want to do triathlon”? I answered without doubt, “because it is what I was born to do”.

What I meant was triathlon is work and I was born to work – therefore – I was born for triathlon.

That is the second great motivating force in my life. Some people have a high capacity to complete/absorb/enjoy work. When you mix excellent process management skills, moderate talent and inherent work ethic – you get results.

The purest form of motivation is an enjoyment of work. People, situations, habits and choices that impair our work ethic are extremely hazardous to a life with meaning.

The back-story is that having got my health back, I am not sure if I want to spend another year really tired and sore!

+++

Remember five years ago and consider the events that stand out in your mind.

When I think back to 2002 the key aspects are:

  • Totally frying myself in an attempt to win KKT
  • Taking two months off as a result of being grossly overtrained
  • Co-founding a property investment company
  • Training four weeks for IMC then repeating my time from the previous year
  • Winning Ultraman Hawaii

Which of these are “good” and which are “bad”? That depends on your point of view.

Every item in that list is a requirement to get to the end, winning Ultraman Hawaii. At the time, winning Ultraman was a great event for me. As a result of winning in 2002, I went back in 2003… …and nearly died.

Not so great!

But then again… the forced rest may have been the difference between success and failure in 2004.

++++

Pulling it all together…

  • In setting goals, consider the motivating factors behind your list.
  • If you are motivated by relative performance then schedule periods where you can shine.
  • For goals that require sustained effort over time: focus on areas that you deeply enjoy; and remove people/attitudes/perceptions/habits that are barriers to the work necessary to achieve.

If you are fortunate enough to experience high level achievement then your vocation will likely become your identity. I have experienced this in a few fields. Examples:

  • Scott Tinley was Triathlon -- solid article
  • Tom Dolan was Swimming -- that guy could train
  • Key founders are their businesses -- remember this when you negotiate
  • Great champions are their sports
  • World-class achievers are their goals
  • Addicts are their habits

If a recession, divorce, injury, or the passage of time removes an expression of identity then it is painful. Alternative interests are personal insurance policies, even Lance had his foundation.

The Tinley interview discusses a champion coming to terms with his sport. My personal experience is life-transitions (divorce, illness, injury, career change) force me to come to terms with myself. Specifically, I am forced to cope with the death of an identity.

Die a few times and it becomes easier to cope.

++++

What lies beyond achievement?

Peace.

Peace has a lot of different names and levels of experience. Some other names... The Zone, Flow, Exhaustion, Satisfaction, The Pump, Whole Body Experience, Zen, Endorphins, Open, Harmony, Relaxation, Well Being, Health...

The chemical signature of achievement feels a lot like peace.

Rather than sloth, peace is my counterbalance to work. The quest for peace driving my 'pure' motivation. Seems a bit crazy to spend one's life chasing peace... I don't know. If that's what is really driving me then it takes a lot of the burden off -- the list above is daunting.

I have often confused silence (or nothing) with peace. Many of my self-destructive habits/patterns stem from this confusion. Anger, fear, intoxication -- the far side of each of these feel close to peace, but isn't. I suspect that Big Pharma uses this pathway to create a perception of well being in its users. I lump all these 'nothings' into the category of False Gods -- the list changes over time -- perhaps because the truest addiction is to that peaceful vibe.

Artists, comedians, writers, CEOs, investment bankers, endurance athletes -- peace is where we get to. Part of the process of "getting there" is the drive to "get it out" of us. At times our gifts can feel like curses.

That's enough for today. Running a bit long!

++++

Here’s my January 2008 list:

  • Successful marriage based on kindness and respect
  • Peaceful Listening
  • Retreats with Nature
  • Wake-up Early
  • Ethical life with meaning

Where is the relative achievement? Could be lurking in #5, not sure.

To know others, intelligence
To know yourself, wisdom
-- Lao Tsu

Effective communication is about getting a person to listen (first) then think (second). Monica is a very effective communicator.

Still searching,
gordo

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