How Doing Hard Things Changes the World

Not just for you, but the people around you as well.

Photo by Carlos Muñoz on Unsplash

“Doing hard things, things that you thought were impossible has a trickle-down effect. It shakes the foundation of the stories that you tell yourself, stories that are holding you back.”

That’s a paraphrased quote from Tim Ferris on a podcast that I listened to recently and I believe that it encapsulates the ethos of The Discomfort Lab perfectly.

When you do things that are difficult, things that are outside of your comfort zone, you give yourself permission to reexamine things you never considered possible.

I remember when I first started Olympic Weightlifting. I would see these videos of people smaller and younger than me throwing massive weights up over their heads and make it look incredibly easy. Then I would look at the weights I was lifting and feel so pathetic. I remember wanted to snatch 100kg (225lbs) and clean and jerk 143kg (315lbs) so badly and feeling so inadequate to those goals. They were so far beyond my capabilities I didn’t even want to hope for them.

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

And then one day after thousands of reps and hundreds of hours it just happened. I made those numbers and went on to lift even more. By European standards, those numbers weren’t very impressive considering I was in the 77kg (169lbs) weight class.

I didn’t care.

I had accomplished my goal. I had simply persisted with consistent work and I had gotten to the place that I wanted to be. That experience of persisting has served me very well. It taught me that the perception of difficult and even impossible have more to do with where you’re currently standing rather than reality.

It’s given me permission to challenge the status quo in nearly every aspect of my life and that kind of freedom is worth any amount of suffering to obtain.

Reaching for the “impossible” does just as much for the people around you as it does for yourself. The Bannister Effect is a prime example of this. Many scientists at the time (1954) believed that it was impossible for a human being to run a 4-minute mile, at least until Roger Bannister did it. After the record was broken reality had changed not just for Roger but for every other person who was competing at the same level. Some will argue that what Bannister broke was the psychological barrier rather than a physical one. While others will argue that the only reason the record had stood for so long was because of WWII. I believe both of these arguments miss the point. What Bannister really did was give the world a new blueprint for breaking records. Whether it was psychological or logistical didn’t matter.

The status quo was broken.

Photo by John T on Unsplash

Many of the greatest joys in life lie in demolishing the limits that bind us. Whether they are self-imposed, societal, or even conventional wisdom. The journeys that carry us through those experiences make us what we are, they make us human. They lay bare the possibilities and potential that lie within us. They give us the tools to not only do great things but be great people.

These days I don’t compete in Olympic Weightlifting anymore. I honestly have zero desire to do so, but the lessons have stayed with me.

Persist, overcome, achieve. This is the way and the pattern of life whether in business, relationships, or athletics. It takes time, determination, and work to do anything of value, and while that might seem like an inconvenience in the moment someday you’ll all look back at the lessons learned from those experiences with gratitude.

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