When The Going Gets Tough
"Just imagine what would have happened if Michael Jordan quit after getting cut from his High School Basketball team?" - John A Passaro
You know that energized, inspired feeling you get when you find a new interest, commit to a new, big goal, or step out to pursue a passion-fueled dream?
IT’s all you talk about. IT’s all you think about.
Every day is filled with activities that will bring you closer to IT.
You know IT’s going to happen, and you’re on fire. You feel aligned and full of powerful juju.
It’s a bit of a euphoric high...The clouds seem to be made of cotton candy; everyone seems just a little bit nicer; even traffic isn’t a bother the way it used to be.
What was once euphoria has turned into a feeling of emptiness and overwhelm.
You feel like a fool. You want to quit. It's all so much. You can’t do it. What were you even thinking? Why did you think you were capable of making this happen? It's as if your inner critic has multiplied into an entire playground of mean girls (or guys) who have come out to play and are crowded around you determined to shut your dream down.
This is when most people throw in the towel and give up. This is when the majority simply add themselves to the stats pointing to the odds of failure.
They quit and come up with a solid defense as to why their once-dream should no longer be pursued.
What if I told you this was normal?
What if I told you that this is part of the equation for success, and it’s how you handle these hurdles that determines your future?
In Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth shares example after example of elites in their fields who haven’t gotten to where they are without their share of obstacles.
They’ve taken the long road and met many a bump along the way. What separates them from the rest isn’t talent (for many that grew along the way), it’s their willingness to hang in, learn, and move forward past every snag they encounter.
Those bumps along the road are what separate the good from the great.
The good get off the road at the first sign of a roadblock, while the great learn how to navigate it and keep driving to see what’s around the corner.
The successful people you look up to, admire, and even compare yourself against - they aren’t smarter, more talented, or “better” - they’ve just learned the mindset and habits that have kept them on the road and in the game long enough to master their passion. It isn’t lucky circumstances that got them where they are today, it's their determination to put one foot in front of the other again and again.
In Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth shares (CEO of Vanguard) Bill McNabb’s story about having this very attitude and growth mindset.
McNabb says, “Because I’d come so damn close to quitting and yet hung in there, and because things eventually did work out, I learned a lesson I’ll never forget. The lesson was that, when you have setbacks and failures, you can’t overreact to them. You need to step back, analyze them, and learn from them. But, you also need to stay optimistic…There have been times in my career where I felt discouraged. I’d watch someone else get promoted before me. I’d want things to go a certain way, and they’d go the opposite. At those points, I’d say to myself, ‘Just keep working hard and learning, and it will work out.’”
So, if you find yourself in that doldrum of despair wanting to call it quits, I’d encourage you to pause. Remind yourself this is normal. Take a time out, rest, do something nice for yourself (this is a marathon not a sprint after all). Then, come back and ask yourself why you started in the first place.
Remember why you started, and recommit.
Ask yourself, "What’s good about this? What can I learn here?". This isn’t Pollyanna, it's part of a growth mindset that will bolster your optimism and encourage your perseverance.
Then, if you’re ready to recommit and up your ante, think of one small action you can take. Not a large leap, not 15 actions that will overwhelm you, but one small action. Now, here's the big secret: take that action - asap. The longer you sit on it, waiting, the more likely you are not to take action at all.
While taking these steps might not feel as exciting as the initial phase of passion and obsession, these are the steps that will lead you to your version of success.