I received an email recently from a young Special Programs candidate about to enter selection training. He had sought advice on how to make it through the process from a number of others who had been there, but the advice he had gotten was frustratingly simple, “Just don’t quit.”
That advice though, is really the only advice that matters. Of course there are little cool tricks like how to hide recovery supplements so you don’t get caught with them and how to cut slits in your uniform so that water drains from it faster when swimming, but those will make only a marginal difference. What really matters is the same guiding principle that I got from my mentors when I asked that question almost a decade ago: “Just don’t quit.”
What a statement like this leaves out, and what principles like “Eat meat and vegetables, the fewer chemicals the better and train your body to squat, push, pull and run” don’t provide, is any elaboration on the “why” part of the equation. And they only give the skeleton of the “how.”
That’s because it doesn’t really matter. How exactly you go about meeting that singular guiding principle, be it “just don’t quit” or “eat mostly meat and vegetables,” doesn’t matter as long as you get it done.
Last week I put up an article interviewing Brent Keyes and his wife, Abby. Brent was once overweight and set himself to the task of changing that. Over the course of a year and a half he lost close to a hundred pounds and he’s still going.
If you read through the article, you’ll notice that Brent barely mentions how he did it. The only part of the process that mattered to him was why. His Ikigai. Ask him about his weight loss and he doesn’t tell you about mashed cauliflower, protein powder, omega 6:3 ratios and split squats. He’ll tell you about being able to run through the park with his daughter, wakeboard with his friends, go on bike rides with his wife and living long enough to see his daughter graduate college.
The same thing applies to anyone else who makes a dramatic transformation. Ask them how they did it and they’ll have very few words. They just kept going. Ask them why though, and you’ll find an ironclad sense of purpose. And for each person, including you, that purpose will be different.
If you have a lofty objective of some sort; to transform your body, to make it through Special Forces selection or to learn a new language, forget about how you will do it. You probably already know almost everything you need to and you’ll be able to figure out the rest along the way. Waiting for the last piece of the puzzle before you take the first step will only keep you stagnant.
What you must do is ask yourself why. Why do you want to do this thing? Does it truly matter to you? If you can’t answer this question with conviction and without hesitation, then it probably doesn’t. And when it gets hard, you’re going to forget about doing it and tell yourself that you’ll get around to it when you finally find the real secret to success and all the circumstances line up just right.
There is no secret method and there is no ideal time. This is difficult to accept because it means that it all depends on you and not circumstances or outside information.
What matters is finding the basic underlying principle and doing it. It’s the physical act of walking into the gym, putting the right food on your plate, getting out of bed the first time the alarm goes off or stepping into the freezing dark ocean again when you know that two little words would bring you rest, respite and warmth. It’s doing the boring unpleasant part that you know must be done hundreds of times more before you get there.
In order for this to happen; in order for you to be able to do this thing, you must know why and that’s something that nobody else can tell you. You already know how.
“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.” – Bruce Lee