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Hitting the Wall

Personal development,entrepreneurshipThe quest for personal and financial freedom through entrepreneurship is not a sprint. It’s a marathon.

I’ve never run a marathon. But I imagine it’s really hard. Mentally, you need to summon extraordinary amounts of  spirit, determination, courage and grit. And the level of physical conditioning is beyond what the vast majority of people are willing to aim for in their lives.

Marathoners, triathletes and other long-distance runners often talk about hitting “The Wall”. This is a well-known concept that describes the point in the race where your body simply stops working. Energy runs out and the muscles required to propel you forward refuse to co-operate.

It’s called The Wall because you need to find a way to go over, around or through it in order to reach the finish line.

Today, during my daily morning walk, as my thoughts turned to the day ahead, and what I wanted to accomplish, I started to feel frustration and disappointment simmering inside.

While I work hard to maintain a positive mind-set, I’m human. And sometimes the negativity creeps in. When that happens, I do my best to acknowledge it, analyze it, and deal with it so I can move on.

I realized the frustration was stemming from what I feel is a lack of focus and progress in my business.  I have lots of goals and ambition. But my results (so far) are not living up to my expectations.

In my head, I likened this to marathon runners hitting The Wall (hence this post).

“It’s OK, Paul. You’ve hit The Wall. Happens to everyone. Just find a way over or through it, and all will be fine,” I told myself.

So before starting this post, I did a little bit of research and found a video of eight-time Iron Man Triathlon gold-medalist Paula Newby-Fraser hitting The Wall hard in the 1995 Iron Man competition in Hawaii.

The video is motivating and inspirational, though completely gut-wrenching. With just 400 yards left to the finish line, Newby-Fraser reaches the end of her physical limits and winds up flat on her back in the middle of the road. She appears to be in serious trouble, unable to move and babbling incoherently. She is so out of it, her fiance and race volunteers call frantically for an ambulance and medical assistance.

Ultimately, she shakes off the delirium and gets to her feet, determined to finish the race, which she does. It’s a super-human effort that speaks volumes of her character, spirit and determination.

Here’s the video if you have a few minutes to check it out:

So, my original intent with this post was to draw parallels between finishing marathons or triathlons, and achieving business success, showing that when you hit The Wall, you need to summon the strength within to get over the wall and cross the finish line.

But then I realized two important things:

  1. In the realm of personal development and business, there isn’t really a “finish line”. Rather, there’s an ongoing journey during which you may get over one wall, just to find yourself facing an even bigger wall. And then another, and another. So you need to develop the ability and willpower to continually find new ways to go over and around many walls. Be flexible and adaptable, or turn around and go home.
  2. The second, and more important, lesson was derived not from the video of Newby-Fraser itself, but rather from one of the Youtube viewer comments. Erik Price said, “Okay, hitting “the wall” is over mystified. It’s not a mystery. It’s just the result of pushing yourself beyond your level of performance.  Happens to everyone and it’s not directly a result of dehydration, more just overall muscle and body fatigue.”  So in other words, in order to hit The Wall, you actually have to, as another popular sports expression tells us, “Go to The Wall”.

This caused me to pause and ask myself whether I’ve really pushed myself hard enough. Have I gone to The Wall? Have I expended all the energy I have in pursuit of my goals?

I arrived at the realistic conclusion that no, I have not yet pushed myself beyond my current level of performance. And until I do so, telling myself I’ve hit The Wall is just a comfortable way to deflect from my own culpability in simply not working hard enough to make the kind of progress I want to see.

So going forward, my mission will be to put my head down and charge directly to The Wall. Once I get there, I can figure out how to get over it.

How about you? Have you hit The Wall yet? Have you even gone to The Wall? The honest answer to those questions might just be the dose of reality you need to get unstuck and moving forward.

Image: Flickr – Julian Mason

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