Crawling in mud with barbed wire close above. Climbing a greased 12-foot wall.
I suppose these are not your everyday obstacles or challenges at work. They are definitely not mine. Or, maybe they are — at least metaphorically?
In 2004, Joe De Sena co-founded the Spartan Race series — obstacle races that in a mere decade have become a global phenomenon. In his new book “Spartan Up! — A take-no-prisoners guide to overcoming obstacles and achieving peak performance in life” that is due to come out in mid-May, he shares his experiences from a life of entrepreneurial efforts and accomplishments (he started his first business at age eight) and gives us his best tips on how to succeed in reaching our goals, whatever they are.
Using a typical Spartan Race as a metaphor, De Sena walks us through typical obstacles that we often face as we strive to achieve something. We have limiting assumptions of what we are capable of, we tend to forget that more stuff are not satisfactory in the long run and we sometimes lack discipline.
Wire, mud and grease
Having given it some thought, I do crawl under barbed wire sometimes at work. There are days and even weeks when I feel that everything is hard, things get done as slowly as molasses in January, I receive more no:s than yes:s and I spend my days actually quite angst-ridden. Just as if I was crawling in mud and could not just stand up straight and give up, because above, there is barbed wire, all I can do (and would want to have done) is to continue. And, continue, because soon enough the wire as well as the mud ends.
Sometimes, I have something to do that I have not done before and I fail and fail again, just as if I tried to climb a greased 12-foot wall. I might feel like giving up (and do the equivalent of the Spartan Race standard punishment of 30 burpees), but the best I can do is to try again and again, because every failure is a new experience. Over time, I will find a way to get past this obstacle.
Joe’s take on our obstacles
I wonder what an obstacle racer (and an entrepreneur) does when he encounters all those obstacles and distractions that each and everyone of us face from time to time. Luckily, I had the opportunity to pose a few questions to Joe De Sena:
David (D): Congratulations on your new book, Joe! Your entrepreneurial journey sounds very exciting and I look forward to reading about your experiences. I wonder, on an average work day, what could occur for you that might be described as the equivalent of a greased, 12-foot wall to climb and how do you apply your knowledge from obstacle racing to tackle that particular problem?
Joe (J): Today we had to deal with moving our race date in Korea due to the boat that sunk. It was the right thing to do but sets off lots of challenges.
D: I guess that for many of my readers of the Structure Blog, daily (and hourly) distractions such as phone calls, email, colleagues et c are some of the obstacles that they need to overcome to stay on track toward their goals. What do you do to be able to work undistracted and undisturbed when you need to? What is your best tip?
J: Remember UK rowers training for the Sydney olympics..every decision they made came from the answer: “Will it make the boat go faster?”. That is what you need to ask yourself all day everyday if you are trying to achieve a goal…everything off track does not further you to the goal. That is what keeps you motivated.
D: Sometimes, I wish my discipline was stronger. You write that “discipline is everything”. What could one do to strengthen it? What is you best tip on how to become more disciplined?
J: We have something in all of us called “Future memory” the body will release drugs into your brain if you have gone through something before and already experienced the positive outcome…so in other words starting the Boston Marathon your body will release a taste of the feeling you get post finish…
The body can’t do that without first experiencing the whole spectrum of commitment, pain, reward…so the best way to stay disciplined..is to take on experiences..
Thank you, Joe De Sena, for taking the time to talk to us!
Do you want my (David, not Joe) best tips on how to create good structure and efficient work procedures for you and your organization?