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The entire Navigate the Chaos collection of all 365 blog posts is now available in a paperback entitled Navigate the Chaos (795 pages for $24.99). A smaller collection of thoughts from the Navigate the Chaos collection is available in paperback entitled Wonder (94 pages for $4.99)

How often do you fight for your next inch?

Today is August 7 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you fight for your next inch?" Al Pacino's speech in Any Given Sunday, a 1999 American sports drama film directed by Oliver Stone, reminds everyone what is required.

Playing the role of veteran professional football coach Tony D'Amato, Pacino provides one of the most inspirational speeches in sports film history in a four-minute locker room talk where he tells his players “You find out life's this game of inches… in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small. I mean one half a step too late or too early and you don't quite make it one half second too slow too fast you don't quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us… when we add up all those inches that's gonna make the difference between winning and losing; between living and dying. And in any fight it's the guy who's willing to die who's gonna win that edge and I know if I'm gonna have any life in me it's because I'm still willing to fight and die for that edge that's what living is - the six inches in front of your face.”

Today’s reflection reminds us that hard word in and of itself is often insufficient to help you navigate the chaos and translate one dream after another into reality. Hard work is indeed important. F. Diane Barth wrote in "The Great Myth of Hard Work" an August 2012 Psychology Today article: “The myth that we can achieve anything we want if we just work hard enough, then, is just that – a myth. The hard work is accepting that everyone and everything has limitations. And finding ways to accept that limitations are just part of being human – not signs of failure.”

Jeff Shannon, an executive coach, and author of Hard Work is Not Enough: The Surprising Truth about Being Believable at Work. believes ‘hard work is a good start.’ This is especially true for anyone launching a new career, regardless of age, as hard work can certainly help establish you in your organization or industry. If you desire to move up and grow, however, hard work is not going to be enough. As Shannon noted: “At a certain point you look around and realize, wow, everyone works hard at this level. Expertise and hard work just become the expectation and will not help you up the ladder.” Fighting for your next inch to go beyond what others are doing; that makes the difference.

A reporter once asked American professional boxer, activist, and poet Mohamed Ali “How many sit-ups do you do?” Ali responded “I don’t count my sit-ups. I only start counting when it starts hurting. When I feel pain, that’s when I start counting, because that’s when it really counts." Ali clearly fought for every inch in his professional career. In a 2019 speech Arnold Schwarzenegger recalled Ali’s story and said “Now think about it. He doesn’t start counting. That is working hard. And so, you can’t get around the hard work. It doesn’t matter who it is.”

This story reminds us to hold two opposing ideas in your mind at the same time. First, you need to work hard and continually discover new limits to what it means to work hard. Afterall, Ali never counted his sit-ups until he started to feel pain and that would change over time. Second, you need to acknowledge the absolute necessity to fight for every inch. You should remind yourself what Schwarzenegger said and that is ‘no one gets around the hard work.’

Today’s reflection ends on one additional nuance here and that is the difference between working at 99% capacity versus 100% capacity.

In an Instagram post from July 2021, Marine, best-selling author, and motivational speaker David Goggins talked about this and said “It’s a very scary situation when you are confronted with trying to find more of yourself. When you believe you have given everything you have, your mind becomes dark. You believe that quitting or failure is imminent. The choices and options you have in front of you start to shrink. This makes it very easy to abandon ship. Before you abandon ship, know this…there is always one more door that you haven’t opened. Behind that door may lie failure and disappointment BUT it may also have success and accomplishment. If you never open that door because you are extremely tired, exhausted, and feeling like you have given everything you have, you will never give yourself the chance to find your true capabilities. In trying to find your true capabilities, it’s inevitable that you will meet failure and disappointment head on. This is the part that deters people from opening that door. The difference between giving 99% and 100% is a lot bigger than what we think. To find just that 1% more requires all of us to open that final door. Never be fooled by a 99% effort!”

  • How often do you catch yourself doing whatever it takes to fight for your next inch?

  • How often do you remind yourself that hard work is necessary but digging deep and fighting for every inch along your life path is going to make the difference between success and failure?

  • When do you start counting?

  • How do you respond when the pain starts to kick-in?

  • Can you stay in the darkness long enough that your eyes adjust to the dark?

  • When you believe you have given everything you have, can you push yourself just one step further?

  • Have you ever pushed yourself to a new limitation? How did you respond?

  • Do you believe you have untapped potential yet to be realized?

  • Can you encounter failure yet continue?

  • Have you considered your capacity at 99% compared to 100%?


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