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Welcome to this Navigate the Chaos blog post. To hire Michael for a keynote speech, workshop, or presentation be sure to visit the Contact page. You can also purchase a copy of the latest Navigate the Chaos collection and download the Google calendar for free.

How often do you outwork thousands in front of no one?

Today is February 12 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you outwork thousands in front of nobody?” Navigating the chaos is going to involve you grinding out the work all by yourself. Professional basketball player Damian Lillard believes this is true and wrote “If you want to look good in front of thousands, you have to outwork thousands in front of nobody.” After being selected by the Portland Trailblazers with the sixth overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, Lillard was unanimously voted Rookie of the Year and became one of four players in Trail Blazers franchise history to become a four-time All-Star.

Lillard also maintains a high-level of self-awareness and noted “I know what I am as a basketball player and as a person. I don’t see myself as above, elevated, or, like, more important than other people. I view myself with people; I don’t view myself as a superstar.” Lillard wears the jersey number No. 0, representative for the letter 'O' and his journey in life; from Oakland (Oakland High School), to Ogden, Utah (Webster State University), and now Oregon (Portland Trail Blazers). Lillard navigated the chaos by understanding the need to ‘outwork thousands in front of nobody.’ This mentality of outworking thousands in front of nobody requires relentless practice over an extended an extended period of time.

According to research conducted by University of Nebraska psychologist Richard Dienstbier individuals have the capacity to become mentally and physically stronger with practice. He developed his “toughness model” first published in 1989 in the journal Psychological Review. Gathering evidence from a wide range of human and animal studies, he demonstrated that exposure to intermittent stressors, such as cold temperatures and aerobic exercise, made individuals physiologically “tougher.” They became less overwhelmed by subsequent difficulties, and by their own fight-or-flight arousal.

As Meg Jay wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “this makes a difference because when a stressor seems manageable, we perceive it as a challenge, and adrenaline—which boosts energy, focus and coping—is released. When a stressor seems unmanageable, however, we perceive it as a threat and our cortisol levels rise too, suppressing our immune system and making us more vulnerable to disease.” Interestingly, Dienstbier noted that toughened individuals increasingly seek out experiences that stimulate them and provide opportunities for more mastery and success.

One such person who practices getting tougher is Navy SEAL veteran David Goggins. Goggins wrote “It’s easy to win when life’s your best friend but when it’s choking you out is when you truly grow. Sometimes there is no light at the end of the tunnel, but you still have to go in! Start conditioning your mind to walk in the darkness. Trust me, the more you walk in it the better your eyes will adjust to it.” In his Embrace the Suck video speech Goggins shares how he overcame so many debilitating obstacles to later achieve incredible military and personal honors, and the mentality that kept him going and made him push beyond his limits.

As Goggins said “Growing is a lifestyle. We need friction to grow. I put a bunch of friction in my life and I grew. You want to get tough; it’s a lifestyle. You need to callous your mind. If you say you’re going to wake up at 4:30 in the morning and run, then do it. Do something that sucks every day of your life. That’s how you grow.” In his 2018 autobiography Can't Hurt Me Goggins shares his astonishing life story where he had to overcome a violent father, racism, and low self-esteem. Goggins believes that most people tap into only 40% of their capabilities. Goggins calls this The 40% Rule, and his story illuminates a path that anyone can follow to push past pain, demolish fear, and reach their full potential. The only man in history to complete elite training as a Navy SEAL, Army Ranger, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller, he went on to set records in numerous endurance events, inspiring Outside magazine to name him The Fittest (Real) Man in America.

A good exercise to do here is to think of an iceberg. Most people only think about, see, and consider the tip of the iceberg. Failing to notice the underneath of an iceberg, can have significant consequences. For today’s reflection, success is the tip of the iceberg. What you fail to see are the thousands of hours someone put in as well as the disappointments, frustrations, late nights, rejections, struggles, discipline, criticism, failures, doubts, stress, and risks involved.

  • How often do you outwork thousands in front of nobody?

  • If you are willing to do so, how long would you be able to keep up that level of practice? A week? A month? A year? Several years?

  • How often do you do something that sucks in order to grow?

  • How much friction do you put in your life to grow?

  • Have you looked at someone successful and wondered how many disappointments, rejections, or failures were involved?

  • Do you have the mental, physical, and emotional strength to outwork thousands in front of nobody?

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