I recently heard a speech by a running coaching about marathoning (disclaimer: I am not a runner). He spoke about the idea that every runner hits “the wall,” and then experiences what he called “The Excruciating Minutes” – that one mile or few minutes after you hit the wall that exposes who you are, and makes you examine what you are made of.
This concept of The Excruciating Minutes made me think about how we often hit lulls or barriers in our lives – the proverbial wall – and how often we are maladapted to deal with these challenges or struggles. It makes me question how often people give up when they were on the verge of breaking something incredible wide-open.
So here is my challenge to you: when you feel yourself hitting some sort of wall – personally, professionally, emotionally, or relationally – I want you go through a few Excruciating Minutes. This exercise isn’t a deep look into your psyche or motivations, but a quick, honest, candid, and exposing look at who you are, what you are doing, and what you are made of. We want to get honest answers about ourselves out into the air so we can recognize strengths, address issues, and plan for how we will achieve success.
How you perform this gut-check is less import than actually doing it. I like to stand at a whiteboard, create columns for my scoping questions, and vomit out onto the whiteboard everything that comes to my head.
Some questions to get you started may include:
- What gets in my way?
- What gets me fired up?
- What am I afraid of?
- When will I consider myself a success?
- How do I get in my own way?
Quite frankly, this will be a little painful….and weird. Especially since we are all our harshest critics. But my one piece of advice is to not think about it, and just go. When thoughts starts flowing, you’ll get an amazing peak into who you are and what you’re really made of. This should not be a long process, but only take a couple of minutes at most.
After you break through your Excruciating Minutes, look at what you’ve written down for a few seconds, close your eyes, and deeply breathe in a new found sense of self-awareness. The answers and solutions will start to flow, and you will feel energized and ready to move ahead knowing what makes you tick and how you are going to overcome the obstacles keeping you from success.
Financial Samurai says
Ah the last mile. The pain of cramps is what i feel whenever I’m in a 2.5 hr 3 full set match. Just have to power through and tell myself, the worst case scenario is another 30 minutes and keep on trucking.
My dad used to call it the “2 R’s of Success” – Reading and Running. Running is really a discipline that if you can master and “power through,” a lot of other self-mastery things become easy.
And reading, well, I don’t think that needs much explanation.
Scott this is great! Those few moments, days, weeks or months after you hit your wall are the defining ones. If you can power through those excruciating moments then you’re so much closer to actually achieving your goal. Great post!
I like the frame you use of “powering though” the wall – it creates a context of thriving vs. surviving. Something that continually baffles me is when I have a friend or colleague working on, what I think is, an incredible idea or business throw in the towel and quit. I often think “If they had only held on for just a few more months….” and think about what potential was lost.
David Crandall says
The excruciating minutes is where so many people give up. I feel it too when it occurs and know that I have given up on things in the past that I probably shouldn’t have.
I can’t help but think of Seth Godin’s “The Dip” when reading this. Perseverance through to the end is what distinguishes those who succeed and those who get by.
For me, I find that it helps to have something worth persevering FOR. In my life, that is my wife and kids. I have a lot more willingness to suffer if I think that stopping will let them down.
I have to be honest, I have Godin’s “The Dip” on the book stack, but haven’t gotten to it yet. But yes, I would say that an exercise like this is a microcosm of the overall career dip. I think that while many of us are candid with others, we aren’t candid with ourselves often enough.
Carlos Miceli says
I don’t think there’s a single quality that matters more when it comes to achieving things, than being able to power through those excruciating minutes. It’s not about talent as much as it is about tolerance. Good post Scott.
“It’s not about talent as much as it is about tolerance.” –> This is so true!
Jason Calacanis did a great interview about the difference between people who succeed, and people who just get by. His thought is that the average smart person has at least one million-dollar idea every month. But because we are not all millionaires, there’s a single variable – Execution. It’s about execution, perseverance, and tolerance. You can find the interview here http://bit.ly/aPyjJT.
Edward - Entry Level Dilemma says
I’m not sure I agree with the idea that the average smart person has at least one million-dollar idea every month. I was having a similar discussion with a friend a few weeks ago when we were discussing my job and his desire to see my name connected to a trivia question. In the time I have been at this job, I have been on the lookout for a way to make my mark on the company. Nothing has come up. I have had plenty of ideas, but only minor things that don’t have any real effect on anything beyond the day’s workload.
I should provide more context to the statement above. Calacanis was talking about the startups and entrepreneurship. His point is that we all have great ideas, but the truly successful entrepreneurs are those who actually execute on their ideas.
Could work similarly within a company. However, within the context of a company there are organizational barriers and culture issues that prevent even the smartest people from within a company to make a major impact.
Edward - Entry Level Dilemma says
I can see your point, although I would argue that I’ve only had maybe half a dozen ideas of entrepreneurial merit in my life and maybe two that have had any chance of making $1 million or more.
I do work for a small company with rep and direct access to my boss, so if I were to have a substantial idea, it would be heard.