How To ‘Own’ Difficult Tasks
Any animal can endure but how do you ‘own’ the uncomfortable things you need to do?
You can beat a dog with a stick and it will live. It will whimper and whine and be afraid. As soon as the beating is over it will run away. If you show it the stick later, it will be afraid and run away again.
You don’t need to beat yourself, but in order to lead a better life you do need to push yourself to execute at what some people would call the ‘extreme’.
If you want to be a sports champion, you need to sprint until you want to vomit.
If you want to be a top salesperson, you need to practice cold calling and deal with a years worth of rejection every day.
If you’re starting a company you may need to invest your last $500 on a gamble, even though that means buying even cheaper food and possibly being evicted.
If you’re a soldier in the field you don’t have time to worry about hunger, thirst, being tired, or needing to shit. Someone may be waiting to kill you.
If you want to improve your mental strength, you need to take cold showers or sit and meditate for much longer than is comfortable.
I believe that in order to get good at almost anything, you need to push yourself to some level of discomfort. It’s very unlikely that your brain is ‘wired’ to be perfectly comfortable starting and completing anything that requires more than 10-20 seconds of definite focus. Sometimes, it’s going to feel like you’re beating yourself up, which you are, in order to get better.
When you push yourself, you don’t want to be like the dog. Whimpering before, during, and after the beating. You need to ‘own’ the task. Otherwise, the task owns you.
How Do You ‘Own’ A Difficult Task?
Before, during, and after the task, you must not only to endure but also remain in control. You must remain in control of your mind, execute with precision, attempt to thrive in discomfort, and potentially even learn to feel ‘high’ while crushing previous limits.
Any animal can endure. If the chance to escape exists, it will run away. Remaining in control, executing, and potentially thriving in or loving the discomfort is more difficult.
First – Approach The Task Without Fear
I’ve been doing jump-squats for a long time. Until recently, I always felt fear when I knew it was ‘jump squat morning’. I knew I would be out of breath feeling pain in my legs with only more reps to go. I always get through it but when I felt that fear the jump squats owned me.
Repetition helps get rid of the fear, but after nearly a year I still felt it before beginning my workouts. Pushing beyond your ‘normal’ routine helps much more quickly. Do a double-dose of your ‘normal’ routine, reminding yourself that you can go back to doing the ‘normal’ amount any time. This helps crush your fear and helps you ‘own’ the things you want to do.
I’ve felt it before writing blog posts, before writing Amazon listings, before going to talk to a girl, and a million other uncomfortable tasks. Be aware of this fear and when you feel it, dive in right away and go for a double-dose.
Second – Execute To Perfection With Mental Clarity
I’ve found that it’s much easier to simply ‘endure’ pain or discomfort than it is to execute while dealing with pain or discomfort. Enduring means shutting your brain down, or using all your mental energy to monitor the source of the pain. Executing means knowing the pain is there, ignoring it while it screams for attention, and refocusing on/staying alert to something more important.
When I first started taking cold showers I could endure the cold water but I’d always want to get our fast. It was really difficult to actually clean myself in the cold water. All my mental energy went into enduring the cold and monitoring the pain. I couldn’t re-focus on the more complex task of getting the soap and figuring out which parts of me needed washing.
If you make funny noises while you’re working out, you’ve lost mental control of your vocal cords because you’re feeling so much pain somewhere else in your body. Remember the William Ernest Henley poem Invictus:
“I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.”
When you work out in silence, you’re in control.
I love learning something new while working out because if I can learn a foreign language, listen to and comprehend the Quran or Bible, or anything else while my arms are burning from the push-ups, I know I own those pushups. They don’t own me.
A similar situation may be a new sales rep who’s making many, many unsuccessful cold calls, or a new business owner who’s hustling but hasn’t found product-market fit. You can’t close a sale by whining to the potential customer and you can’t pitch investors “Give me money because my life sucks and I’m really stressed out.” You need to be present, own it, execute, and push beyond the difficulty to become better, all with a friendly smile on your face.
Have you ever jumped in a cold shower and gotten to the point where you can splash and play in it and you don’t care that it’s cold? Have you ever done so many sit-ups that the pain dies down and you feel like you could do 1,000 more, laughing all the way? That’s when you ‘own’ the task.
Third – Own The Finish
If you were afraid before the task, and weren’t able to control yourself during the task, then it’s very difficult to own the finish.
Owning the finish means that you don’t throw down the weights after you finish your last painful rep. You hold the final position a little longer, feel the burn, and then carefully place them down on the weight rack.
You don’t end the workout gasping for air, wincing and looking exhausted. You hold the activated sit-up position for 5 seconds longer before slowly relaxing back onto the floor. You look up the hill and run 1 final hill sprint. Then you walk-it off and focus on slowing down your breath.
You don’t rush through your last sales call for the day. You try to make it your best call of the day.
You’re thirsty and someone hands you a glass of water. You don’t gulp it down. You take a small sip then a deep breath. You’re still ‘activated’ and ready for more.
When your 8-hour shift is over, you don’t throw your uniform in your backpack and run away to catch the bus home. You ask “Hey, before I go, do you need me to sweep up the store?”
When you’re about to get out of she cold shower, you place your head under the cold water once again just to feel the shock on the back of your neck one last time.
When you’re meditating and the timer goes off, you don’t jump out of meditation and instantly hop on your phone to see who messaged you. You remain relaxed, move slowly, and continue focusing on your breath for a little longer.
3 Steps To ‘Own’ A Difficult Task
Mental control before, during, and after the task is what improves your life. Otherwise, you’re like the beaten dog, afraid before, afraid during, and afraid after, whimpering and whining through the tasks you know you need to do. Go beyond that.
You can remain in control.
You can execute.
You can thrive and even get ‘high’ in the most painful of situation.
By remaining in control, your most difficult task can become one of the most meaningful, empowering, self-confidence-boosting, character-building, good-habit-reinforcing, financially-freeing, muscle-building, health-improving, new-skill-learning, BS-eliminating, sales-closing, war-winning, consciousness-boosting, sex-life-enhancing, championship-winning, business-building, fear-destroying, boundary-expanding and control-in-your-life-regaining things you will ever do.
Man’s most difficult battle is with himself.
Own your tasks completely from start to finish.
At the completion of every task, workout, 8-hour shift, game or practice session, cold shower or cold call, you will know: