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Leveling Up

Motivated. Disciplined. Driven. Obsessed.

I just listened to the David Goggins interview on the Joe Rogan podcast. Definitely one of the best, and most inspirational interviews I’ve ever heard. Goggins is just on a completely different level then everyone else, “uncommon amongst uncommon people” is how he put it. In context, he was talking about why he wanted to join the Navy SEALs, because they were uncommon people. But once you become one, then you become common again. So a level above that is to strive to be uncommon amongst uncommon people. There are so many unbelievable stories in this interview - his transformational journey to create a new identity for himself, running his first 100 mile ultra with literally zero training and deciding to do it just a few days before, breaking the world record for pull-ups after failing 2 times before.

After listening to guys like Goggins, and Jocko Willink, and Cameron Hanes, I’m starting to understand these different levels that these guys operate on.

Level 1: Motivated

Motivation is the kick in the ass that gets you started and keeps you going early on. On Rogan, Goggins talks about how the movie Rocky motivated him to get through the struggle of losing weight at the very beginning of his identity transformation. There is the scene when Rocky is getting pummeled by Apollo Creed but he refuses to stay down and give up. When the song from Rocky plays, it reminds Goggins of the person he wants to become, the kind of person who never gives up, no matter how much it hurts or how beaten down he is (disclosure: I’ve never seen Rocky). He listened to that song on repeat for 17 hours when he finally broke the pull-up record. I think it’s incredibly important to have things like this that get you motivated.

We all know the feeling we get around the New Year, that motivation to make that big change we've been wanting to make in our life. Or that feeling you get after listening to a motivational speaker. The motivation industry thrives on this external and temporary kick in the butt. We all need a kick in the ass to get started and keep going. I love to hear stories like Goggins'. I love to hear Jocko on his podcast, and see Cam Hanes getting after it on Instagram. That shit motivates me. And there are so many more for me, Tony Robbins, Gary Vee, and especially the average joes that create mini-documentaries like How to Run 100 Miles.

But, Goggins on Rogan, and especially Jocko over and over again, talk about how motivation is cheap and fickle. It’s a feeling that is sometimes there, and sometimes not. Things are easy when you’re motivated, but the problem is that a lot of the time, you don’t feel motivated. Especially when things aren’t going well, the motivation disappears. You can listen to a motivational speaker and be really pumped up for a few days, but eventually that feeling goes away, and then what are you left with? Just the boring stuff, called hard work.

Level 2: Disciplined

Discipline is being able to get the work done when you aren't motivated. It's learning how to not listen to that little voice in your head. The voice that tells you to sleep in just a little bit longer. The voice that tells you before you go on a run that you're tired and it's cold outside and maybe you should just run tomorrow. The voice that tells you that eating that one little thing this one time is okay and you can just go back to your diet tomorrow. It's the voice that just wants you to be comfortable and happy in the moment.

Discipline is the weapon with which we fight the negative forces in our heads. Steven Pressfield, in the War of Art, calls this the Resistance. He says, "There is a secret that real writers know that wanna-be writers don’t. And the secret is this: Its not the writing part thats hard, whats hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is resistance." Beyond writing, he says we live 2 lives, the life we live and our unlived life (or the life we want), and what stands between the 2 is resistance. Its procrastination, its fear (of failure, of negative feedback or embarrassment), its complacency. Resistance exists to prevent you from doing the work you are called to do. Resistance wants you to take it easy, to be ordinary and mediocre, to take the low road. Its the reason why we don’t ever write the book we’ve been wanting to write, or lose the weight we want to lose, or stick to our New Year’s resolutions.

Pressfield also says that to combat the resistance, we must turn pro - meaning: show up everyday, how up no matter what, sickness, health, hell or high water. This is a pro: "I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at 9 o’clock sharp.”

We can also call this discipline. Willpower and discipline can be developed, like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the more you have it. You no longer need the motivation. You understand that much of the time, it won't be there. You understand that it's just about showing up, every day, and doing the work. This is when you get to level 2.

Level 3: Driven

Driven is much harder to get to than disciplined. Driven requires that you have discipline, but now you have more. When I think of disciplined, I think of a pretty even battle in your head, you vs the resistance, and most of the time if you put up a good fight you can win. Driven is when the battle becomes a one-sided affair. I'm not saying the battle is easy, but I am saying that it's easy to see who's going to win. It's like the Mayweather-McGregor fight. McGregor is a true warrior, but still just obviously outclassed by Mayweather who is the greatest pound-for-pound boxer of all time.

If disciplined is about your actions, driven is about your identity. Discipline is conscious, but driven is more unconscious. It's a deeper layer, it becomes who you are. You do it without thinking, it's like second nature. Discipline and action over time will forge a new identity.

In relation to goals, disciplined is showing up and doing the work, day in and day out, that leads to a specific goal. But driven is the mentality that the goals need to be massive. It's not wanting to be an author, but wanting to be a New York Times best-selling author. It's not wanting to run a marathon, but running an ultra marathon. It's not wanting to start a business, it's wanting to grown that business to an 8-9-10 figure business. The goal starts to consume you. And most importantly, driven is the mentality that nothing is going to stop you from achieving that goal. You need the challenge, you thrive on failure and pain because it shows you that you're progressing in the right direction.

Not very many people get to the driven level. These are the uncommon people. They are the hardcore guys and girls. These are the long-time pros. These are the CEOs and entrepreneurs. These are the ones who move through successes and failures without even thinking if they are going to stop. Nothing can stop them.

Level 4: Obsessed

This is Goggins. Jocko. Steve Jobs. Elon Musk. Michael Jordan. Kobe Bryant. These are the truly crazy ones. A relentless and unfathomable single-minded focus. These are the uncommon ones amongst already uncommon people.

As all of this started to make sense in my head, I realized that I have some work to do to call myself driven. I'm definitely disciplined though. I can show up. I can get the work done. I haven't called in sick, not even once, in my 10 year career. I ran 600 miles last year, almost doubling my running goal. I ran over 120 miles this month. I'm out there. But am I driven?

I'm not trying to beat myself up here. I'm just being real. Driven is just another level, Maybe I'll run an ultra this year. Maybe I'll do an Ironman in my lifetime. Maybe I'll start a new business and be completely consumed by it. I want it. But I have some work to do.

Time to get to work.

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