Believe in the other side

James Altucher: How To Succeed in Life

There was a passage in this post that caught my eye—

I’ve asked 400 of the most successful people in the world what they did when they were at their worst.

How did you survive?

Almost always the answer is: WAIT.


When you thrash, you crash.

Just be quiet. Don’t move too much. Be calm. Be patient.

What can I say? Look at my history and it's seems pretty clear that I don't do what the man says. I've dumped jobs and volunteer gigs far, far too soon. But I believe the advice. Even if it's just because I know the opposite doesn't work.

I know a venue where waiting and patience did work for me: running. In endurance running I routinely started in the back of the pack. Sometimes I would show up at races late and start a few minutes after everyone else. It was a good tactic for me. Let the others take off with their adrenaline surges. It's a long day. They'd be back. 50 km, 50 miles, 100 miles—after a long day I would reel all those early streakers in eventually (but for the fastest, of course). It was just a matter of time if you believed in it.

There was one other aspect of running that rewarded patience: hills. In endurance running the conventional wisdom is to walk the hills. Save your legs for the rest of the race. It's a long day. But that was my secret weapon: run the hills. If you were patient and believed that you were going to be fine later after suffering for some time now, you'd be OK. More than that, I didn't just feel OK rolling over the top, I felt strong for having waited it out.

One more thing: in the long runs, when things felt bad you had to believe that they would eventually not feel so bad. It's a long day. There was one race I remember falling apart around mile 40 in a 50-miler. I clawed out of it by clinging to a simple rule: run a minute, walk a minute; run a minute, walk a minute. Eventually: run two minutes, walk a minute; run three minutes, walk a minute. I don't know when, but eventually I didn't need the walk-a-minute part. There's no magic to it. No superhuman feats. You just have to believe that there's an Other Side to whatever difficult thing you're dealing with.

I don't know how to bring that to work yet. It seems like an easy enough lesson. But work feels like it has a different kind of pressure associated with it. A long race ends, and you know where it ends. If you walk, if you run, if you crawl, the finish line is at a fixed spot. Work? It's different. Here's a good post from Seth Godin: Evanescent boundaries

Instead, real life has changing rules, hidden rules, rules that aren't fair. Real life often doesn't reveal itself to us all at once, the way the rules of baseball are clearly written down.

And so, the first challenge of real life is: find some goals. And the second: figure out some boundaries.

It doesn't pay to get stressed out that these goals and these boundaries aren't the same as everyone else's. It doesn't pay to mourn the loss of the rigid structures that worked in the world you used to be in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *