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Go For It! A Powerful Strategy to Win at Work and Life

Ever since I started running more than 25 years ago, I’ve been a dedicated fitness enthusiast—a choice that has added energy, health, and adventure to my life. Along with running, I have enjoyed biking (both mountain and road), cross-country skiing, triathalons, and more recently, Crossfit.

And although I’ve enjoyed some more than others, there is one step—one “best practice”—that, in every pursuit, propelled my success, personal growth, and enjoyment.

I signed up for competitions.

As a runner, I entered 5K’s, 10K’s and half marathons. When I turned 30, I completed the New York City Marathon, which was the fulfillment of a lifelong goal. When I discovered mountain biking, I did the Ice Man, one of the most physically demanding endurance events I ever completed. Similarly, when I took up  freestyle skiing in my early 40’s, I entered the North American Vasa. And three years ago, when a frustrating battle with achilles tendonitis sidelined me from running, I jumped into Crossfit, a high intensity combination of Olympic Weightlifting, gymnastics, and boot camp-style training. Each of those years (including this year),  I signed up to compete in the Crossfit Open, an international competition with more than 350,000 athletes.

Regardless of how I finished, I’ve never regretted these experiences. Here are 3 reasons why stepping into the competitive arena, regardless of your skill level, always makes you better.

1) Competition will bring out the best in you.
No matter how committed they are, people give less than their absolute best effort when no one is keeping score. It’s human nature. Signing up for a competition, even if you’re competing against no one but yourself, creates a level of emotional engagement that drives you to bring your absolute best. For example, you can run recreationally by yourself or with a group of friends, but when you line up with hundreds of others at the start of a 5K or 10K race, there’s a “game on” switch activated in your mind, propelling you to push harder and finish stronger. It creates a new, higher standard for yourself.

2) Athletic competition spills over into every area of your life.
As a partner in a company with hundreds of employees, I have witnessed the  mindset similarity between athletic or artistic pursuits that require continued practice, perseverance, mental toughness, etc. and success in the workplace. Many of our top performing salespeople, for example, played competitive sports in high school and/or college. Although the dynamics of training for a half marathon and leading a project team at work may seem completely different, the lessons learned in one spill over into the other. For example, research from Cornell University found that students who played sports developed stronger leadership skills, worked better in teams, and demonstrated more confidence than those who didn’t.

3) Signing up for a competition pushes you out of your comfort zone… a great place to be.
Ask any high performer and they will tell you their greatest growth came when they had to overcome something–fear, adversity, naysayers, etc. Author and success expert Brian Tracy writes, “You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” Indeed, the happiest, most successful people I know tend to live at the edge of their comfort zones. Signing up for a competition, especially for the first time, signifies a bold step from the relative comfort of the sidelines to the bright lights of the playing field, where exposure and risk of failure can create tension and even anxiety. My advice: Lean into this discomfort! Though it will be simultaneously stressful and invigorating, you will unearth a level of competitiveness and self-discovery that you rarely tap into, bringing deeper satisfaction and fulfillment in your life.

Last spring, my wife, Debbie was invited to train for a half marathon—something she had never considered. Although she exercises regularly (she owns a Peloton bike), running has never been her passion. Inspired by encouraging friends and the prospect of raising funds for African water wells, she jumped in with both feet, training all summer long  at distances of up to 12 miles per session. On race day, facing blustery winds and unexpectedly hilly terrain, she finished strong, completing the 13.2 mile race among the best in her age group. “Since I never thought of myself as a runner, I never would have considered a half marathon,” she said. “Signing up for the race definitely pushed my comfort zone, but the experience was exhilarating and I’m planning to continue running.”

If you’ve been indecisive about signing up for that 5K or 10K run, mountain bike race, YMCA basketball tourney or tough mudder, I want to encourage you to put your fears aside and go for it! Remember, life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.

Are there any competitive experiences that have positively impacted your life in recent years? What would it mean to you, and to the quality of your life, to enter the competitive arena? I’d love to hear your feedback.

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What Extreme Athletes Can Teach Us About Overcoming Our Fears

I love the Olympics. From the opening to the closing ceremonies and all the exciting events in between, I enjoy the collective experience of watching these athletes come together to proudly and expertly compete. I also find myself thinking about how incredible it would be to represent your country in such a physical way — a feat many Olympians have been training hard their whole lives to be able to do.

We can learn so much from those who are dedicated to pushing the limits — physically and mentally — continually striving to better themselves, overcome their fears and reach their full potential. When I saw this article from contributor Andrea Williams, I thought it was great timing to share with you as we cheer on the athletes during these last few days of the 2018 Winter Olympics. I hope you’ll be inspired by it, too!


At twelve years old, when most girls her age were learning algebra and crushing on the members of NSYNC, Samantha Larson was preparing to conquer a fear that few adults would face: climbing to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa. By eighteen, Larson had also successfully climbed each of the Seven Summits, ascending to the tallest peak on each continent and, at the time, becoming the youngest person to achieve the feat.

The first time Larson felt real fear was at the bottom of Kilimanjaro, when she and her father (who completed all of the climbs with her) met a gentleman who had gotten sick because of the change in altitude and couldn’t make it to the summit. He warned them that they, too, would probably struggle. But instead of backing out, Larson committed to pressing forward.

“Fear is such a personal thing, but in a lot of situations, fear is just a reaction of the human brain, which is wired to convince us that what we may want to do is a bad idea,” says Larson. “When we face fear, we have to ask ourselves how badly we want that thing that we’re afraid of, and how can we learn to work through the fear when we feel it.”

Trust in the face of fear

We typically assume that the opposite of fear is courage or bravery. But according to the popular saying, it’s actually trust that arises when fear is absent. And this is certainly the case for professional slackliner Heather Larsen.

Slacklining is the process of walking across a tensioned cord that is suspended between two anchors, similar to a tightrope (but with more slack in the line, hence the sports’ name). So what’s the key differentiator between slacklining and the standard, circus-variety tightrope walking? Some slackliners, also known as highliners, choose to trek across canyons, carefully balancing on lines that are literally hundreds of feet from the ground.

Despite built-in safety mechanisms (participants typically wear a harness with a leash that connects to the line itself) highlining definitely falls on the extreme end of the sports spectrum, with risks that include fractures, sprains, broken bones, and even death. For Larsen, who was introduced to slacklining through climbing, the ability to overcome the fears associated with traversing a 2.5-centimeter wire high above the ground is based on her assurance that she will remain safe even if she falls.

“I trust the gear, my rigging team, and my partners, and I trust my skills and abilities to walk the line,” Larsen explains. “[When I first started highlining], I think I easily trusted my gear because of my familiarity with building climbing anchors in the past, and I trusted my friends because I was aware of their experience. I now also have the knowledge and experience to evaluate my environment and the teams I work with.”

Whether you’re an extreme sports athlete, a newlywed, or a startup entrepreneur, being able to rely on a partner or team to carry part of the burden and minimize some of the risk certainly helps to mitigate fear. But this trust doesn’t develop overnight—nor does it develop without personal effort.

“I am constantly learning from others in the slacklining community; my friend just taught me a new knot that is much easier to check and very clean for rigging highlines,” says Larsen. “I think that in order to develop and maintain trust, you have to be willing to be a student [of your industry] and the groups you work with, as well.”

Preparing for victory

Ultimately, the more you study, the better the perspective you have for your circumstances and the greater the likelihood that you will be able to adequately prepare for what lies ahead. U.S. National and World Champion powerlifter Robert Herbst admits that youthful exuberance may have blinded him to the fact that he could be injured while competing. But with age and a twice dislocated sacrum (due to scoliosis that developed when he was a child), Herbst credits preparation for the confidence he feels each time he hoists a bar—weighing more than triple his own body weight—over his head.

Herbst recalls seeing a competitor ahead of him blow out his leg while lifting a weight less than what Herbst was about to attempt. Yet, because of his focus on both physical and mental training, Herbst was more than prepared to make his lift, even in the face of fear.

“Preparation reduces risk because it enables you to deal with situations as they arise,” says Herbst. “If you are prepared, then you know you have the answer, and you can rely on their training. There is then less to fear as you know you can cope.”

According to Herbst, preparation also allows you to ignore the possible consequences and risks when action is needed. You have to be aware of the potential to lose your 401K when launching a business, or the chance that you may alienate your customer base when introducing a new product, but once you have accepted those risks and prepared as much as possible to avoid them, ignoring fears isn’t naïve. It’s calculated and strategic.

“After my deadlift at the World Drug-Free Powerlifting Championships this year, I had broken blood vessels on my face as if I had been punched,” says Herbst. “If during those lifts, I had thought that I might tear something, I maybe would have subconsciously backed off and not have been able to give the same effort. And I think other people in extreme situations know that once they have committed themselves, they have to focus on the moment and what needs to be done, and not worry about extraneous things such as risk. Otherwise, they may not be as effective or successful, and they will still be exposed to the risk anyway.”

Mindful fearlessness

Mountain climber Samantha Larson has come to understand the difference between real, flight-or-flight danger and the mind’s natural tendency to default to the path of comfort and least resistance through her path toward mindfulness. And more than just the buzzword on every wellness guru’s lips, mindfulness can mean the difference between failing to reach our fullest potential and living the lives we were divinely created for.

“More often than not, when we feel afraid, we’re actually safe,” says Larson. “Mindfulness techniques can very helpful in working through fear in almost any situation, and that means going through the process of recognizing that you feel afraid, analyzing whether you are actually in a dangerous situation, using that analysis to consciously decide how you want to navigate the situation, and then trusting in that decision and acting on it with purpose.”

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28 Top Books to Get Ahead in 2018

I’ve been getting some inquiries lately about business book recommendations. When I saw this excellent list from leadership consultant and friend, Robyn Marcotte, I knew it was worth sharing! Any titles you would add to her list below?

28 Top Books to Get Ahead in 2018


2018 is an open book of possibilities, and it’s time to start reading! Reading is known to be one of the primary habits of ultra-successful people, and can open up a world of new ideas and new possibilities.

Start off the New Year right by resolving to read! Here is a list of 28 business books to add to your tablet (or your night stand):

  1. Outside Insight: Navigating a World Drowning in Data by Jørn Lyseggen
  2. Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer
  3. Superconnector: Stop Networking and Start Building Business Relationships by Scott Gerber and Ryan Paugh
  4. Selling Vision by Lou Schachter and Rick Cheatam
  5. Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.
  6. The Startup Hero’s Pledge by Tim Draper
  7. Leading Through the Turn: How a Journey Mindset Can Help Leaders Find Success and Significance by Elise Mitchell
  8. Surviving the Tech Storm: Strategy in Times of Technological Uncertainty by Nicklas Bergman
  9. Performance Partnerships: The Checkered Past, Changing Present and Exciting Future of Affiliate Marketing by Robert Glazer
  10. They Ask, You Answer by Marcus Sheridan
  11. Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change by Ellen Pao
  12. The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone by Brian Merchant
  13. Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott
  14. You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth by Jen Sincero
  15. Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness
  16. Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong by Eric Barker
  17. Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
  18. Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies by Geoffrey West.
  19. The Captain Class: The Hidden Force That Creates the World’s Greatest Teams by Sam Walker.
  20. The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World by Brad Stone
  21. Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age by Jeff Goins
  22. What To Do When Machines Do Everything: How to Get Ahead in a World of AI, Algorithms, Bots, and Big Data by Malcolm Frank, Paul Roehrig, and Ben Pring
  23. Learn Better: Mastering the Skills for Success in Life, Business, and School, or, How to Become an Expert in Just About Anything by Ulrich Boser
  24. Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm by Christian Madsbjerg
  25. Spark: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success by Angie Morgan, Courtney Lynch, Sean Lynch and Frederick W. Smith
  26. The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone by Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach
  27. Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction by Derek Thompson
  28. Giftology: The Art and Science of Using Gifts to Cut Through the Noise, Increase Referrals, and Strengthen Retention by John Ruhlin

That should get you started for a great year of exploring new ideas and experiencing new challenges!

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What is Your Average Speed in Your Life, Your Health, and Your Work?

One of the biggest insights I’ve gained on success and personal development in recent years is the disproportionate impact of habits over goals in improving performance. In fact, I blogged on this very topic at the beginning of 2017, based on my own research and personal experience.

That’s why, for this week’s post, I’m excited to share a recent article by author and speaker James Clear that presents a powerful strategy to propel your personal and professional growth by refining your habits.


What is Your “Average Speed” in Your Life, Your Health, and Your Work?

I have a friend named Nathan Barry who recently finished writing three books in just 9 months.

How did he do it?

By following a simple strategy. He wrote 1,000 words per day. (That’s about 2 to 3 pages.) And he did it every day for 253 straight days.

Now, compare that strategy to the classic image of a writer hiding out in a cabin for weeks and writing like a madman to finish their book.

The maniac in the cabin has a high “maximum speed” — maybe 20 or even 30 pages per day. But after a few weeks at that unsustainable pace, either the book is finished or the author is.

By comparison, Nathan’s maximum speed never reached the peak levels of the crazy writer in the cabin. However, over the course of a year or two his average speed was much higher.

This lesson extends far beyond writing.

For example, anyone can feel a burst of inspiration, head to the gym, and push themselves for a single workout. That’s maximum speed. We waste a lot of time obsessing over it. How hard was your workout? How motivated are you? How fast are you pushing it?

But what if you were to average all of your days in the last month? How many of those days included a workout? How about the last three months? Or the last year? What has your average speed been?

Look at it this way and you might realize, for example, that you were sick for a week and there were a couple times when you skipped the gym after a long day of work and you were on the road for two weeks as well. Suddenly, you realize that your maximum speed might be high every now and then, but your average speed is much lower than you think.

From what I can tell, this principle holds true for your work habits, your eating habits, your relationship habits, and virtually every other area of your life.

The Surprising Thing About Average Speed
Here’s the surprising thing about average speed: It doesn’t take very long for average speed to produce incredible results.

So often we waste our time and energy thinking that we need a monumental effort to achieve anything significant. We tell ourselves that we need to get amped up on motivation and desire. We think that we need to work harder than everyone else.

But when you look at people who are really making progress, you see something different. Nathan wrote 1,000 words per day, every day. And nine months later? Three books are finished. At no point did he necessarily work harder than everyone else. There’s nothing sexy or shocking about writing 2 or 3 pages per day. Nathan was simply more consistent than everyone else and, as a result, his average speed for those 253 days was much higher than most people.

Of course, the natural question that follows from all of this is, “How do I increase my average speed?”

Let’s talk about that now.

Habit Graduation: How to Increase Your Average Speed
Recently, I was told about the idea of “habit graduation.” That is, graduating from your current habit to one level higher. Basically, habit graduation is about increasing your average speed.

Here are some examples…

  • If your average speed is eating three healthy meals per week, can you “graduate” that to one healthy meal per day?
  • If your average speed is exercising twice per month, can you “graduate” that to once per week?
  • If your job is crazy and you only talk to your old friends on the phone once every three months, can you schedule those calls into your calendar and “graduate” that habit to once per month?

You get the idea. Habit graduation is about considering your goals and your current average speed, and thinking about how you can increase your output by just a little bit on a consistent basis.

I’ve thought about how I might apply this myself.

For the last eight months, I’ve published a new article every Monday and every Thursday without fail. Now, I’m considering “graduating” that habit to the next level.

For example, I could follow Nathan’s strategy and write 1,000 words per day. Presumably, this would allow me to continue writing two articles each week while also working on other useful things — like a book of my own.

Where to Go From Here
We all have an average speed when it comes to our habits. And if we’re being honest with ourselves, that average speed might be much slower than we’d like.

The truth is, anyone can get motivated and push themselves for one day, but very few people maintain a consistent effort every week without fail.

The important thing isn’t to judge yourself or feel guilty about having a lower average speed than you would like. The important thing is to be aware of what’s actually going on, realize that it’s within your control, and then embrace the fact that a small, but consistent change in your daily habits can lead to a remarkable increase in your average speed.

In your health, your work, and your life, it doesn’t require a massive effort to achieve incredible results — just a consistent one.

It’s time to graduate to the next level. What’s your average speed?

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