Let me tell you a secret… When I go to the gym, I’m often not the hardest worker there. I sometimes leave earlier than people who came to train before me. I get lapped on the track, even by people I could beat in a race. I do embarrassingly short workouts.
Yet I’m in very good shape. I can do 20+ consecutive pullups, run marathons, deadlift 460+ lbs; I have a six-pack, broad shoulders and thick arms.
What I lack in intensity, I make up for in persistence. You may outwork me today, but will you show up tomorrow too? What about the day after that, and after that? I will keep showing up, year after year, putting in work, taking baby steps. That’s how I’ve come such a long way.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to see people pushing their limits, sweat pouring and destroying limitations. What is even more impressive to me though, is the man coming home exhausted from a long, stressful day of work, who still goes for a quick workout. Or the woman who wakes up at 6AM, and despite the temptation of staying cozied up under the blankets, puts on her running shoes and works up a little sweat.
My vision of fitness isn’t like the movies; it’s not intense workout-montages, music blaring, people cheering you, and this incredible sense of energetic motivation. Fitness to me, is really more about those quiet nights when you really don’t feel like working out, but you still do it anyway. Or going for a run on a cold, rainy day that you’d prefer to spend inside. Or going to bed early, so that you get enough sleep to tackle tomorrow’s training.
Hollywood and social media create this misconception that hard work is sexy. An athlete is reduced to their highlight knockout or game winning 3-point shot. What you don’t see is them rehabbing an injury or going through their stretching routine. Entrepreneurs showcase their expensive cars and houses. What you don’t know is that they spend a lot of time alone with a ton of boring legal documents, taxes and other paperwork. Artists post pictures on social media of themselves in front of big crowds. What you don’t consider is that they attend weekly vocal coaching.
Even when successful people show their process and journey to success, they only show the most exciting parts. The athlete’s “hard work” is presented through some exciting workout montage. The entrepreneur’s “hard work” is presented through high level executive meetings. The artist’s “hard work” is presented as poster signings and interviews. These aren’t really examples of hard work; they’re the highlights of their work. The really hard work is boring, unexciting and unsexy. Grunt work is what really separates successful people from unsuccessful people.
If you’re willing to do the grunt work, if you’re willing to be disciplined when noone is cheering you on, if you’re willing to show up day after day after day – then you’ll be successful.
Don’t fall for the illusion that hard work is related to enthusiasm and motivation. Discipline is about doing the work, even when you don’t love it or feel energetic about it. Do the things you hate to do, but do them like you love them.