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101 Days: Why I Decided to Tackle an 'Impossible' Goal

The 3rd installment of The 11,500 Foot View, counting down my attempt to accomplish an impossible goal, remain in the good graces of my family, run a business, stay sane, and blog about it.
I've received more than 80 emails since The 11,500 Foot View launched a couple days ago. They can all be summed up like this:

Why? Why try to accomplish something most people say is impossible for me?

I have lots of reasons; here are four you can hopefully relate to.

Reason One: Armor
Everyone wears armor: Armor that protects.... but also, in time, destroys.

The armor we wear is primarily forged by success. Every accomplishment adds an additional layer of protection from vulnerability. In fact, when we feel particularly insecure we unconsciously strap on more armor so we feel less vulnerable:

  • Armor is the guy who joins a pick-up basketball game with younger, better players and feels compelled to say, "Hi, I'm Joe -- I'm the CEO of ACME Industries."
  • Armor is driving your Mercedes convertible to a reunion even though taking your other car would be much more practical.
  • Armor is saying, at the start of a presentation, "Look, I'm not very good at speaking to groups... I spend all day running my huge factory."
Armor protects when we're unsure, tentative, or at a perceived disadvantage. Armor says, "That's okay... I may not be good at this... but I'm really good at that. (So there.)"

Over time armor also encourages us to narrow our focus to our strengths so we stay safe. The more armor we build up the more we can hide our weaknesses and failings -- from others and from ourselves.

We use our armor all the time. I use my armor all the time -- I feel sure more than you.

And I'm really tired of wearing mine.

When I ride a bike, the guy who passes me doesn't care if I've ghostwritten bestsellers or drive a Lexus or live in a nice neighborhood. The lady who passes me doesn't care if I haven't trained as much as I should because oooh, my time is in such demand. No armor, real or imagined, can protect me. I'm just a guy on a bike.

With no armor.

Just me.

Being just me is pretty scary.

And something I need to do a lot more of.

Reason Two: Grace
Outstanding athletes exist in a state of grace, a place where calculation and strategy and movement happen almost unconsciously. Great athletes can focus in a way that, to us, is unrecognizable because through skill, training, and experience their ability to focus is almost effortless.

We've all felt a sense of grace, if only for a few precious moments, when we performed better than we ever imagined possible and realized what we assumed to be limits weren't really limits at all.

Those moments don't happen by accident, though. Grace is never given; grace must be earned through discipline and training and sacrifice.

I want to ride up a mountain and experience the feeling that I can do this, that I can keep on riding, that I can climb and climb and climb and I don't have to think about anything because I can just go....

I want more grace in my life, and am willing to earn it.

Reason Three: "Now" and "Then"
"Now" and "then" are wonderful words when they appear in the same sentence.

When you work to improve at something -- especially in the beginning stages -- "now" is often a terrible place. Right "now" I ride like an asthmatic hippo.

But that's okay. In a month, my "now" will be much different. I'll ride with more speed, power, and confidence. I will be able to look back with satisfaction at a "now" I transformed into a vastly inferior "then."

Think about something you wanted to do. Then think about where you would be now if you had actually gotten started on it then.

When you do the work, "then" pales in comparison to "now:" Family, business, every aspect of your life. When you don't do the work, now is just like then -- except now you also get to live with regret.

Reason Four: Quitting

We're all busy. Each of us face multiple, ongoing demands. Every day we are forced, a number of times, to say, "That's not perfect, but it works... and I need to move on to something else."

Stopping short of excellence is something we are not just forced to do but are also trained to do. Most of the time we have no choice, so we get really good at "quitting."

I'm really good at quitting.

I'm helping raise wonderful kids and I've done a good job -- but I know I could have done more. I've built a decent business -- but I know I could have done more. I've tackled challenges before and tried really hard -- but I know I could have done more.

Where this challenge is concerned, I know there will be hundreds if not thousands of times when I will want to quit. Training is already hard and will only get harder. Balancing family and work and everything else is already hard and will only get harder.

And on the day of the event, I know suffering will shatter my resolve and I will start to wonder what the heck I'm doing and why I'm doing it and whose ideas was this anyway... and I will want to quit.

But I really don't want to quit. For once I don't want to stop, by choice or otherwise, at "good enough."

To pull this off I'll have to be great. But not great compared to other people -- great compared to me.

Which is the only thing, when you think about it, that really matters...

And is the best reason of all.


Photo courtesy flickr user Governmentality, CC 2.0