Pain, Momentum, Navy Seals and Top Gun


Say Yes and Push Through

For those who have been following me for a while now, you would be familiar with the 80% wall concept. That on a career continuum we parallel the experiences of elite athletes. We hit a wall, it hurts and very few of us break through that wall to run that final 20% of the race, where it is less crowded and more pleasurable. Elite athletes push through that wall but very few regular career dwellers or business owners do.

Humans don’t like pain. Humans like to avoid pain. Elite athletes and dancers, Top Gun pilots and Navy seals don’t like pain either but they train for the pain. In addition, they pack team members and coaches into their kit bags before they set off as they know that these are the people who will help them sidestep the sharks and the landmines and give them the updraft and momentum that eases the pain and pushes them through.

From the mouths of the Elite on Pain

A world champion triathlete Chrissie Wellington upon being interviewed said, "Come race day, I never think, “this is going to be a perfect race, and it isn’t going to be painful.” Her advice? “Expect it will be painful and have faith in yourself that you will overcome those dark times.”

I interviewed my own elite performer too for this article. I asked my son, an elite dancer, currently studying in a pre-professional program in New Zealand, what keeps you going? What has kept you going all these years? "I don’t know. Yes, definitely need my coaches, my team, that’s a given, but it is also the thought of, this has to be done, there is no way around it. It’s like that ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt song'. You can’t go under it, you can’t go around it, you’ve got to go through it. I think, oh no, there is a Performance and it’s two weeks out and I think, it’s too much, but then I think, the only way is through, there is no way around it and I get into the zone, into that flow and I do it"

From the mouths of the Elite on Mentors & Momentum

Jack Welch, in his book Winning, cites that business is like a game. It has players, pain and rhythm. You must surround yourself with mentors. They are the people who cheer you on, give you the momentum and challenge you in equal measure. (I would argue they can help to numb the pain).

Clearly, Jack has proven himself to be in that top 20% zone. I would not put the book Winning, in the top 20% zone however. There are some true gems in there but the book has a narrow and old-fashioned paradigm and I would hope workplaces are broader and richer now in their views and behaviours.

Push Through Attitude + Mentors = TOP ZONE.

The Lesson of Ringing your Bell:

“If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell.” Any time a Navy SEAL wants to quit their training and leave, all they have to do is go up to the bell and ring it. The question is, “What is our bell?” Let it be our last breath and let each of us have a life worth living'. - Admiral William H McRaven, former Navy SEAL at University of Texas 2014 Commencement Speech.

The Lesson from Top Gun:

Well actually this is a lesson from me, but the person who interviewed me in preparation to put my opinions into an article for Silicon Valley Globe Magazine, thought Top Gun provided a powerful metaphor and lesson. Click below to read the full article:

In conclusion, many business owners and talented employees expect to get into the top zone without pain and without surrounding themselves with mentors and team mates. Those successful in their careers adopt the mindset and strategies of elite athletes and dancers. They do not ever ring the bell. .

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