2020 is going to be a defining year in human history. Old ways and old thinking will not cut it. You will need new systems for living with some new rules. Here is the FIRST of 10 rules to help you outperform, out-psyche and dominate in your industry.
Rule 1: “The 40% rule”
“On the other side of suffering is greatness” – David Goggins
As the world gets more and more competitive, there is one quality that ALL successful people have in common. They are mentally tough and they will do the hard stuff that others don’t do or choose not to do. You simply cannot upgrade your life if you do not upgrade your mental toughness. And the only way to do that is by the 40% rule.
The Goggins Effect
The 40% rule was made famous by David Goggins – ex-navy seal and the toughest man alive. His life shines like a beacon on the path for everyone to take. The path of most resistance or ‘the road less travelled’. Goggins goes out of his way to seek discomfort and to become ‘uncommon among uncommon’. We invited him to present at Upgrade Your Life for a reason that goes beyond his content. He is inspiring an army of new warriors (both male and female) who live by the 40% rule. Myself included.
What makes him so inspirational? He lives by his word. The most recent example of the 40% rule is his epic effort earlier this week in the MOAB 240 mile race in some of the harshest terrain in the world. He was disqualified by officials after seeking hospital treatment for VAPE (vertical altitude pulmonary edema), even though he was ranked 2nd for most of the race and at one stage going off track for 15 miles (one of the challenges of being a front-runner on a track without markings). After he checked out of hospital, he still went back and finished the race, even though it did not officially count!
“Don’t stop when you’re tired. Stop when you’re done.” – David Goggins
Are People Getting Softer?
Goggins tells us that it is getting a lot easier to stand out in this world because everyone is getting too soft. There is no doubt that the world is getting more and more comfortable, which is making it harder for us to find circumstances that challenge us. Our ancestors had hardship thrust upon them and this made them tough. We don’t have that privilege. We have to go looking for the uncomfortable to make us tough.
Even though our lives are getting more and more comfortable the rate of anxiety and depression is skyrocketing. Just think about this. We don’t have to grow or cook our food. We never go hungry. We never get too cold or too hot. We don’t have to walk for anything. Technology is making life easier and easier. Consequently our physical, mental and emotional resilience is suffering. It’s ironic! What is going on???
It’s NOT Our Fault
Our brain sends us outdated warning signals based on it’s primitive desire for comfort. It is still wired to (over)react to potential threats even when there is no primal danger. This served us well when avoiding predators in a hostile environment but now, it is no longer relevant in our comfortable modern life. Simply put, our brains have not evolved fast enough to keep up with the rate of technological change. The survival software in the sub-conscious limbic part of the brain needs an upgrade. And the 40% rule is that upgrade but it’s in the pre-frontal cortex part of the brain. The mindful rational part.
What is the 40% Rule?
Out of the 10 principles outlined in Goggins’ book “CAN’T HURT ME”, the 40% rule is my favourite and the most powerful because it has taken my performance to a whole new level.
The 40% rule is simply this: when you think you have reached your limit and your mind is telling you to back off (it could be when you’re training, playing sport, studying, working on a project with a deadline, or whatever the challenge) YOU ARE ACTUALLY ONLY AT 40% of your mental and physical CAPACITY. This is where most people will quit. But this is when you need to tell yourself that greatness lies on the other side of 40%. You should also remind yourself not to WASTE that 60% of your potential.
How do You Breakthrough the 40% mental barrier?
The beautiful thing about this rule is that anyone can learn and implement it. By his own admission, David Goggins considered himself the weakest person with low self-esteem. He built himself into the toughest man alive by seeking the uncomfortable.
“If we never experience physical and mental discomfort, how will we ever get the chance to display our courage and strength of the spirit?” – Sam Makhoul
We cannot truly eliminate the mental resistance felt at the 40% threshold when we do something difficult but we can learn to identify it, be mindful of it and be stronger than it. You can train yourself to beat it by constantly seeking the uncomfortable. I do the uncommon in a number of ways:
• Cold showers or cold swims – even in winter
• Fasting for 24 hours – even when I am hungry
• Meditating more than 20 minutes – even when my monkey brain is busy
• Jogging for longer distances on days that are cold and rainy
• Cooking at home instead of getting take-away – even when it’s late
• Writing articles like this – even when my friends are calling me to go out
• Staying up to listen to a friend with a life problem even though I am tired
• Honouring my commitments even when circumstances have changed
You see, training yourself to do the uncomfortable is the best practice to prepare you for those moments when you need to push through the 40% barrier.
How do you get to 40% in the first place?
You need to make a start. Don’t focus too much on the end goal. Once you have that end-goal (dream) in your heart, you need to trick your brain by focusing on the ‘tiny’ stepping-stone goals. When I ran my first marathon, at around the halfway mark I remember feeling that overwhelming flashing warning signals from my brain to stop. I asked myself, “Am I injured? No”. “Is my body capable of more?” I did not know the answer because it was unfamiliar territory, and I was exhausted. But I pressed on by telling myself, I will just do another kilometre, and another, and then another. “Maybe if I just get to that landmark and see how I feel?” Bit by bit I took my mind on a journey to the finish line by tricking it into thinking I can stop at anytime after each milestone. To my surprise I realised that the body is much stronger than the mind gives it credit.
This strategy applies not just to physical feats but to all 8 areas of our life, including work and relationships. For example, after a break-up many people realise that they are much stronger than they thought. It makes them stronger, less needy and better in the next relationship. Likewise, when people lose their job; after the initial devastation, they pick themselves up and move on to bigger and better things and surprise themselves as to how much more capable they are. It toughens them for the next job. Sometimes it toughens them to start their own business and become thought leaders.
HERE IS THE BIG TAKEAWAY:
We never know what we are capable of until we push ourselves past that 40% barrier. With each milestone, you build confidence and your brain just gives you a little more slack and that 40% mental barrier threshold shifts to 50% and then 60% and so on until you find that life is actually getting easier. In the wise words of David Goggins:
“When you believe you have given it your all, that’s when it truly begins.”