By Sam Makhoul
This year 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 are two 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 second 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 the 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 the 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 a 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 break through 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 takeaway – 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 any time 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 eight 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 Biggest 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.”.
Rule #2 – Exponential Learning & Growth:
We live in an era where information is changing fast, so what you have learned so far will become redundant very quickly. So knowledge is no longer power. Not even applied knowledge. But rather your ability to learn NEW things very quickly and acquire NEW knowledge. In my own business at MSA National, we have law graduates who are having to learn how to work with robotics and Ai. This is something that was not taught at Uni because by the time schools work out the curriculum and get it through all the red tape, the world has shifted again. Especially in technology and digital disruption.
“Make no mistake, your NUMBER 1 skill going forward is LEARNING HOW TO LEARN QUICKLY!”
As you grow older, your ability to learn things faster is going to be challenging. The old belief is that as you grow old, you slow down and become less agile mentally (and physically) and you need to make way for someone younger and faster.
But that is simply not true. You need to discard that old belief.
The brain is like any other muscle. There are three reasons the brain slows (each reversible):
- You are not looking after your brain health with diet and exercise
- You are not seeking new experiences in the eight areas of life
- You are not training your brain to learn new things
How Do You Learn New things Fast?
There is a meta-learning principle that Jim Kwik teaches that is based on the fact that learning fast comes down to memory recall. It makes sense right?
It doesn’t matter how much you learn, if you do not retain it and have the ability to recall that learning in the future, it is pretty useless. At school we were taught two layers of learning that are outdated:
- Memorising things without understanding – this is the lowest form of brain training. It serves you well to cram for an exam and get the marks you want but does nothing for your brain training and future success.
- The second is to understand what you are learning – this is better but still does not guarantee memory retention and recall in the medium to long term.
- The third and most potent method is to learn not just through understanding but with emotion.