Lessons from a world-class athlete

Matt Hudson, CEO Evolving Real Estate

I recently listened to one of the most moving speakers. Inspiring. Tear-jerking. Spoken dramatically. Life-changing.  I thought about my kids, my wife, my business, my life. What’s possible, what holds people back? How can we make different decisions to live remarkably, courageously?

I grew up on a farm. I played super high-level sports and have accomplished a lot in my life.  I work as hard as just about anyone I know…but not as hard as this guy. Not even close. And, it wasn’t actually the hard work, it was the choices he made when it got hard.  And oh man, it got hard. 

We all have them.  Dark moments and those stupid voices. You know, the ones that tell us what we are not capable of, and when to quit.  It’s not an obvious voice, but we know it’s there.

It’s the one that allures you to make the wrong decision.  To not do the disciplined thing that will create tremendous results. 

The lessons were remarkable throughout this 1 ½ hour talk. I want to share a few with you here. 

Real estate related?  No, not really. Being human.  Being better.

The speaker’s name is James “Iron Man” Lawrence. 

In 2012, James became the world record holder for finishing 30 Ironman races in 12 months.  It was a struggle to say the least, but it also left him unsatisfied, knowing he was capable of more.  So, he decided, get this, to do 50 Ironman races. In 50 days. In 50 states.  (Note, they weren’t actual races, but courses he set up at Ironman distances).

I won’t try to recount the whole story because I couldn’t possibly do it justice.  But there was a moment where James was physically, mentally and emotionally destroyed.  He was approximately 30 days in, 30 races done, with 20 to go. Already over 4,000 miles of swimming, riding and running in 30 days, on planes and motorhomes, sleeping 4-5 hours a night to move from one state to the next, pounding his body, destroying his mind, crushing his soul.

He was done. 

You could see it in his eyes.  It was a vacant stare. His purpose was unclear, and all he wanted was to lay back down, to quit.  It was too hard, even for him, already a world record holder. 

And then you saw the shift.  There was a moment. You saw something in this man that found a resolve to move from desperation to determination.  And in that moment, the next 20 races were an inevitability. 

Now, I would imagine none of you reading this have endured anything like what James put his body, mind, and soul through.  But you’ve all been there. In some way, you have wanted to quit. To lay down. Walk away. To just…be done. In your marriage. In your business. In your job. In your spiritual or physical pursuits. In your dreams. It just felt too hard. Maybe it does right now. 

James was asked a couple of questions after his presentation.  The one he spent the most time on; “What happened in that moment?  On that day-30-or-so mark. What decision did he make, what changed for him?”

His answer, “I let the light in.” 

James says that in the dark moments, he chooses to find a memory.  One that makes him happy. A moment as a child, adult, parent, spouse, friend, business owner, athlete. Something significant.

He learned to not just think about the memory as a distant experience, irrelevant to the pain of current circumstances, but to feel happy. Bathe himself in that past moment and allow the emotion of “happy” creep its way into the darkness of the extraordinary pain he was experiencing. 

Let the light in. 

We all have at least one incredible memory, and in those dark moments, we can draw on that memory to find the strength to do what needs to be done. 

You have those dark moments, I know.  Fear in our business. Desperation in our relationships.  Lack of courage to do what will create a different result in any aspect of our life that will make our dreams more than a hope; inevitable.  Conscious or unconscious, we all have things in our lives that feel hard, or dark. And we quit.

Throughout his talk, James shared many stories of his struggles; prolific feats of physical and mental endurance.  The moments where he wanted to quit, couldn’t take another step, had crashed and was injured. And he kept going. 

None were quite like this one; 30 days in and defeated with 20 days to go. All of those other moments of small decisions, to take another step, to do what needed to be done, prepared him for this one. To make the choice: that quitting wasn’t an option. 

James had been training for this for years.  Making those small decisions. He became exceptional in those moments at finding strength. 

You’ve been training your whole life.  You don’t always make the right decision, but you have the experience to draw on, that you are capable.  You’ve been disciplined about SOMETHING before, and the results were, I suspect, impactful. So yes, you’ve been down this road, you’ve been practicing. You’ve been preparing, for your ironman in your life.

How does this relate?  What could this possibly have to do with you?  How could your circumstances possibly be helped by lessons from the Iron Cowboy (He wears a cowboy hat when he runs.)?

We quit on ourselves, our dreams.  We quit on our family. We quit on the courage it takes to do something quite ordinary to achieve extraordinary.  

Most people quit every day. 

And yet, we all want it. 

And, we are all capable. 

What James learned was that he needed to be clear on his purpose in order to do what was so incredibly hard. 

James drew on the strength of his 12-year-old daughter, Lucy.  He drew on his commitment to be the best example as a father, for her. 

James’s family lost their home in 2008.  Believe it or not, he owned a mortgage business and it had failed in the downturn.  The bank took their business and their home. Took away the life he was building for the ones he cared about most.

James was never going back there.  

This wasn’t about 50 Ironman races in 50 days.  Every grueling step was one step closer to creating a life to which he was committed, for the people he cared the most about in the world.  No one was ever taking anything from them if he could just finish. 

He just needed to remind himself, when it got really, really hard. 

Now, hard is relative.  

James had conditioned his mind and body to become something, nothing short of superhuman.  

James is also ordinary in his physical gifts.  

He became extraordinary, in his ability to choose. 

I know people.  I’m a behavioral science junky.  I’ve led and coached people for decades.  It’s part of what makes me exceptional at what I do, helping people achieve.  And I know we all, ALL, have a dark place.

For some of you, hard is putting on your shoes.  Hard is making a phone call. Hard is being disciplined for two hours to build your business. Hard is just telling your clients the truth.  Hard might be, being a better father or mother.   

For some of you, those things are easy.  Maybe for you, hard is letting go of the label.  The expectations. The demands of clients, the desire for, but lack of freedom. 

They are all choices.  

James demonstrated that the capacity to choose is built over time and that hard is relative. You don’t have harder choices than anyone else, you just have hard, relative to what you know, because you want something beyond where you are. 

Whatever your circumstances, you are eminently capable of living the next, best version of you. 

Who are you doing this for?  

It’s not your ironman. 

It’s your “Lucy”.

And when it gets a little dark, let the light in and surround yourself with people who know how to support your journey.  

My favorite quote from James’ speech, “a high tolerance for monotony is an underrated superhuman power.” 

Do what needs to be done and stop making excuses.

Your life is passing one day at a time and I don’t want you to have regrets because your fear stopped you.