The path to success is composed of a multitude of commitments which require often serious, sacrifice. However, deciding what should be sacrificed is one of the most important decisions we will make. If we are not clear about what we are willing to sacrifice, we will have confusion and doubt, we will question the path we choose, and ultimately we will even question our goal.
Heroes, and the way they sacrifice themselves for the benefit of others, get a lot of press. As kids, heroes seem supernatural. Yet as we grow, heroes become less clear. Soldiers, police officers, and firefighters can be heroes. Then we learn that teachers, social workers, medical personal and spiritual advisers can be heroes too… So we have to change the way we look at the world and accept/incorporate a new definition of hero and sacrifice… Later, we learn even more about heroes and we learn that athletes, mothers, fathers, neighbors, are sometimes labeled as heroes and what it took to be one – the sacrifice – can be as much as just delivering a great speech… By the time we are adults, the words hero and sacrifice pretty much do not mean anything compared to the supernatural power they once had.
So why is the overuse and misapplication of those words a problem?
By diminishing and constantly changing the meaning of words that should have high relevance, we reduce high achievement to virtually nothing. As children we all dream about heroes, about saving the world, and through our limited understanding know that to accomplish something great requires a big sacrifice… But as the meaning of sacrifice changes, we start to believe – wishful thinking – that great things can be accomplished with our “new version/understanding” of sacrifice.
Now we talk about “giving up beauty sleep” or “foregoing the extra drink” as a sacrifice.
Complex goals, great personal growth require a commitment to real sacrifice – the kind that is not so convenient. And many times that sacrifice will require a little bit more than just poking a toe out of our comfort zone. Success requires changes some people are not willing to make or by making them we will incur the wrath of our “friends.”
So let’s talk more specifics…
Whether your goal is to create a successful company, to become a leader (in a certain field), or to change the world, you are going to have to invest tremendous amounts of time into that goal. In many cases, you will have to change your life completely. More importantly, you do NOT have to be a hero in the traditional sense to achieve success, but you DO have to make sacrifices.
Understanding this is important because we can choose which “battles to fight and which to fold.” The traditional understanding of a “hero” was connected to a divine or semi divine provenience, and then it applied to mostly war or battle, to later be expanded to incorporate almost any idol or achievement.
Being a hero is a concept, a matter of opinion. Making sacrifices is a matter of fact.
Distinguishing between the two helps you to choose the path that will lead to success vs. the path which will lead to an illusory concept…
So what should you sacrifice in pursuit of your goals?
DO sacrifice activities that prevent you from growing, such as social media, TV, going out, hanging out with “friends” and/or watching sports, oversleeping, overeating. DO NOT sacrifice time which can make you feel guilty and lead to regret, such as QUALITY time with loved ones.
How can you gain an extra 20-40 hours per week?
One of the most time consuming events in life is DRAMA. We live in a society where gossip, arguments, debates, are lifted to priorities. There are no lessons to be learned by watching live arguments between friends, or participating in them. Sure, one can make the argument that through argument new ideas are born, however the sad reality is most of us will maintain the same views after an argument with someone else. Not only we do not change, but the other person does not change either. Gossip has the exact same result.
Going on Facebook, watching the news, TV shows, watching sporting events (such as team sports) is part of our weekly lives. Even worse, we tend to emotionally get involved in these activities and ironically they do NOT lead to growth. In fact, a study published in 2010 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, suggests that the average “TV day show” watcher is mildly depressed. Challenging someone’s political/religious views on Facebook is a waste of time, so is trying to figure out who of our friends or celebrities are having affairs or being arrested for who knows what. Distancing yourself from “friends” who are always in “crisis mode” who are always trying to drag you in their own emotional dramas will free up a tremendous amount of time.
Going “out” is part of our lives as well, socializing is considered an important part of our “well being” and some people partake more than others. There are those who are always out partying, spend several hours “partying” and several more hours “recovering.” Nobody will remember 15 years from now “that night going out and getting drunk, talking about some friend’s bad luck” as an awesome experience, but 15 years from now you can enjoy something great you have accomplished through hard work.
Ultrarunners are required to live an ultrarunning “lifestyle” if they wish to be able to complete extreme races. By no means I would personally call an ultrarunner a “hero” however all successful ultrarunners had to, and continue to, make sacrifices on a daily basis. Completing races such as the Spartathlon – a 153 mile race from Athens to Sparta, traversing the Greek mountains in under 36 hours – or running a 6 Day race such as, the Icarus Florida UltraFest 6D, Running Festival Johannesburg, Across the Years, 6 Jours De France – races where athletes run with minimal or no breaks for 6 days straight – or running across the world like Jesper Olsen or more recently, Tony Mangan require great changes.
To run the Spartathlon most coaches and athletes say that a minimum running/training schedule of 100 km per week, over a period of several months is required. That’s on top of a solid running base, and peak weeks/months with double, or even triple, that distance. It also requires sleep deprivation/skipping sleep all together many nights and it requires a very balanced weight management where the athlete attains the most optimal weight – a balance between minimal weight while retaining enough energy to run 153 miles. More than that it requires mental training where an athlete will have to prepare himself for all possible scenarios of how to deal with problems, both physical and mental. Examples of problems could be as simple as blisters or chaffing and as complex as questioning self worth or possible death. Then there are the financial resources involved to travel to such a competition, supplies needed, time off from work, etc…
The harder the race, the more resources and more training is required which will require an additional 20-40 hours per week. Changing the lifestyle is a prerequisite. Yet the number of people from all over the world, from all cultures, all socio-economic conditions, who finish the Spartathlon every year are a testimony that it can be done. The number of athletes running 6 Day races every year from all over the world are a testimony that it can be done. Jesper Olsen and Tony Mangan are also living examples that it is possible to run around the WHOLE world, that we as “regular” people – with careers, families, living in modern societies – can accomplish ANYTHING when committed to make the right sacrifices.
So if regular people can commit to so much in order to finish a race, or run around the world, by being able to find the extra 20-40 hours per week on top of the financial resources, IMAGINE what can you accomplish if you dare to DREAM, COMMIT, SACRIFICE…
Imagine just how much can you EVOLVE!
Hamer, E. Stamatakis, and G. D. Mishra, “Television- and screen-based activity and mental well-being in adults,” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 38, no. 4, 2010
Olsen, Jesper, “The Runner’s Guide To The Planet,” Amazon, 2014