Again, this guy is impossible to argue with! www.craigharper.com.au
The return of Velvet Sledgehammer
Do you mind if I’m blunt today? Is that okay with you? If not, you may prefer to come back tomorrow and we’ll all hold hands and sing one rousing chorus of Kumbaya by the camp fire. The cyber camp fire of course. Then we’ll all hug and say nice things about each other. We love nice. And we’re all so good at it. Well, most of us. Me – not so good. I must have missed that lesson. So if it’s some feel-good, hand-holding, back-slapping, warm-fuzzy personal development experience you’re after today, then this little chat probably ain’t gonna do it for you. But as some genius once said, I can tell you what you wanna hear, or I can tell you the truth. Often what we want to hear (what’s comfortable) and what we need to hear (where the growth and change comes) are two very different things.
So I’m gonna say a few things which won’t sit well with some folk, but if the truth be known (what a funny expression that is), they’re probably the people who need to hear and respond to this message the most. Besides, I majored in feather-ruffling at college so why would I waste that very important life-skill and all those classes?
You, only better
We all know that the success journey is a multi-dimensional, complex and at times, difficult process. And while there are many factors and variables to be negotiated in the creating-our-best-life process, sometimes achieving life-changing, mind-blowing, ass-kicking results all comes down to one thing; toughness. Mental and emotional toughness. Our ability to do the hard stuff, the uncomfortable things, the difficult things. The things which create real change and the things most people avoid. The things which force us to grow, adapt, change, learn, develop new skills and ultimately, become the new-and-improved version of us. You, only better.
The truth is that most of us are educated enough, smart enough and talented enough to create amazing results in our life, but when it really comes down to it, so often, we’re just not tough enough. Well, we haven’t been so far. Sure it’s in there somewhere, but for some reason we choose not to go there. When the going gets tough we’re nowhere to be seen. Vapour. You’ll find us down some dark alley reaching into the excuse bag. Again.
Knowing what to do isn’t the problem
The truth is, more often than not we know exactly what the answer to our problem is but the answer freaks us out because it ain’t easy; it’s hard and we hate hard. We’re scared of hard. We have nightmares about hard and we avoid it at all costs. Knowing what the answer is, isn’t our problem; it’s doing it that’s the problem. Okay here comes the potentially offensive part. Feel free to leave at any time. Look away now.
You’re still here.
Let’s take the fat guy who wants to lose weight, is embarrassed by his obese body and hates the way he looks and feels but continues to over-eat anyway. He absolutely knows what the answer is – eat way less and exercise more. It’s kind of a no-brainer. An uncomfortable no-brainer. Yep, the solution to his problem is obvious, logical, effective, safe and scientifically sound… it’s also hard work. Oh well, five out of six ain’t bad. Pity number six is the deal breaker for most people. That’s not the answer he’s looking for because it requires him to get uncomfortable and do what’s hard on a regular basis; to toughen up. So as a result he will spend his days looking for an answer which doesn’t require any effort, sacrifice or toughness. That’s how we ended up being part of the quick-fix generation; we love those solutions which don’t require any effort. The pill, the powder, the potion, the miracle cure – anything that doesn’t require sweat, discomfort, discipline, self-control or toughness.
“But Craig you don’t understand all of my issues.”
“Yes Big Fella, of course you are unique to mankind and nobody has faced the challenges or adversity that you have, but hey, why don’t you stop eating all that crap and move your fat self anyhow? I know you were picked on at school but please don’t kill yourself with pizza and beer because some idiot gave you a hard time twenty years ago. Let’s see what happens when your calorie expenditure actually exceeds your intake. You may even lose weight. I know the calorie concept is a little 1983, but why don’t you give it a bash anyway? Call me crazy, call me old-fashioned. What’s that? You’re offended? Oh, I’m sorry. How dare I be honest and practical. Well, getting offended is a choice too. As is getting educated and proactive about your unhealthy body, your destructive habits and your self-limiting thinking. By the way, fat is not an insult; it’s a physiological state. But if you want to get all precious on me and find another way to sabotage yourself for a little longer, feel free to sulk for another month or three. Throw yourself another one of those pity parties you’re so good at. Or perhaps medicate yourself with some more of that cake you’ve been inhaling for the last five years. After all you deserve it, that nasty man has been picking on you.”
Toughen up you great big baby. There ain’t no miracle cure or quick fix. I know they told you there is, they lied. You’re the problem… and the solution. So get some balls and change your life.
You’re still here?
Can’t or won’t?
Now… let’s talk about the smoker who just can’t give up cigarettes. She has tried a hundred times but never lasted more than two weeks. She has visited doctors and psychologists, used nicotine patches, gone cold turkey (for three days), tried the gradual reduction method, chewed the gum and even made brave public declarations, only to be smoking as many as ever twenty years down the track. Apparently she “just can’t do it” and “she’s tried everything.”
So, is it that she can’t stop smoking (as in, she doesn’t actually have the ability) or that she won’t stop smoking because it’s too hard? Yes, I know that smoking is addictive and yes I know that it’s very tough to give up, but what I’m asking is… is it possible for Mrs ‘I-can’t-do-it’ to stop smoking? Of course it is. Is it easy? No. Will it be uncomfortable? Yes. Will it be fun? Probably not. Will she hate it? At times. But… is it possible? Of course it is. People do it every day.
So what happens when our smoker is involved in a maritime disaster, her boat sinks and she gets washed up on a deserted island? Forced to live the rest of her days with the coconuts, the seagulls, the fresh fish, the white sand, the palm trees… and no cigarettes? She never smokes again – that’s what happens. Does she die from lack of nicotine within the first month? No, she actually gets healthier and enjoys the fresh air. So what does that tell us? It tells us that when smoking wasn’t an option she simply didn’t smoke anymore. Was it hard? Yep, for a while. Did she have a different mindset knowing that she couldn’t smoke. Yep. So the woman who couldn’t stop smoking… stopped smoking. The truth is she could have stopped (permanently) at any time, she just didn’t want it enough. When she doesn’t have the option of smoking anymore (on her new tropical home) she simply copes. She has no choice. When we have no choice, we adapt. We change. We do what needs to be done. The physical addiction was only part of her problem, the bigger challenge was for her to mentally and emotionally move beyond the possibility of smoking – to make it a non-negotiable behaviour for the rest of her life. The ability to change was always there, but not the mindset.
About ten years ago I trained a very successful high-profile business man here in Melbourne. The day we met, we had a typical one hour consultation to explore his history, his lifestyle, his medical issues, his training background and of course, his goals. In the first ten minutes I discovered that he smoked (are you sitting down) one hundred cigarettes per day (no, not a typo). I didn’t even know it was humanly possible to smoke that much. I told him that he should get a complete medical check-up, start a walking program, change his diet, drink some water and drastically reduce his smoking (preferably give up completely) before I could train him. Training him while he smoked a hundred cigarettes a day would be about as healthy and productive as hitting him in the head with a spanner for an hour each day.
He said to me, “what if I give up today, will you train me from tomorrow?” I was amused by the thought but didn’t for one moment think that the bloke who had smoked for thirty years would or could stop cold turkey. I told him he wouldn’t do it and to come and see me in a few months. What did I know? Not much. My words were like a red rag to a bull.
Stairs and whispers
The cigarette he had before that meeting was the last one he ever had. The following day he got a medical clearance to work out with me (don’t know how) and we started training two days after that initial chat. The first month was tough but not intolerable for him and by week two he was starting to feel quite different. By week six he was feeling amazing and at the end of week ten he and I completed an event called the Rialto Run; a event where competitors run up a trillion stairs from the bottom to the top of the Rialto Building here in Melbourne. From memory I think it’s about fifty six floors (112 flights). Sure, he came nearly last – but he did it. Even I was freaked out by what the human body is capable of. Ten years later, he still trains, doesn’t drink alcohol and doesn’t smoke. Although it’s impossible to prove, I believe the decision he made that day (and his subsequent behaviour) added at least twenty five years to his life. Was is tough? Yep. Was it worth it? What do you think?
Throwing in the towel
Our biggest barrier to creating our best life ain’t our genetics, our age, our boss, our potential, our knowledge or our financial situation, it’s our propensity to constantly give up at the slightest sign of discomfort. As hard as it may be to hear, sometimes we simply need to stop feeling sorry for ourselves, stop rationalising our behaviours, stop making excuses (that’s why they’re called excuses and not reasons), get some balls (figuratively speaking) and do what we should have done long ago. Stop looking for easy and start doing effective – to toughen up.
Oh yeah but…
For years I have discussed and debated my thoughts on this subject with some of my colleagues. Some totally agree, some are fence sitters and some tell me that I’m over-simplifying a very complicated issue. To the last group I say maybe you’re over-complicating a very simple issue. And maybe all that psychological jargon you throw around is simply another way of saying that sometimes we’re just not tough enough to get the job done.