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Nobody said it was easy

Nobody said it was going to be easy.
Nobody said it was going to be smooth sailing.
Nobody said success was guaranteed.

There are hundreds of thousands of books in the world covering topics such as business, entrepreneurship, success, power, wealth, leadership, influence, branding, and marketing.

The resources that are available and the access to information are abundant and instant. Social media platforms have made global networking easy and convenient. If there is a question, there is certainly an answer; if there is a problem, there is a solution to be found. And yet, despite all of this, there are still major challenges faced by entrepreneurs and business owners.

At the start of any initiative, be it training for a marathon, birthing a new business venture or deciding to get engaged, there tends to be an air of positivity and hopefulness – otherwise, why would one even begin? Excitement, even though a positive emotion, can cause a number of blind spots.

Let’s explore this for a moment.

Michael is training for an ultramarathon; a gruelling 100km trail run along the remote terrain of the Witteberg Mountain range. It is the toughest trail run in South Africa. Runners are expected to navigate the trail themselves with the aid of a map, a compass or a GPS unit. There are no refuelling points along the way to fill up on food and water, so each runner must take a full supply of what they need to sustain themselves whilst taking note of how additional weight will affect endurance levels. They are also running at a height of between 2200-2500 meters above sea level.

In preparation for this, he has spent the last 9 months working closely with sports nutritionists, performance coaches, trainers and previous ultramarathon winners. He also has past experience to assist him, having a huge passion for endurance sport since he was a child having spent the greater part of his teen years at competitions and races across the country. He is fit – mentally, emotionally and physically – and ready to pursue his dream of finishing this race.

The race starts at 4am and the participants have 30 hours to complete the race. With the best intentions and armed with a positive mind-set, Michael starts off well and continues strong for the first 25km. After the 30km mark he starts to notice a pain in his shin and a cramp developing in his shoulder from a previous injury. This slows him down substantially but he carries on. A few more kilometres into the race he slips on some rocks and falls hard on his hands and knees. This further aggravates his injuries. During the fall, one of his water canisters crack and he loses half of his water supply.

The race has now become more of a mental challenge for him as he struggles just to keep pace.

A sense of hopelessness and despondency start to rear up and he realises how alone he is out in the wilderness. There is no one else around him. It’s just him and the cold mountains. He knows that the finish line is over 40km away and with very little water left, blisters on his feet, a sharp pain in his leg and a heavy feeling of breathlessness from the lack of oxygen, he sits down on the cold gravelled ground and puts his head in his hands.

It’s at this point where one can justify reasons to give up. Sometimes things are just not worth the pain, struggle and hardship. The alternatives always look more appealing and becoming seduced by them is easy. As he sits there, he can feel his heart pounding, his ears ringing and his muscles throbbing. In this moment he takes a deep breath and remembers the reason he started this journey: to embrace the adventure that is life.

Manage expectations

At what point did you think it was ever going to be easy?

Things will get tough. There may be a time of prosperity and there may be a time of recession, nothing can be guaranteed. What makes the difference between a pro-sportsperson, a great entrepreneur or a business leader and the rest is their resilience and absolute tenacity to see through the struggles and trials, no matter what. The key is not to fall into any illusions of security or predictability.

Redefine things

What does success look like for you?

The way to rise above any situation is to reframe the thoughts and language around it. Emotions are, after all, just a physical response to a story created in the mind.

If your idea of success is just about being ahead of others, you will definitely not explore the full potential of who you are.

Let it go

When things get hard, (and they will) how will you keep your head above the water?

Learn the art of detachment. Detachment does not mean carelessness or not being fully present. It means not obsessing or holding on too tight. Have a plan and a goal and then let it go so that there is room for adaptability and agility; two things that are essential to survival in today’s world.

And above all else, just keep going!