When I was a young athlete trying to make it in the AFL, I had the chance to do some summer running training with the legendary Athletics Coach (and Philosopher) Percy Cerutty.
Percy was a cantankerous and eccentric person who would rarely go for more than 5 minutes without sharing one of his hard won wisdoms like: “If it hurts, make it hurt more” and “The first ache you have to overcome in life is the belly ache”, a reference to not overeating or complaining about going hungry for a little while.
Percy was renown and feared for making his charges do grueling runs up and down the steep sand hills around Portsea, on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. Percy spoke in awe about his most famous athlete, Herb Elliot who Percy said almost ran himself to death on several occasions!
Percy had this theory that if you were half was through a race and you thought that there was any possible way that you were going to be able to finish, it meant that you weren’t working hard enough! This meant that you had to run so fast that you just knew that you couldn’t keep it up..but then you had to! It was torture.
Fortunately I got out of the camp alive a few days later, forever humbled but carrying with me two crucial lessons that I now think of as being the yin and yan of wellbeing, resilience and work life balance. To be honest, I think this experience set me on the path to become a writer and speaker and try to influence as many people as I possibly could through my Go Zone and Every Day Counts Programs.
The two lessons only work in unison. One without the other doesn’t work. Alone the lessons are dangerous and detrimental. Together, they have helped many people.
You can achieve much more than you think you can.
When I trained with Percy, I thought I was already fit. Then I saw a level of intensity and conditioning way beyond what I previously thought was possible. When I reached that level myself, the previous level seemed moderate at best and my entire mindset changed. Barriers became challenges and I became more ambitious.
I later worked as a Conditioning Coach for Collingwood in the AFL for 16 years and saw this lesson repeated year after year with young players bursting through self imposed mental barriers. Seek out someone to coach you through this process if you can, but the lesson applies to all aspects of life, business and personal ambition. Never let your mind hold you back!
Learn to switch off lesson 1.
If you can’t switch off lesson one, you will never be satisfied, always striving for the next challenge and virtually impossible to live with. Lesson 1 is a mindset you switch on when you need it than switch off when it’s time to recover, have fun, relax and not take yourself too seriously.
If you only learn lesson 1 you will be vulnerable to worry, anxiety and fear…whatever you do, it will never be enough! Percy Cerutty, despite his greatness couldn’t switch his mental toughness off and was a deeply troubled and unhappy man. When you switch off worry, anger and fear, you can really be at peace for a while, and that’s the best was to recover!
If you never use lesson 1, you will underachieve in your life and as Percy used to say, “ If you don’t suffer the pain of discipline, you will suffer the pain of mediocrity”.
If you use lessons 1 and 2 together, you will hold in your hands the secrets to true work life balance..a high level of achievement and the ability to enjoy life.
Live the life you love!!