Working in the Dark
On a crisp 34° night in the mountains of North Carolina, I opened the front door to my parents home and hopped down the steps.
As had been my habit, I was going for my evening run as a part of the 75 Hard program. I had developed the habit of doing these runs late at night as the temperatures dropped and as there was typically no one else out. A great time to separate my mind and just exist in the struggle.
As I came out of the driveway I realized I had forgotten my headlamp to light the street in front of me. For a brief moment I stood and contemplated going back into the house to get my light. I talked myself out of it, thinking "I've run this route dozens of times, I'll be fine"
So I began my run in the dark. As my eyes adjusted, I was able to see light spots along the road where the moonlight reflected off the pavement.
About 25 minutes into my run, I came to a hill that I had run many times over. I jogged slowly to the bottom of the hill and turned around. Looking back up, the shadows hid the road from sight, so that all I saw was the break in trees at the top of the hill.
Pushing off the ground I ran hard, sprinting up the hill. The hill is not very long so it only takes 30 seconds to run.
Turning around I walked back down and repeated the process, running harder each time. My heart pounding, steam rising off of me, and labored breathing.
In moments like this I feel I can operate on all cylinders. I feel the most clarity, and I can focus without distractions.
How true is it that in times of the most darkness and struggle, we are able to feel immense clarity?
Both in physical struggle, and that of the daily stresses in life.
Our bodies, our minds, our emotional states are most active and alive when they are under the most stress.
Ever been in a really tough situation that needed to be resolved quickly? I'm sure you have, we all have. It's in these moments when we are able to truly focus and our strongest character traits show.
I framed the last sentence to specifically note, these times either bring out the very best... or the very worst.
Whatever is truly in you, your ingrained feelings, beliefs, perspectives, emotions these all erupt in the difficulty or stress of life.
As I ran in the dark I realized several things:
1: It is impossible to understand what you're truly made of without struggle.
We live comfortable lives. Our homes air conditioned, beds warm, food plentiful, and shelter from storms. So how are we supposed to know what we're really made of, when the constructs of our life are so comfortable? We must actively seek out doing things that are difficult. Pushing through the discomfort to find a stronger version of yourself on the other side.
2: You must trust the process and plan in front of you
I've more recently discovered, that trusting the process requires you to understand your present position, and know that the path you're on is going to get you to your destination. This is true even in the dark. Maybe you can't see where your foot will land next, but you must trust that the ground ahead will be there and that you will be able to keep stepping. This is also why it is helpful to have coaches, or teammates come in along side of you to help you keep taking the correct steps.
3: In the dark, instinct kicks in
In order to thrive in the dark, you must rely on instincts. For those instincts to work properly, you've had to suffer in the dark before. You've had to be in the darkness, and fail. You've had to go to a really dark place and make it out the other side, even if that means crawling out. For habits to become instinctive and built in to your operating system, you have to do them over and over and over again. The repetition is what ingrains it in you and not just becomes an instinct, but a personality trait.
To stay hard, you must learn to love the difficulty. You must learn to love the challenge on the road ahead. Learn to enjoy the struggle, enjoy the discomfort, and go seek it out.
I’ve been reading Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins, in which he really lays out the foundations of what it means to “stay hard” and to find the next level within yourself. I’d highly recommend.
That cold night I finished my run and walked back to the house. Not satisfied, but pleased. It happened to be after 100 in the morning at that point, and in moments like this your confidence grows, your grasp on your own mental condition strengths.
I wish this type of struggle on everyone. For in this struggle, reward and growth finally happens.
As always: Stay Humble, Stay Hungry
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