Over the past 20 years, I have:
- Lived in Central Asia and learned three languages
- Qualified for the Ironman World Champs ten times
- Founded a full-time online business that's over 15 years old
All of these experiences have taught me a tremendous amount about what matters in life and what doesn't.
Most importantly, they allowed me to figure out my creative DNA and understand my personal pathways to success.
We're Talking About Practice, Man
This viral video emerged when Allen Iverson pushed back on answering questions about missing a single practice at a news conference.
I took this personally. 🤣
After all, practice is at the root of all of my success.
When you shift your perspective from outcomes (aka achievements) to the inputs (aka practice), you'll see exactly what I mean.
Let's do this!
TLDR: Live and lean in first-person mode.
Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan probably shouldn't be on your bingo card if you've proven through years of school that you can't learn a language.
Yet, there I was in Tashkent at the Hotel Chorsu with 20 other volunteers trying to figure out what Cyrillic letters meant as some of the hotel floors were supposedly not safe.
Floor with only red lights on in the hall? Don't need to speak Uzbek (or Russian) to know that is not my floor.
Fast forward to the end of three months of training with a host family in a local village and I graduated top of my Uzbek language class!
I had been approaching language learning all wrong.
I thought I was the problem. Turns out it was actually the environment.
I needed to immerse myself in the culture, learn to solve problems, and try to make new friends.
I learned that language isn't just something in a workbook; it's something experienced every day.
Step on the Gas
After two years, I left the Peace Corps and worked as a Community Development Program Director in Azerbaijan for 18 months, bringing infrastructure projects to internally displaced peoples (via the International Rescue Committee).
This time, I was much more confident in learning the language. I had figured out how to map Uzbek and Azeri in a way that allowed me to pick up the language on my own.
I promoted my translator to Assistant Director and hit the ground running.
I'm proud to say that some of the staff even went out to learn English on their own, convinced that if I could do it, they could too.
Magic only Happens on Stage
If you want to learn, grow, or evolve...you have to do something.
Books are nice.
Podcasts are convenient.
There is no substitute for the full sensory experience of daring to do.
TLDR: Failure is just part of iterating.
It was 6:50 am on a cool November morning, and I was running to the swim start. I had left my wetsuit on the back of the condo door and had just 10 minutes to get to the start, put it on, and start swimming.
To think I had been worried about finishing for months, and here I was about to not even make the starting line.
Now when I tell people that I have done 30 Ironman races, including 10 at the World Championship level, people assume that I have some special gift for the sport.
Not. A. Chance.
At the start of this journey, I was lost and uncertain, literally making up my training plan as I went. I got lucky in the first race, but the next several were full of setbacks and frustration.
Fortunately, I was part of a training group. In talking with the other athletes, I discovered that endurance racing was actually a journey of self-discovery and growth.
It took me several more races and eight years to have a good race.
The greatest gift that Ironman ever gave me was teaching me that failure is just another step on the path to success.
Through this realization, I learned that:
- Every race is an opportunity to learn.
- Failure is a word we only use for ourselves.
- The hardest work is showing back up the next day.
Finish lines aren't for stopping. It's a quick celebratory pitstop on your way to the next adventure.
TLDR: Giving your work to others creates more of EVERYTHING.
According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), about 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, and about 50% fail in their fifth year.
We technically failed on Day One.
Prelaunch we invested $50k into building a website and online community platform.
24 hours before launch, the company backed out and walked with most of our money. So much for that five years until failure SBA!
So we asked for help.
Rather than giving up, we decided to be transparent and explain the situation to our new customers.
This move earned us incredible street cred and attracted people with marketing, design, and technology expertise to collaborate with us.
The results were incredible.
Not only did the platform work, but it was also exactly what people wanted (they built it). Referrals were through the roof as the members were rightfully proud of what they had built.
Turns out that failing -- in public -- was exactly what we needed to be successful.
This initial "disaster" is the stage for an open and trusting community that thrives over 15 years later.
I found that being open and engaged with our customers transformed our work from a business enterprise into a service experience. Helping new friends make connections and offering advice to people who wanted to change feel like the right thing to do.
This change in the DNA of our professional lives has made running Endurance Nation feel like a joy for 15 years.
Taking risks and being transparent about setbacks can lead to unexpected and positive outcomes.
Don't be afraid to take risks and be transparent.
It might just lead to success beyond your wildest dreams!
Thanks for Reading 🙏
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