AGL 020: Richard Branson’s ‘The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership’ Book Summary and Review
January 7, 2016
AGL 022: The Biology of Leadership – inside the brain of a tech leader
February 1, 2016

AGL 021: The Pain of Progress

A few months ago I read the Jesse Itzler book, “Living with a Seal.”  I heard it was really funny, and I knew a little about Jesse through some podcast interviews that I heard him on.  I also thought it might motivate me to get in serious shape, however, it sort of scared livingwithasealme a little bit.  In this book, Jesse meets this Navy Seal, who he calls “Seal” and invites him to live with him for 31 days and to train them.  Seal reluctently says yes only if Jesse will agree to do whatever Seal says, whenever he says it, no questions asked.  Jesse agrees and the story takes off from there.  Its a hilarous story that tells about Jesse’s pain and progress.  It clearly points out that in order to make phyiscal progress in training, you must go through pain.  In one part of the book, Seal runs some sort of off road ultra marathon and comes back to Jesse’s home with broken feet.  Jesse ask if he can do anything for him and Seal’s response is priceless.  He says “I’ve earned this pain, let me enjoy it.”

Seal has learned that in order to make progress, you must feel a little pain. Our biology has evolved to tell us that if something hurts, stop doing it.  This is a safety mechanism to help us survive.  But anyone who has ever worked out knows that in order to get stronger, you must get sore.  You must go through pain in order to have progress. In Episode 8, I talked about the leadership process, and mentioned that you have to understand that becoming a great leader is a process, not a project.  In other words, there is not end date in leadership development.  The destination is a mirage.  You are never finished growing as a leader.

Then about 3 weeks ago, while at church, our pastor made a point about the “paradox of progress” and how the more progress you make, the better you can see that you have a long way to go.  This reminded me about the pain of progress that I learned a few months earlier.  I realized that progress is the journey that we strive for. It’s not the final goal that matters so much, but more the progress we make to get to that goal.  Many times we set goals for our personal development, and find out when we reach that goal, we loose our desire to continue to improve.  Sometimes we find that the goal isn’t as rewarding as we thought it would be, and not as rewarding as making progress to the goal.  All in all, reaching the goal can feel like a let down. I remember when I had a goal to run my first 5k.  I was so excited to be able to run the entire 3.1 miles and finish with a 10 minute pace. But achieving that goal, showed me how much more work I had to do if I wanted to continue to improve and eventually run a marathon.  I soon realized the goal was nothing more than a milestone to a much larger goal.  I think our leadership process needs to work the same way.  We need to look at our SMART Goals that we setup for 2016, as just milestones for something much greater.

So whenever you’re making progress towards a goal, you need to understand that there will be pain.  Be like Seal, and enjoy the pain you earn.  If you aren’t feeling any pain… then you probably aren’t making any progress. It’s important to celebrate your progress, it helps motivate you through the pain.  Don’t let the paradox of progress slow you down.  Whenever you discover that you have a lot more work ahead of you than you thought you did, let that be a sign to you that you’re making real progress.  Because you don’t know what you don’t know… until you learn that you don’t know it. (say that 5 times real fast).


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