How to complete an Ironman triathlon on the wrong side of 40

  • Rule #1: Not give a shit about what people think people of your age should (or shouldn't) be doing with their lives (e.g. like shaving their legs and wearing lycra)
  • Rule #2: Learn to suck up the pain snowflake... if you can't suffer, you can't succeed. Be harder on yourself...only then will it become easier
  • Rule #3: Design a lifestyle that gives you the time and money to indulge in your craziest passions

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Graham D Brown - author of the guide

What are you going to learn in this section?

The Ironman Triathlon in Lanzarote is one of the world’s toughest endurance sports races. I completed it aged 40, whilst also running a business.

In this book, I’m not going to coach you to complete an Ironman. I want to show you that completing your biggest, craziest life goals doesn’t lie in “motivation” alone. It lies in the small picture of what you do every day.

What I want to show you is the daily habits and routines you need to implement to achieve the superhuman things that others think are impossible…

CHAPTER 10

WHAT IS THIS?

You're reading one chapter from my new Guide:
How to Become a Lifestyle Entrepreneur

HOW TO COMPLETE AN IRONMAN TRIATHLON ON THE WRONG SIDE OF 40

  • You can do Epic Shit, regardless of any obvious limitations, that’s the easy part
  • Stop worrying about what other people like you do or say in these situations
  • The key to success is how you manage your day-to-day activity and the people you hang around with

The Ironman is a 140.6 mile (226.4 kilometres) race.

You swim 4,000 meters in the sea, bike 180 km and then finish it all with a marathon run. It takes between 10 and 17 hours to complete.

You’ll be hungry, tired, cold and in pain for half a day. You’ll be happy and sad. You’ll get angry and you’ll cry. You have to remind yourself you’re doing this for fun.

When I first heard about the Ironman triathlon, I thought it was another world, a world for superhero athletes who were crazy determined or just crazy. Yet, 3 years later, I had signed up for my first one.

I didn’t just sign up for any Ironman though, I signed up for what they call in Spanish, “El Mas Duro” or “The Toughest”. Ironman Lanzarote with its headwinds, white knuckle descents and spectacular climbs is one Ironman race that you have to treat with utter respect. Many athletes go to Lanzarote expecting a week in the sun plus a nice challenge on the Sunday, only to come back broken as a result of a DNF “Did Not Finish.”

I completed my first full race in 12 hours 25 minutes 19 seconds.

Completing an Ironman triathlon and building a successful Lifestyle Business share many similarities. Whatever your life challenges are, know that with the right mindset and strategy, there’s a good chance you can achieve them.

  • People expend a tremendous amount of energy just trying to be normal

You have to be “crazy” in the eyes of normal people to choose to do it. Most people would rather be a spectator in both than actors in either. Both take a long time. Both take a lot of self-discipline. And neither have shortcuts. You have to put in the work.

And then there’s the matter of being over 40.

In some circles, they’d say I was “over the hill” but here’s something interesting. Go to any triathlon race in the world, and I’ll wager that the biggest age group is the 40-49 year olds. And that tells us something, maybe these long demanding challenges are less about peak fitness and more about having the stability and self-discipline to get the job done.

WHY YOU SHOULD FOCUS ON HABITS NOT MOTIVATION

  • Motivation won’t make you successful
  • Even champions can turn out results on bad days
  • Focus on your daily habits and routines

Stephen King is the most read author alive today.

He has written 54 novels and sold over 350 million copies.

King says his success didn’t come from feeling motivated to write, but one simple act every morning. Every morning he’d wake up and write 1,000 words on his typewriter whether he felt motivated or not.

Seth Godin, one of the most influential voices in the world of business and marketing today, and an all round cool guy, publishes a blog post every day without fail (and has been doing it for the last 15 years)

King & Godin’s strategy tells us a lot about the secret of success. You can’t rely on motivation alone to write a book, complete an Ironman triathlon or build a successful Lifestyle Business. This is a trap many fall into.

You don’t complete an Ironman triathlon in 12 hours, you complete it in anywhere between 6 to 12 months. It’s the same with your business. Your success is what you consistently do every day over the long term. It’s the same with becoming a successful author. You need to show up and do the work.

Motivation is for amateurs.

My point is that motivation is good, motivation helps, but it’s not reliable. Motivation will come and go.
If you tie your success to motivation alone your results will come and go, a constant source of frustration. If, however, you build you success on strong daily habits, you will be able to churn out results even when you’re not feeling it.

THE DAILY HABIT OF FOCUS

  • Keep setting and reviewing your goals
  • 1 hour of planning is worth 10 of doing

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen Covey explains that effective people “begin with the end clearly in mind.” (…this is an awesome book by the way and thoroughly recommended to any entrepreneur).

Focus means setting and focusing on your goal.

Running a business is like flying a plane. You’re going to spend 95% of your time off course.

The pilot’s job is to constantly recalibrate the plane, bringing it back on course or avoiding hazards, to point it towards the final destination.

What would the journey look like if the pilot didn’t do this? In a short time, the plane would be lost, flying off in the wrong direction. That’s what happens to people who don’t focus on their goals.

Every day I do 2 things for the Habit of Focus.

At the end of every day I take my paper notebook and write out the 3 things I want to achieve tomorrow. These are 3 tangible goals. If the goal isn’t measurable, like “complete chapter 3”, I’ll assign a block of time to it e.g. “2 hours writing my book”.

Then, at the beginning of every new day, I take my notebook and read the 3 goals I’ve set for myself today. It’s a simple act but you only need a simple nudge on a regular basis to stay on course.

  • What do I want to achieve today?
  • What do I want to achieve tomorrow?
  • The simple act of writing down your goals can have a profound impact on your results

This is what it means to focus, to start the day with a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve. You can also apply this technique to aligning your daily activities with your longer term goals, as I’ll explain in the 60-30 habit.

3 Goals works for you. You can try less, but I wouldn’t recommend more. Once you go beyond 3, you start creating a to-do list which attracts junk. If you want to try focusing on one goal a day, there’s an app for that: one big thing.

THE 60-30 HABIT

  • Make time for what’s important and non-urgent

The 60-30 Habit is all about harnessing the most powerful force in shaping your future – your subconscious mind.

You might not see it at work in your day-to-day life, but much of what you have achieved or experienced in your life began as a thought in your subconscious. Research suggests your subconscious mind controls at least 95 percent of your day.

I’m not talking about “thinking stuff into your life”.

I don’t believe in “Attraction”.

I like to look at the subconscious from the standpoint of science and behavior. The subconscious is the part of the mind of which one is not fully aware but which influences one’s actions and feelings. You experience it every day from your initial impressions of meeting a stranger you don’t know, to the “drives” that compel you to do certain things like train for an Ironman triathlon or buy a one-way ticket to Rajasthan. It’s a biological mechanism that’s been with us for millions of years, perhaps extending way back to when we were before we were swinging in the trees and we were lizards or other simpler creatures, a mechanism that could work without complex cognitive thought processes like language, self-awareness or social communication.

Your subconsicous has an agenda and it’s important that this agenda aligns with your daily activities and vice-versa. This is what psychologists call “vertical coherence”. If you are working on a project or doing something which goes against what your subconscious wants, it doesn’t “Flow”. You get distracted easily, become frustrated or bored. In his book Flow, author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, found that the most important factor among professionals and athletes for their productivity and happiness was vertical coherence.

  • Vertical coherence: when your long, medium and short term goals are in alignment
  • It’s like hitting a queue of billiard balls. Even a small misalignment in the stack can result in the last ball going off at a tangent

A great way to acheive vertical coherence is visualization. Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, suggests that we’d all benefit from practicing visualization 10 minutes a day . Visualization trains your brain to reach for the objectives you’re working towards and aligns all your goals accordingly. Some of the world’s greatest athletes use visualization to help prepare themselves mentally to excel in sport.

Visualization means focusing on a long term goal that’s important to your life.

Recently, I’ve started practising the 60-30 habit which is spend 60 minutes a day for the next 30 days working on that badass project of a life time. Much of that work will be visualization.

  • Visualization can help you achieve vertical coherence

For a long time I’ve been visualizing our life in Thailand, and the events we want to hold there. I believe that the more I keep practising this outcome in my head, the more likely it’s going to happen. Author Brian Tracy describes this process like planting the seeds of your future life:

Your conscious mind can be thought of as the gardener, planting seeds; your subconscious mind can be thought of as the garden, or fertile soil, in which the seeds germinate and grow. – Brian Tracy

I practised the habit of visualiation in preparing for my Ironman triathlon race. I lay on my bed and visualized everything from the moment of putting on my wetsuit at the beginning to the moment I crossed the line at the end. I visualized every kilometer of the bike course and rehearsed it mentally.

When I crossed the line at 12 hours 25 minutes and 29 seconds. My visualized goal was 12 hours 30 minutes! (Within 1% accuracy of my prediction, quite amazing considering the length of the race, the number of factors and the fact I hadn’t done it before). The second factor that made my ability to predict the outcomes with 99% accuracy was constant review, the next habit…

THE DAILY HABIT OF MEASUREMENT

  • What’s measured gets done
  • How do you know you’re halfway there?
  • Beware vanity metrics – scores that appear important but are a waste of time

On Jan. 13, 1982, Air Florida Flight 90 took off from Washington, D.C.’s National Airport and crashed, moments later, into a bridge, landing in the Potomac River and killing 74 aboard. While accelerating, the pilot noted instruments that suggested the plane did not have enough speed for takeoff. He didn’t believe the instruments.

In business and life, we have access to a whole host of instruments giving us feedback on how we’re doing. Sure, we’ll get to the point of which dials and gauges you should be paying attention to and which are noise in a minute. But, navigating using the instruments helps us take the bullshit out of life. Choosing to navigate by feel alone can be a dangerous habit.

For years I’ve been measuring my time for running 10k.

My personal best is 40 minutes 34 seconds but that was a couple of years ago. This year, I did 43m 23s.

I know that because I record and measure every workout I’ve ever done.

  • Having a measurable goal can be motivating
  • When you can’t measure your goals you always give yourself the benefit of the doubt

The reason is you can’t measure it by feeling alone. I’ve had great runs only to run my slowest for weeks and then the opposite is also true. I competed in an Olympic distance triathlon and hit the final 10k leg (after the bike) feeling like my legs were made of wood. I thought I was going to flunk it but ended up running that 43 minute season best (as above).

So, we can’t rely on how we feel about our activity, we have to rely on the data.
Research has repeatedly found that when behavior is tracked and evaluated, it improves. With my running this certainly is the case. I usually start any given season around December running 48-49 minute 10k but by April I’m down into the 43s. It’s the same with business. If I’m focusing on driving traffic to my website, the numbers go up.

Measurement works. But keeping score can also be dangerous. Which score do we pay attention to?

  • Are you Twitter followers going up or down?
  • Is your bank account going up or down?
  • Are you gaining or losing weight?

Maybe you’re not aware of it, but you have at least 100 or these “metrics” stored in your brain somewhere. Every time you measure yourself, it gives you feedback. That’s a review. That feedback can be pleasure or pain.

“Oh fuck! I gained 5 kilograms over the holiday period!”
… is usually followed by a period of self-examination then a resolve to change everything.

“Yay! I’m making $10,000 a month income. That’s more than my regular outgoings of $4,000 a month!”
… is usually followed by a sense of happiness and excitement for the future.

These metrics shape our behavior. Some more than others. You may be more focused on your weight than your Twitter count. You might not care about your weight at all. These are all personal choices.

Whatever your choice, it’s important that you choose the right metrics to review.

Find your Hot Button: choosing the right metrics 

Some metrics are distractions. Call these your “vanity metrics”. This could be the number of retweets or Facebook Likes you get this week. Some are important, like your sales figures. Some might be unclear, like your website traffic.

In all of these metrics, there is one which I call your “Hot Button”.

Your Hot Button is the one metric you can control, the one button that you keep pushing that grows your business the way you want to control it.

  • Find your hot button: the one metric that if you improve, improves everything

Well, isn’t that sales? Sales is an important metric that drives growth but you don’t control it because you’re not buying. That’s someone else’s decision.

But, let’s say you know, on average, you sell 1 in every 4 presentations you make to a client. That ratio goes up and down, but it’s consistent over the long run.

In this scenario, your Hot Button metric is the number of presentations you make. You have a lot of control over this metric. If you make 20 this week, you’ll probably sell 5. If you make 40, sell 8 and so on.

  • Focus on metrics that you can control
  • Sure, sales is a great metric but you can’t control it
  • You can, however, control how many times you call a prospect or get in front of a client

Now, you should devote your energy not to sales revenues (because that’s a metric you can’t control) but to increasing your number of presentations (or increasing their quality).

You might not be presenting to clients, but you certainly have a Hot Button. Here are a few examples:

  • The number of people who show up to your webinars in a week
  • Email signups to your autoresponder
  • Traffic to your product sales page
  • The number of sales phone calls you make

Think about how different your focus is now you know what drives your business rather than having 20 metrics to worry about from Facebook Likes to email click through rates.

THE DAILY HABIT OF CHOOSING THE RIGHT PEOPLE TO HANG AROUND WITH

  • We humans are social beings
  • More than anything we want to fit in (yes, even YOU!)
  • We edit our dreams and behavior to fit in with others

On the most basic level, research shows that sitting next to a productive employee boosts your productivity. You get inspired. You feel that you should up your game too. It’s positive social pressure.

These are the small positive (and negative) nudges we get from our peer network.

Then there is the business of the more powerful longer term nudges that come from expectations.

When you change who you hang around with, you also change what you expect of yourself and the story you keep telling about yourself. It can change anyone and everyone Eric “The Hip-Hop Preacher” Thomas believes that creating such a nework of partners changed his life.

  • You are the sum of the 5 people you hang around with on a daily basis

The reverse of this is also true, and it’s worth understanding how the people we hang around with can hold us back:

Chef Jamie Oliver used to go into schools in an attempt change what kids ate every day. He also made a TV series called “Jamies School” the goal of which was to redesign an education from scratch and empower the kids to achieve their dreams regardless of their backgrounds.

It was emotionally charged. Here were kids with dreams who were surrounded by years of teachers and parents telling them they couldn’t do anything worthwhile. But Jamie is a brave man. He’s part optimist, part crazy and didn’t give up easily (like everyone else had done). By the end of the season he had social rejects, kids with learning problems, kids who felt worthless telling the camera how now they had hope, how they wanted to start their own businesses, how they wanted to get a better education and go see the world.

It brought a tear to my eye.

And then, the credits roll and you get to read the real fates of these kids.

After the hype of the TV film crews subsided, Jamie left them and they gravitated back to their peer groups and families, we are shown what happened to all their raw dreams and optimism.

Kids who said they wanted to start businesses now were saying they were going to get a job at the local hairdressers.

Kids who wanted broader educations and experience of world travel, were now part time office clerks.

And that really brings a tear to my eye.

No matter how motivated and inspired we are, we always gravitate back to the expectations of their peer group.

You can’t see it but it’s there. Gravity works 24/7. It’s relentless. Gravity only ever wants to do one thing, to pull you back down to Earth.

  • You can have ambitious goals and work hard, but if you are surrounded by the wrong people, you will end up back where you started
  • The hardest part isn’t the work that goes into a successful business, but being able to change the people you hang around with in order to have a successful business

There are many times when we feel like we can stop beating our wings:

  • We get tired and lose motivation
  • We give up hope
  • We become successful so want to hit the cruise control
  • But gravity never gives up, like the Terminator it will hunt you down and get you. It’s at that point a little nudge, a jab, a few coarse words can really pierce our armor and we crash into the ground.

So what do you do?

Ignore them?

Doesn’t work. You’re a social being. You have a million years of evolution hardwired into your brain that you can’t change in your lifetime. Like the rest of us, you fear rejection so you will do anything to stay within your peer group.

It’s not going to be easy. You will face criticism, rejection and self-doubt.

As you grow your business, you’ll experience regular “plateaus”. These are points at which you feel stuck, demotivated even, because you’re not making progress. It’s okay. You’re not a robot. You are going to experience this.

If only it would be so easy that you only need to beat your wings once and then you could fly forever.

But no.

It’s important to surround yourself with the right people, the kind of people who will help you through the plateaus. Your network will also shape your expectations, and ultimately your results.

  • Find a Mastermind or a good group of people to hang around with

If the people you hang around with are holding you back or not supporting you in the way that you need to make your Lifestyle Business work, you need to change.

If you can’t change the people you hang around with, change the people you hang around with.

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