Building Mental Toughness 

 September 7, 2020

I had never heard of Jesse Itzler before yesterday, but I know of Joe Rogan and he tends interview some fascinating people who are doing some cool things, from MMA fighters, entertainers, comedians, and politicians, and he tends to be pretty non-judgmental when doing so, dare I say mindfully. Not too many people are as open minded in our society today. Anyway the segment of his podcast I watched was about the month that Jesse Itzler hired David Goggins, a certified badass and former Navy SEAL to live with him for a month to shake things up in his life.

Watch Itzler and Rogan Interview Here.

The first part of the video discusses how Goggins starts out by challenging Itzler to do as many pull ups as he can at the gym. He does as told and when he has had enough, maybe eight pull ups later, he stops. Then Goggins tells him he is going to do 100 more pull ups. When? RIGHT NOW. And so the task ensues until Itzler has eventually completed 100 more pull ups, shattering the construct or limiting belief in his mind that doing that many pull ups was “impossible.” The implication is that we are all capable on some level of achieving more more than we think we can.

This also goes to a core fundamental in mindful performance training where we learn to get out of our own way. We all have narratives about our performance story that we tell ourselves. What we can do, or think we can do, or we look back at what we have achieved or not achieved, maybe we failed, got hurt, or didn't finish.

When is the last time you did 100 pull ups? If I demanded you do them right now, what would be the thoughts or feelings that showed up? Mine would go something like this...This is crazy, I’ve never done this before, I can't do this, I wonder if I could do it?, I doubt I could do that many, that would probably hurt after a while, it hurts just thinking about this, I wonder how many I could do? Did I mention this is crazy?, good thing this is isn’t actually happening to me right now…

The progression of thought that unfolded previously is mostly limiting my imaginary performance of doing 100 pull ups with seeds of doubt, barely acknowledging it is possible. However it is possible once we give ourselves space with our thoughts and get out of our own way. Itzler completed the task demanded by Goggins, and got exactly what he needed. The belief is inspiring, we can all accomplish more than we think we can. Our thoughts are simply mental events that come and go, and are not the truth of things.

David Goggins bleeds motivation, has competed in many extreme events, and is the Guinness world record holder for completing pull ups in a day. He completed 5,804 pull ups and even wore a 30lb back pack in a 24 hour period. He has done many other impressive things as well. He even ran eight 100 mile marathons, eight weekends in a row. Think about THAT! What thoughts are in your head right now? I am stunned. His story is compelling, worth soaking in, and sharing with others. He was not always fit and mentally tough, he had to train his mind, and sometimes he fails, but his mentality is brutally tough, he was a Navy SEAL for a reason.

Watch Rogan and Goggins Interview Here.

Jesse Itzler used the experience to continue to compete in extreme competitions, innovate, and develop his coaching and other businesses. Both men are inspiring and live life fully in the moment, making them mindful competitors, and can help us all learn to engage more fully in our lives to reach beyond what we think we can achieve in a very real way.

One exercise to start getting mentally tough is to pick an activity or something you have never done that you think will be uncomfortable and try doing it for a week. Be mindful of any fear or doubts and focus on the task, and see how it really goes. One example could be taking a cold shower for the week, attempting a physical challenge, or facing a fear, trying a new food. The point is not to injure or hurt yourself but see how you react when you face a challenge or discomfort. Once you start to become mindful of your relationship with discomfort seeing how you might apply this experience to learn and grow in areas of your life that may need a kind and compassionate attention.

Update: I had to modify them but I did 115 pull ups after completing this article. Anything is possible.

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