No Wind In My Sail

Frickin’ pull-ups. They are so damn demoralizing.

Sometimes I really despise that bar.
I’ve been swearing at it a lot lately, talking to it like it’s some sort of evil beast I must defeat.

But this past week, I feel like the bar has done nothing but defeat me.

Two weeks ago, I started the 20 pull-up challenge.
I wrote about it here:

I was encouraged to try after seeing a few other friends on Facebook take on the 6-8 week challenge.

Watching my friends go from being able to do just a few pull-ups to over 10 in a short period of time was quite inspiring.

You start the challenge with an initial test to see where you are. Then from the website it gives you a training schedule based on your starting point.

I did 5 pull-ups initially.

The first few days of the challenge I was really sore which made it difficult to keep up with the schedule, but not that difficult because I was still riding the high of starting a new challenge. It was still new and exciting.

Seven days after starting the challenge, I did another test to see how I was progressing. I did 9, (almost 10) pull-ups!

Boom. It was evidence that it was working! I was getting stronger. The training was working. I could already envision hitting the 20 pull-up mark earlier than what the schedule anticipated.

I stepped up my training to a higher level, added new exercises to help improve my strength and ability to do more pull-ups.

I felt like I was on an unstoppable train, with great momentum that would help me sail up to 20 pull-ups in no time at all.

Then reality stepped in and slapped me in the face.
All of a sudden I seemed to be weakening, rather than getting stronger.

My muscles seemed not to be recovering as fast as they were before. I struggled to do even half of the prescribed training schedule. As I slumped below the bar this past week, I kept asking myself what my problem was.

As the week progressed, things did not improve. I took an extra day off thinking I just needed more rest. But when I came back it was more of the same.

The momentum I had before seemed to have vanished.
Yesterday was the end of week 2, and so I did another test to see where I was.

I did 10 pull-ups.
I had plateaued. No real gains for the week.
Damn it, I knew I was in the Doldrums.

If you’re not familiar with Doldrums, it’s an area of the Atlantic Ocean near the equator that is famous for having long periods of little to no wind.

Sailboats often enter into this area with a strong wind at their back, and before they know it, all wind is gone. They can get stuck there for many days or weeks waiting for the wind to blow again.

I think we can all relate to some area of our lives that has experienced some sort of doldrums. Where we seemingly lose our momentum. The wind is no longer at our back. We feel like we are stuck, not able to make forward progress.

I’ve experienced this a lot over my 15 years in real estate. With momentum, I would have full wind in my sails, working hard and making progress, then, not long after, I would find myself still working just as hard, but the wind would be gone, and I would look out on the horizon and wonder when it was coming back.

I believe we all hit periods of doldrums when we take on new challenges or endeavors. Whether it’s a new career, new fitness or weight loss plan, new relationships, new business goals.

Initially there is a period of excitement and that often leads to seeing measurable improvements, which strengthens your resolve to keep moving forward. You have momentum.

But it’s just a matter of time before the wind stops blowing. And that is often when we are tested the most.

This is when most people give up on their weight loss plan or stop following their business initiatives. When they enter a period of working really hard, but all progress seems to have stopped.

I see real estate agents do this all the time. They start out with a great plan to grow their business. They begin to put in the work, following their plan. They have initial excitement about it, and then they hit a wall, like my experience with the pull-up bar this past week.

Lots of struggle, with no evidence of progress.

It would be really easy for me to give up on the pull-up challenge right now. I could tell myself I’ll start again later when I’m not so busy with work, or when my back isn’t aching as much, or after I lose a few more pounds, or, or, or, the excuses and justifications our inner voices come up with are endless.

So how do we get ourselves out of the doldrums?

I could say perseverance, and other big words like that. But I think we all know that advice.

What I think is less understood, and the most helpful advice, is changing our perspective of success and progress.

If our metaphorical sailboat is stuck in the doldrums, we have a choice to make. We can either wait and pray for wind to blow again.

Or…we can find a way to create our wind.

How do you do that?

I believe John C. Maxwell, the author of many books, including Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn articulated it very well when he said:

Success doesn’t always bring growth, but personal growth will always add to our success.

In other words, the way we create our own wind is not by focusing on what personal success we can see and measure, but rather by focusing on what we are becoming.

If we focus just on personal success (i.e. how many pull-ups you can do), then we are destined for discouraging periods of doldrums.

But if we instead focus on personal growth (i.e. how many training days you do in a row without missing one), we essentially set ourselves up for daily wins just by showing up and putting in the work consistently.

Because it’s the compounding effect of focusing on personal growth that brings us new levels of personal success.

As I look at my week 3 of the pull-up challenge, my only focus this week is to make sure I don’t miss a training day. If I do that, I know it’s a win because with every training day is the opportunity for me to get 1% stronger, even if I can’t see or measure 1% since it is so small of a number.

The question to ask yourself when you feel stuck in the doldrums is not, “Where is the wind and when will it come back?” but rather, “What direction am I heading and where are the oars?”

Have a great day.

P.S. I’ll report back at the end of week 3 to let you know how it’s going.

Mike and Girls with Impact ClubMike Turner

Co-Founder: Impact Club Boise
Host: Idaho Speakeasy
Collaborator: Value Drive Approach
Founder: Front Street Brokers
Author: Agent Entrepreneurs
Voice: 208-340-8399