First Sunday of May, I ran my very first 10 miler at the 2017 Broad Street Run – the largest 10-mile race in the U.S. – close to 40,000 runners participated this year. It was an exhilarating race; I far exceeded my own expectations in many ways: I didn’t stop to rest/walk as I thought I would; my knees pulled through just fine – apparently stronger than I thought; my speed was faster than expected – in fact, my average speed was my usual 4/5-mile pace… What’s happening here?! I asked myself.
As I reflect back on this race, I realized I could only break through those self-imposed physical limitations after my mind did. During the entire race, I was listening to an audiobook, as I normally would when I workout (I’m a avid auidiobook listener if you don’t know). This time, I happened to be listening to Dr. David Schwartz’s The Magic of Thinking Big – it turned out to be a great choice – it inspired me to THINK BIG even about running – something I don’t have a whole lot of confidence. (I’m sure many guys can relate: I lift weights but don’t do enough cardio; I basically avoided long-distance running throughout college to protect my knees.) Running my first 10 miler while THINKING BIG taught me three important lessons:
1. Think BIG and remove self-imposed limitations.
“Believe it can be done. When you believe something can be done, really believe, your mind will find the ways to do it. Believing a solution paves the way to solution…
Believe Big. The size of your success is determined by the size of your belief. Think little goals and expect little achievements. Think big goals and win big success.”
I always felt exhausted after running 4/5 miles and never even attempted to run 10 consecutive miles, so I had been telling myself running 10 miles non-stop was impossible. “10 miler is longer than the farthest distance I ever ran… it’s too much for my knees to handle… I won’t be ready – I haven’t seriously run for years…”
What a textbook perfect example of “self-imposed limitation!” I didn’t believe I could do it because I never did; I thought my knees are too weak to handle it when I never tried; I deposited negative thoughts into my mind bank*, so the teller then dig thoughts out of my brain to prove I’m inadequate. (What is mind bank? Check out Dr. Schwarz’s quote and a short video below.)
“Much lack of self-confidence can be traced directly to a mismanaged memory. Your brain is very much like a bank. Every day you make thought deposits in your ‘mind bank.’ These thoughts deposits grow and become your memory.”
2. The best way to conquer fear is action.
“Action cures fear. Isolate your fear and then take constructive action. Inaction—doing nothing about a situation—strengthens fear and destroys confidence.”
- I was fearful of running 10 miles, but I signed up for the Broad Street Run, and I did much better than I thought I’m capable of.
- I was fearful of taking my first actuarial professional exam as a freshman at Temple (most of students take their first exam as a sophomore or junior), but I registered despite my fear. I got a perfect score of 10 and became the first person in my class to pass this exam.
- I was fearful when Bo Hu, a former president of Temple University Asian Students Association (Temple ASA), encouraged me to run for the ASA presidency as a freshman, but I declared my campaign despite my fear. I became the first sophomore president in the organization’s history.
- I was fearful of lots of things, but whenever I did it, I always felt proud of my actions, regardless of the results.
This reminds me of what Grant Cardone said in The 10X Rule. “FEAR stands for False Events Appearing Real… Fear is actually a sign that you are doing what’s needed to move in the right direction.”
3. Think progress.
“Think progress, believe in progress, push for progress. Think improvement in everything you do. Think high standards in everything you do. Over a period of time subordinates tend to become carbon copies of their chief. Be sure the master copy is worth duplicating. Make this a personal resolution: “At home, at work, in community life, if it’s progress I’m for it.”
Although Dr. Schwartz emphasized progress when he discussed how to lead others, I strongly believe leadership is also about leading yourself. Striving for continual progress was what I did at the 10-mile race. Soon after the race started, I realized I belonged to a faster corral, so I was determined to keep passing the next person in front of me. I was dodging & passing people the entire race: from the beginning till the very last 100 meters when I started to sprint with all my might.
Think BIG, Take ACTION, Think PROGRESS. I hope this experience can serve as a reminder for you and me that limitation is only a state of mind – we are much more powerful than we think.
I’d love to hear from you! Share with us about a time when you achieved something seemly impossible after thinking BIG? Leave a comment below. 🙂
Some other BIG ideas I really love from this book:
“Ask yourself daily, “How can I do better?” There is no limit to self-improvement. When you ask yourself, “How can I do better?” sound answers will appear. Try it and see.”
“Capacity is a state of mind…. Believe it can be done. When you believe something can be done, really believe, your mind will find the ways to do it. Believing a solution paves the way to solution.”
“Remind yourself regularly that you are better than you think you are. Successful people are not supermen. Success does not require a super-intellect. Nor is there anything mystical about success. And success isn’t based on luck. Successful people are just ordinary folks who have developed belief in themselves and what they do. Never—yes, never—sell yourself short.”
I’d like to close with a scene in Coach Carter that deeply inspires me: