5. Learn to sweat in peace
The harder you are on yourself, the easier life is on you. Or, as they say in the Navy Seals, the more you sweat in peacetime, the less you bleed in war.
Steve Chandler wrote in one of his book about his childhood friend, Rett Nichols. Rett Nichols was the first to show him this principle in action. When they were playing Little League baseball, they were always troubled by how fast the pitchers threw the ball. They were in an especially good league, and the overgrown opposing pitchers, whose birth certificates they were always demanding to see, fired the ball to them at alarming speeds during the games.
They began dreading going up to the plate to hit. It wasn’t fun. Batting had become something they just tried to get through without embarrassing theirselves too much. Then Rett got an idea.
“What if the pitches we faced in games were slower than the ones we face every day in practice?” Rett asked.
“That’s just the problem,” Steve said. “We don’t know anybody who can pitch that fast to us. That’s why, in the games, it’s so hard. The ball looks like an aspirin coming in at 200 miles an hour.”
“I know we don’t know anyone who can throw a baseball that fast,” said Rett. “But what if it wasn’t a baseball?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” Steve said.
Just then Rett pulled from his pocket a little plastic golf ball with holes in it. The kind their dads used to hit in the backyard for golf practice.
“Get a bat,” Rett said.
Steve picked up a baseball bat and they walked out to the park near Rett’s house. Rett went to the pitcher’s mound but came in about 3 feet closer than usual. As Steve stood at the plate, Rett fired the little golf ball past Steve as he tried to swing at it.
“Ha ha!” Rett shouted. “That’s faster than anybody you’ll face in little league! Let’s get going!” they then took turns pitching to each other with this bizarre little ball humming in at incredible speeds. The little plastic ball was not only hilariously fast, but it curved and dropped more sharply than any little leaguer’s pitch could do.
By the time Rett and Steve played their next league game, they were ready. The pitches looked like they were coming in slow motion. Big white balloons. Steve hit the first and only home run he ever hit after one of Rett’s sessions. It was off a left-hander whose pitch seemed to hang in the air forever before he creamed it.
The lesson Rett taught Steve was one he have never forgotten. Whenever he afraid of something coming up, he will find a way to do something that’s even harder or scarier. Once he do the harder thing, the real thing becomes fun.
The great boxer Muhammad Ali used this principle in choosing his sparring partners. He’d make sure that the sparring partners he worked with before a fight were better than the boxer he was going up against in the real fight. They might not always be better all-around, but he found sparring partners who were each better in one certain way or another than his upcoming opponent. After facing them, he knew going into each fight that he had already fought those skills and won.
You can always stage a bigger battle than the one you have to face. Watch what it does to your motivation going into the real challenge.