Be Relentless. Done. Next.

“Everything in this book is about raising your standard of excellence, going beyond what you already know and think, beyond what anyone has tried to teach you. … I want you to be able to take all of this and use it as a framework for yourself to achieve whatever you desire.”

Tim. S. Grover, “Relentless”

After having read Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins, Relentless by Tim S. Grover was a great read to understand the mindset of excellence, that both authors share. In contrast to the more personal story of Goggins, Grover shares many mindset-maxims that may sound harsh or impossible at first. But I think it’s really helpful to have unreasonable standards or expectations for yourself, because those help you to get over the excuses, distractions and temptations to take the easy way a lot better than “being realistic.“ Being realistic has come to mean all to often accepting who you are and that unfortunately often also means settling for less than you are capable of or, more importantly, truly happy with. This doesn’t mean to set unrealistic goals and set yourself up for continues disappointment, but to aim higher, than you think you are capable of reaching and trying to reach higher every day.

I’ve split the content of this book in four chapters. The first deals with what I call “The Self-Help-Trap”, being stuck in theory, not taking action – and how to overcome it. This chapter also explains the power of taking ultimate responsibility for your life and includes two more tips. The second one is about what it means to be “relentless”, which to me is to never stop demanding excellence in everything you do – every minute, every day. We’ll explore what this entails in the third chapter on the love of discomfort and pain and why it’s so important to embrace the suck, as David Goggins so eloquently put it. Lastly, I discuss, why you need to truly know yourself by being brutally honest with yourself about where you are in life, where you want to be and what you are willing to do and sacrifice to get there. We explore why you need priorities, why routines are effective and why you don‘t fail until you say you do.

Let’s get into it.

The Power of Execution and Responsibility

Whenever you do anything, you’ll be prone to distractions. These can be physical in the form of notifications on your phone, or mental by external pressure of what others think of you or how they judge you. Grover recommends to shut these distractions out and let everyone judge you by your result. That is what he means when he writes: “Don’t think.” Being focused on what’s going on around you makes you lose touch with what’s going on deep inside you. Instead of doing what you know to be true, you start to overthink. Overthinking often generates anxiety and fear. Grover writes: “Every minute you sit around overthinking, someone else is already doing.” Thinking doesn’t lead to outcomes, only action does. Thus you need to take action and execute despite distractions along the way. Now you may ask: “What should I execute on?” Let me tell you; you already know.

“Stop waiting to be taught something you already know. How many millions of diet and exercise books are sold every year? I promise you, every single person who picks up one of those books already knows the answer: eat healthier and move your body.”

TIM. S. GROVER, “RELENTLESS”

To make progress in your life, you need to adapt ultimate responsibility for everything. As Grover writes: “Your attitude should be ‘I owe this.’” Own all of your mistakes, decisions and choices, adopt responsibility for everything you say and do. If you make a mistake, admit that you fucked it up. Then fix it. You can’t fix something unless you admit it. Without control you can’t create a solution. This means managing things before they turn into negative situations without blaming others or using luck as an excuse, when things don’t go your way. You can’t control every obstacle in your path, but you can control your response. There’s only a situation, your response, and an outcome. Don’t shrug off a bad performance. Face it, fix it, and prepare to do better next time.

To get to the top and stay at the top you also have to pay attention to the details in whatever you’re doing. While sweating the details isn’t important when you first start out and is commonly used as an excuse for inaction, they become more and more important the more successful you get. Grover suggests a relentless maxim: to push yourself to excellence in all areas of your life and everything you do. This doesn’t just mean pushing yourself every day, but also to never stop learning abut everything there is to learn about what you do and then improve on all of that learning.

The Relentless Pursuit of Excellence

It’s in that way, that you can engineer your life so you never stop until you get what you want always aspiring to reach even more. Relentless. For Grover, being relentless is about never being satisfied, always striving to be the best, and then getting even better. It means creating new goals every time you reach your personal best and taking a moment to recognize what you’ve accomplished. But the moment your mind thinks, “Done,” your instincts say, “Next.” Every accomplishment is just a stepping-stone to the next challenge.

That’s the relentless pursuit of excellence, always believing in your ability, demanding more of yourself than anyone else could ever ask of you. Making every possible move to put yourself where you need to be and staying there. This means being consistent in any environment, keeping things simple and constantly working for that end result – every minute, every day.

“Your whole life is essentially dedicated to one goal, to the exclusion of everything else.”

TIM. S. GROVER, “RELENTLESS”

The Love of Pain and Discomfort

One of the most important steps to get to where you want to be is to get used to pain and being uncomfortable. If you allow yourself to become paralyzed by excuses and comfort, you’ll never get to where you want to be. You can’t stay in your comfort zone and expect results. Instead of looking for the instant gratification along the way, focus on the end result.

“When you never have to take on anything harder than your daily routine, when you shy away from anything that rocks your sense of safety and control, you’re much more likely to fall apart at the first twinge of pressure.”

TIM. S. GROVER, “RELENTLESS”

Grovers points out, that you don’t have to love the work, you just have to be relentless about achieving it and not get distracted. You need to crave the result so intensely, that the work is irrelevant.

“Bottom line if you want success of any kind: you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Every time you think you can’t, you have to do it anyway.”

TIM. S. GROVER, “RELENTLESS”

There are no secrets, hacks or shortcuts. There’s only doing the work every single day.

 “Every day, you have to do something you don’t want to do. Every day. Challenge yourself to be uncomfortable, push past the apathy and laziness and fear.“

TIM. S. GROVER, “RELENTLESS”

Harnessing the Power of Self-Awareness

In order to improve anything in your life, you need to be willing and dedicated to improve and become better. Wanting something, waiting for something or trying to be someone you’re not won’t get you anywhere. You need to face your fears and get rid of your poisons, baggage, demons and addictions. You have to face who you really are and make it work for you, not against you. This includes to stop denying your dark side – all the secrets you have but don’t tell anyone – and harness it’s power to get in the zone and do the work.

 “I don’t think you can really understand relentlessness until you’ve faced your worst fears, and you’ve experienced that internal response telling you what to do.”

TIM. S. GROVER, “RELENTLESS”

Once you understand your baggage, you have to understand what you want to achieve and what you’re willing to endure to get it. Ask where you are now and where you want to be instead. Ask yourself what you want and what you are willing to sacrifice – if those two don’t match up, it’s highly likely that you don’t want it bad enough. You have to be willing to sacrifice to succeed. Make a realistic and true plan that reflects your goals and interests. Then, make a choice and stand by it.

“In order to have what you really want, you must first be who you really are.”

TIM. S. GROVER, “RELENTLESS”

You can’t achieve excellence in all aspects of your life though, because achieving excellence means saying no to anything else. You need to identify what wants to pull you away from your mission, what distracts you, and learn to control it. Learn to stay focused in any situation by detaching from everything while you’re in the zone.Grover recommends to include many routines in your days to aid with getting in the zone and avoiding unnecessary changes to what’s working. Having such a schedule means to defend your priorities and focus on one thing – your craft. When you’re completely focused on one thing, it’s hard to pay attention to other people, but it’s also important who you surround yourself with. Here, Grover recommends to surround yourself with people who can operate at your level of demanding excellence, but to also be careful about who you choose to keep close. (Make friends with people who want the best for you.)

Success and failure are 100% mental. You must establish your own vision of what it means to be unstoppable.

Tim. S. Grover, “Relentless”

You also need to become comfortable with failure and be open minded to advice that goes against what you want to her. You need to make mistakes to learn from, to get where you want to be. Look at problems as opportunities. Don’t see problems, see situations that need to be addressed or issues that need to be resolved. Recognize when it’s time to shift directions and consider other options. Try different ways to get to where you want to be. If you encounter setbacks, learn and adapt, remap your course and get back to work. You don’t fail until you believe it’s over – until then, always look for ways to get to where you want to be.

“It all comes back to this, no matter what you do in life: Are you willing to make the decision to succeed?
Are you going to stand by that decision or quit when it gets hard?
Will you choose to keep working when everyone else tells you to quit?
Pain comes in all sorts of disguises—physical, mental, emotional. Do you need to be pain-free?
Or can you push past it and stand by your commitment and decision to go further?
It’s your choice.
The outcome is on you.”

Tim S. Grover, “Relentless”

Be relentless. Done. Next.

Fight the Quitter-Instinct

What do you do when you think you should rest?

I’ve used to always rest right that day.

If I felt a little dizzy, I gave myself permission to stop working on projects or to stop working out and rested for a day. Normally, on the following day I felt fine and I applauded myself for taking a rest so early and thus avoiding to fall ill or risking injury.

The Quitter-Instinct

This changed after I listened to Jocko Willink’s “Quitter Instinct”-Video on YouTube. His main point is this: if you quit, quit for a proper reason, not out of instinct or because whatever you do is uncomfortable.

I’ve tried this a while back during my 100 days of consecutive workouts and very recently, when I caught a cold.

Before I went running a while back, I used to start walking fairly soon. I didn’t want to overextend myself. I didn’t want to risk injury. When I felt like I didn’t want to give 100% anymore, I took it easy.

When I started to get after it I made a conscious effort to override this feeling but to keep continuously evaluating if I truly hit my limits or if I just wanted to quit because stretching myself further felt uncomfortable. I realized I didn’t know the difference between feeling uncomfortable but able to endure that feeling and truly reaching my limits. I had quit too early too often to get a feeling for when I hit my true  limits.

The same was true when I felt sick. My mum always treated me nicely: when I felt sick I was allowed to stay home. I took advantage of that occasionally and more often than not simply stayed home just feeling like I maybe could get sick, instead of actually needing the rest.

Taking a break is the one thing I put off until tomorrow.

Jocko Willink, “Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual”

Illness as an Excuse

Jordan Peterson hammered this point home from a psychological perspective in a video with Lewis Homes which resonated strongly with me. Telling the story of the struggles that his daughter faced in having multiple really severe injuries and illnesses he told her one day: “Do not use your illness as an excuse. As soon as you do that, you can’t tell the difference between the illness and your character. So don’t let it turn you into a victim, even though it’s obviously a catastrophe.”

I’ve used my illnesses as excuses. I’ve also used being uncomfortable as an excuse to not push myself a bit further. I’ve used those excuses to stay comfortable and to avoid the pain of growth.

While I still fall for them every now and then I try not to anymore.

Because you know what?

Most of the time those excuses are just weakness, especially if you’ve acted upon them often enough. You can lose the ability to differentiate between your comfort zone and your actual limits.

“Don’t give in to the immediate gratification that is whispering in your ear.

JOCKO WILLINK, “DISCIPLINE EQUALS FREEDOM: FIELD MANUAL”

Tomorrow, not Today

Now, when my first instinct is to quit or when I think I caught a cold, I don’t immediately take the day off. I have a simple rule of thumb, borrowed from Jocko Willink: “Don’t take today off, take tomorrow off.”

So, when I feel like I need rest and I’m not inflicted with severe pain, I postpone my rest for a day.

Low and behold, about 80% of the time when I wake up the next day I am ready to get after it. The feeling to rest was my weakness tingling in my ear.

Sometimes, I truly need rest. In that case I’ll make it my priority. I caught a cold a few days back and I pushed through it for two days. Then on the third day I felt really bad and I took the day off completely. I slept an ungodly amount and thus rested enough to get after it the next day.

So, if you’re not feeling it here’s the rule of thumb:

Don’t take today off. Wait until tomorrow.

Meanwhile? Get after it.

Stay on the path.

My Journey I – Discipline

Introduction

Whenever you visit a blog like this, it’s easy to think that it has been a straightforward journey for me, to get to where I am now. The truth is, it wasn’t. What follows is a look at my discovery of personal development and what you can learn from it.

The Old Me

If you would have known me before I took this path, my passion for video games was the closest I got to the idea of personal development: I was drawn to the precision and reflexes of shooters, the complexity and speed of strategy games and the social aspects and coordination of games like World of Warcraft. As a result I spent a lot of time playing and streaming games to become a better gamer.

While this earned me some achievements in the virtual world, those didn’t transfer to the real world. I met my girlfriend at the time in 2014 and moved in with her in march 2017. She cheated on me one month later and unbeknownst to me, our breakup marked the beginning of my personal development journey.

How It All Began

On the day of the breakup I talked to a new friend of mine on Skype, and by pure chance, he mentioned a podcast by Jocko Willink. Having had nothing else to do that evening, I decided to check out his YouTube channel and after liking the first video and watching many more, something in my mind clicked. Previously I often wanted to change aspects of my life, but every time something prevented me from turning these wishes into actions. Through Jockos podcast I finally understood what held me back: Excuses!

I discovered that I was making excuses for many things I wanted to do, like exercising, eating healthy, losing weight and studying more. When I wanted to buy new running shoes, I found excuses about why I didn’t need to: I told myself that I was fit enough, that I didn’t need more endurance, that the shoes would cost too much money … the list was never ending. While I had bought into those excuses for years, I started to change. Buried under those excuses was the truth: I actually wanted to start running, exercising, eating healthy and more. I realized that even though I’ve told myself many times, that the way I had lived my life up until that moment was congruent with what I wanted – it wasn’t. I wanted more out of life, I expected more of myself, but was unable to live up to my own expectations.

The cause for this was simple: I believed most of my own excuses. Luckily shortly thereafter I watched another video from Jocko, carrying a message that connected with me: Whatever you want to do, there is one smallest step that you can take. So, take that step… and then… take another step… and another.. and another.

The Day I Took Action

A few days later, a thought crossed my mind: “Actually… what would be the first step to buy new running shoes?” Even though I recognized my old excuses to not even consider that thought, I had a simple answer: “To look up which shop sells running shoes.” After procrastinating for a bit I decided to look that up. This was the first step. One additional step led to another and through many more, each accompanied by several excuses, I bought running shoes and went running the very same day. I had stopped to believe my excuses.

Afterwards I thought to myself: “Damn! That was easier than I thought!” It was in that moment that I realized something important: “So, what held me back all this time? I bought all those excuses that I have told myself…” It made me curious about: “How many more excuses do I tell myself every day?” I thought about that and decided to challenge myself: I wanted to do a workout every single morning, go running every second day and pay close attention to my excuses. So, I downloaded a workout app and went to bed.

Waking up the next morning I recognized “them”. They tried to keep me in bed and tried to hold me back from doing what I wanted to do: Excuses trying to prevent me from working out. Even though it was a struggle, I didn’t let them. I got out of bed, opened the app and half asleep, not having exercised in over ten years, completed my first workout.

A New Realization

I had beaten my excuses and felt exhilarated. I had caught a glimpse of my potential and it began to reveal to me that maybe, just maybe, I could be able to do all the things I wanted to – One of which was to work out regularly. Behind all the excuses trying to prevent that like that I looked good enough, that I didn’t have the time and that I could injure myself, was a desire to actually work out. So I challenged myself to repeat working out the next morning.

100 days later I had never skipped a workout for a single day. Additionally, I had been running every second day for the same duration. No matter the time, the weather, the excuses or circumstances – sometimes working out as early as 4:30 AM and sometimes going for a run as late as 11:45 PM in the pouring rain. I had done what I considered myself incapable of doing. What had been a long time coming happened shortly thereafter: I got injured and was forced to take a break. But I had learned one important lesson: I had proof that I was able to push through my excuses, rationalizations and reasons for why I didn’t want to, couldn’t or didn’t need to pursue what I really wanted. This realization changed how I responded to challenges and slowly opened another door…

Read on and discover, how a book changed my life and helped me find purpose.