On this particular day in the gym, there was a coach visiting who had worked with thousands of athletes over his long career, including some nationally-ranked athletes and Olympians. I had just finished my workout when I asked him, “What’s the difference between the best athletes and everyone else. What do the really successful people do that most people don’t?”
He briefly mentioned the things that you might expect. Genetics. Luck. Talent.
But then he said something I wasn’t expecting. “At some point,” he said, “it comes down to who can handle the boredom of training every day and doing the same lifts over and over and over again.” That piece of advice surprised me because it’s a different way of thinking about work ethic. Most of the time people talk about getting motivated and “amped up” to work on their goals. This is the myth of passion and motivation.
Whether its business or sports or art, you will commonly hear people say things like, “it all comes down to having enough passion.” As a result, I think many people get depressed when they lose focus or motivation because they think that successful people have some unstoppable passion and willpower that they seem to be missing. But that’s exactly the opposite of what this coach was saying. Instead, he was saying that really successful people feel the same boredom and the same lack of motivation that everyone else feels. They don’t have some magic pill that makes them feel ready and inspired every day.
But the difference is that the people who stick with their goals don’t let their emotions determine their actions.
Top performers still find a way to show up, to work through the boredom, and to embrace the daily practice that is required to achieve their goals.
According to him, it’s this ability to do the work when it’s not easy that separates the top performers from everyone else.