Force Yourself to Do What You Fear
Posted by Melissa Meunier on Fri, Sep 04, 2020 @ 03:30 PM

In early August, Engage2Excel participated in the WorldatWork virtual conference, where we teamed up with Spartan – you know those extreme races designed to push you to your limit and beyond? Yes, THAT Spartan! During our session, “Transform Fear into Opportunity,” we spoke with Joe De Sena, founder, and CEO of Spartan. From his ranch in Vermont, he described the 10 Spartan principles (along with a few great stories to help bring the principles to life), and how to use fear to reach our full potential.

Given today’s circumstance and environment, millions are facing new fears, challenges and adversity every day. So are businesses – they are pivoting to find new ways to get work accomplished and keeping remote workforces motivated. No matter what industry you are in, what job title you hold, you can apply these principles and find value and action from being resilient.


1. FIND YOUR TRUE NORTH - Have a purpose. If someone doesn’t have a purpose or direction, they will fail – no matter what they do. A purpose acts as a magnet and keeps you going in the right direction.

2. COMMIT TO YOUR GOAL - One of the most important things is commitment. Whether it’s to family, work, or whatever it is you go after, it has to align to your True North and be publicly committed to it. Public commitment helps generates excitement, which wanes, and if you don’t have commitment, you need something to hold you together.

3. MAXIMIZE YOUR TIMETo best explain this, Joe tells the story of Olympic rowers in the UK who had no chance of winning gold; however, they had 18 months to train. The coach tried something new; every decision they made had to align with their commitment to winning gold. They asked themselves before every decision, “Would it help us get to the gold?” If the answer was, no, they didn’t do it. Eighteen months later, they won the gold – it was attributed to not wasting time with anything that didn’t maximize their time and get them to their goal.

4. DELAY GRATIFICATION - This step requires extreme focus and dedication. As the excitement wanes, the journey becomes more challenging. The fancy things, like cookies, alcohol, or sleeping in that make things more fun, or more comfortable – you CAN’T have it! Joe shares the Stanford marshmallow test, a study on delayed gratification. A group of children were asked if they’d like a marshmallow now, or if they waited for a designated period, they would get two. In follow-up studies (over the years) the researchers found that children who waited longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes.

5. FUEL YOUR ENTHUSIASM - As excitement wanes further, motivation and enthusiasm dissipate, and as Joe says it, “It sucks, you have to remain enthusiastic, even when you are not.” To achieve goals, you have to be resilient and fake it / smile even if you are not happy.

6. CHANGE YOUR FRAME OF REFERENCEThis is when people start to experience dissolution. They ask themselves, “Why did I do this?” If you remain enthusiastic, you will move forward, but then there are the naysayers, who say, “I told you not to do it, take it on.” For over 20 years, Joe has found folks that have a proper frame of reference succeed, the rest fail.

7. EMBRACE ADVERSITYSimply put, incorporate hard into your daily or weekly life. When you do the hard stuff, such as climbing a mountain, running long distances or burpees (really, who likes these?!), you are pushing yourself. It prepares you for those times, even in work, when adversity hits – like when you lose your best employee to the competition - it won’t seem so bad because you are not doing those hard things, like burpees!

8. GET GRITTYEven when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, you can grind. The culmination of everything leading up to this (principle) combined with a person with a gritty attitude – nothing will knock them down, digging themselves out, and continuing to reach their goal.

9. HAVE INTEGRITYDuring the journey, you start to create internal integrity when you do the hard stuff – you test the elements. Think of a building where the structural engineer will test the building under extreme stresses and knows at the end; if it still stands, it has integrity. The same can be said for teams; when the “s**t hits the fan,” a team is being tested on its structural integrity, and you want a team that can still stand. 

10. BUILD A COMMUNITY - The ancient Spartans knew how important it was having a group around them that would help them, pull them up and support their commitment. You want to be around folks who will pull you up and hold you accountable, push you, and keep you performing at extreme levels.

I had only heard of the Spartan races and Joe De Sena from news articles and TV. Hearing Joe in person deliver the Spartan Way made me, a somewhat qualified couch potato, want to get up and not necessarily run a race, but force myself to do things that I fear!

Topics: professional growth

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