Michal helps startups with idea validation, mentoring, and investing. He's a fitness fanatic, ultramarathoner, and traveler. This talk was presented at our Tech Talks, a bi-weekly event where we have growth oriented conversations and acquire mental models from experts in business, education, technology, science, and more.
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Is there something important you have always been wanting to do but never managed to get around to? I know there is. Maybe you are afraid. Maybe you are waiting for the right time. Maybe you feel like you just can't do it. Everyone has their own limiting beliefs. But wait... what if you didn't? In this short session I will teach you how to run a 100 km on sprained muscles and live the life you always wanted to - but never dared to.
During my childhood, I had 3 core beliefs that limited me. I thought that I was:
- Academically gifted
- Social Awkward
- Not athletic or physically fit
Fast forward, went through school and excelled - I landed a good job as an architect at top architecture firm. I did well because I had the belief that I was good at this. But somehow I quickly saw that it wasn’t what I wanted in my life. It was boring as my job revolved around designing doorknobs. And, there wasn't much upwards progression - just getting 1k raise was very hard to achieve, there was lots of competition.
Some people that I thought were less smart or capable were doing much more interesting things than me. My answer was to keep pushing harder - but then I burnt out. I needed to see a doctor because I even started getting rashes and itches. But after extensive testing, my doctor said I was perfectly normal.
So he asked me: "How much time do you spend exercising? Are you socializing with friends?" My answers were none, and no. He diagnosed my problem as stress-related, so problem solved! But what can I do about it? Where do I begin?
I found two amazing books that helped me during this time:
David Goggins - Can’t Hurt Me
He holds the world record for most pull-ups in 24 hours, and is an ultra marathoner. He started off fat, working as a pest exterminator. He set a goal: Join the navy seals. Even when hurt, he kept persisting.
Richard Branson - Screw It, Just Do It
He is the founder of the Virgin Group. He had dyslexia and always felt like it was holding him back. He set a goal: Create my own airline. It took him 3 businesses to succeed.
What was the secret?
Both started from unlikely places in life. But despite all odds, they succeeded. They had 3 things in common:
- Set a clear goal.
- Take action. Don’t look for perfect planning. Make a start.
- Act like a person that is capable of reaching the goal, but do not quit.
That's when it clicked - I was stuck in analysis paralysis. I was running away at a single sign of rejection. But what if I could do something small in my life to be closer to my heroes?
So I thought, let’s start running. I signed up for a 10km race. I trained, and was able to finish the race. This worked, so let’s go for the next one. Next, I attempted a 21k race. And I was able to do that too!
Then, signed up for 42k full night marathon. Halfway through, it started to rain, and the visibility was poor - I couldn't see anybody. And then both of my legs started to cramp, and I had so much pain. I just wanted to drop down. But then I remembered the mantra. Just stay in the race. So I asked if I could run another 100m? Then I kept asking myself to run 100m - and I overcame the race.
50k is the next one - but it’s a trail and there are vertical segments of the race. So I trained for 12 weeks. When I got to the race, I looked at my competition and they looked really legit. But I said fuck it, let’s do it. When the race started, I kept pace with the top, seasoned runners for a while, but I couldn’t keep up. But I realized I was still well ahead of the pack. What will happen if I continue at this pace? Nobody was catching up. I started getting excited that I might win 3rd. I won the third place “just because I tried”.
100km was the next challenge. I signed up to race in 10 weeks time. You have to finish in 30 hours. My stretch goal was to finish in 24 hours. I did something stupid - and experimented with coffee microdosing for first time in the race. 20km in and I started sweating, way too much. The sun and caffeine combination was too bad. I needed to sit down and catch my breath - but I don’t feel better. People are passing me. I started wondering if I should call medical - but I told myself no, just stay in the race.
After 20mins, I ask if I can just get up. I found that I could. Then, I asked - can I walk? 1 km passed. And then another. Well, can I run? I was moving forward. I start to forget I’m in pain. I realized I was keeping my spot in the race, nobody was passing me anymore. And then, I started passing people. I ended up finishing the race in 23 hrs 20 mins. Out of 180 people, 130 completed the race. I finished 14th.
The Strategy: If you want to do something, set a clear goal. Just start. Just don’t quit. Act like someone who can achieve it.
How do you find the right challenge that doesn’t kill you?
- Set a stretch goal and just try.
- Don’t be too unreasonable
- There’s always steps
How do I not blame myself for the mistakes?
- Get moving, you only make progress when you stop blaming yourself
Where else did you apply this?
- Startups. You are your biggest critique.
Did you do other forms of mental exercise?
- I should have spent more mental training time. When I first started to train I was listening to music. One day I did it without music and I was bored and distracted myself by focusing on my breath. I ended up running the best time in training that I’ve ever did.