Success in any worthwhile pursuit requires certain superpowers.
For entrepreneurs, Steve Jobs -- no stranger to achievement -- believed mental toughness was the foundation for success.
I'm convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance. It is so hard. You pour so much of your life into this thing.
There are such rough moments ... that most people give up. I don't blame them. It's really tough.
Makes sense. Possessing (or as you'll see in a moment, finding) the ability to push through failure and adversity and stick to your long-term passions and goals is often what allows "ordinary" people to accomplish extraordinary things. Sometimes, the person who wins is the person who is the last to give up on themself.
But why do some people quit when others keep going?
More important, why are each of us sometimes able to stay the course, yet other times not?
A 2016 study published in Wilderness and Environmental Medicine called "Pain Is Inevitable but Suffering Is Optional" -- easily the coolest research paper title ever -- followed more than 200 participants in155-mile multistage desert ultra-marathons.
The researchers established a causal link between the participants' coping strategies and whether they finished the races. Some used what the researchers called "adaptive coping strategies." Instead of seeing suffering as happening to them, they decided to see their extreme discomfort as a challenge: As something they chose. (Which, of course, they had.) Or finding ways to ignore or distract themselves from the pain.
On the flip side, some participants fell prey to "maladaptive coping strategies." Like feeling scared by the discomfort and pain they experienced. Or seeing a certain level of pain as a clear signal to stop. (Which, to be fair, seems a reasonable response.)
The bottom line? A single occurrence of a maladaptive coping strategy tripled the chances a participant would drop out of a race. We can all relate to that; sometimes one weak moment is enough to unleash an avalanche of negativity, uncertainty, and despair.
And so we quit.
Clearly reframing a setback or roadblock as a challenge -- as just another problem to solve -- can help you stay the course. So can embracing the small-world rule.
And then there's this. In a recent Outside magazine article, Kevin Alschuler -- the lead author of "Pain Is Inevitable but Suffering Is Optional" -- recommends a surprising coping strategy.
"A patient and I will talk through their options, and it's option A or option B," Alschuler says. "And they want option C."
Except sometimes option C doesn't exist.
"For ultra-athletes," Alschuler says, "all seem to do a really good job of saying, 'Well, option C is off the table, and what's in front of me is either A or B.'"
Think about it. We're taught that overcoming challenges and adversity requires thinking outside the box. Seeking creative solutions. To never stop trying to find a way.
I did that when I built a deck in the dune. I got tired of digging through all the roots and vines and debris and started thinking about options. I could rent equipment. I could hire people. I could ... I could do a lot of things, but none of them were feasible.
Worst of all, trying -- and then failing, over and over again -- to figure out an easier way made the original task seem even more insurmountable. I wasn't just defeated by the task; I was defeated by my inability to work the problem and find an easier way.
And I almost gave up.
But then I remembered that the way was already in front of me: I could just keep digging. Like most things, success was just a matter of time and effort. Option A, keeping my head down and doing the work, would eventually allow me to level the area. So I accepted that fact and went back to digging. And felt a lot lighter inside.
Because sometimes the way isn't option C, or D, or Z. Sometimes, the only way is option A or B.
Or just option A.
And when you accept that, staying the course actually gets easier, not harder -- because then you won't focus on what you don't have, or can't control.
You just settle in and do what you need to do.
Which is the foundation for any worthwhile success.